European Printmakers Had No Idea What Colonial American Cities Looked Like, So They Just Made Stuff Up

In the 18th century, Europeans were amazed at the imports coming in from the New World at the same time they said goodbye to friends and neighbors who set off for America and never returned. Those long sea voyages meant scant mail, and it was rare for an artist to bring back their impressions. Oh, those artworks existed, but they weren't mass-produced everywhere. People wanted to see America, or at least pictures of it. A few printmakers set to work fulfilling their wishes, even though they were pretty much working blind.

During the 1770s and 1780s, German engravers Balthasar Friedrich Leizelt and Franz Xaver Habermann created a number of popular vues d’optique, a special kind of print designed to be viewed with an optical device called a zograscope that would make them appear three-dimensional. Many of these prints show various North American places and cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Quebec City. While the majority of 18th century city views were ultimately derived from some type of manufactured source (be it a drawing, painting or print), what is peculiar about Leizelt and Habermann’s vues d’optique is that they borrow from preexisting views of European places and cities rather than views of the North American cities they were trying to represent.

The difference was that European cities were built slowly over a thousand years, while American communities were built fairly quickly to accommodate European arrivals out of locally available materials. You can see some of Leizelt and Habermann’s works at Smithsonian.


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Featured Designs from the NeatoShop:



The Cat Museum of San Francisco

The Cat Museum of San Francisco exists online and in temporary exhibitions, and hopes to occupy a permanent location in the future. The website explores the history of cats, in records and in pop culture. They also have a Facebook feed that pays tribute to a different celebrity, historical figure, or artist each day on their birthday or anniversary, as long as that person has ever been photographed with a cat or produce cat art. Shown above is a publicity photo of actress Dolores Del Rio, whose birthday was earlier this month, with her cat.



The next day was the anniversary of the birth of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who decorated his poem "Verses on a Cat" with a sketch of a cat. -via Nag on the Lake

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Pot Sobriety Test

(YouTube link)

On October 17, 2018, recreational marijuana will become legal in Canada. That doesn't mean driving while stoned will be legal. We've got well-refined tests for driving while under the influence of alcohol, but how would you test for how high someone is? There are certain signs, and these folks display all of them in a skit from the CBC show 22 Minutes. -via Boing Boing


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Half-Hanged Maggie and Other Survivors of the Gallows

Hanging was the most common form of execution until recently, although it wasn't always effective. A very small percentage of condemned criminals survived the ordeal, but since there have been so many hangings over the centuries, and because the stories were unusual enough to be recorded, those tales of survival are numerous enough for a list. Some of them were "executed" again, sometimes using an alternate method. Others were hanged over and over, and a few were impressive enough to be pardoned for their surprising will to live, like Half-Hanged Maggie.

In 1724, the hanging of Margaret Dickson at Edinburgh for the crime of infanticide aroused great interest throughout Europe. She was hanged, cut down, and placed into a coffin. Like the criminal Walter Wynkeburne six decades earlier, the rough cobblestones brought her back to consciousness as the cart carrying her coffin rumbled toward the Musselburgh graveyard. She was removed from the coffin about one-third of the way to the graveyard and prayed over by a minister, before being released. She lived for many years afterwards, had a large family, and was locally famous for selling salt on the streets of Edinburgh, having earned the nickname "Half-Hanged Maggie" on account of her ordeal. The nickname not only stuck-- it followed her to the grave, and was etched into her headstone.

Read the stories of seven other survivors of the gallows at Journal of the Bizarre. -via Strange Company


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Show Bits Puts Sounds Where They Belong



Prince got himself a lousy cup of coffee this time! The Instagram account Show Bits features simple drawings of musicians singing bits of their songs in what you might call a different setting. There are some actors, too. Here's David Lee Roth as a bag of microwave popcorn.



The scenarios were obviously inspired by the sounds, but it took someone with a real imagination to put them to work. And some are just puns.   



Check out more at Show Bits. -via Metafilter


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The End of ‘Ladies First’ Restaurant Service

There is a quiet revolution going on at upscale restaurants, one you might not even notice, especially if you are a normal person who eats at buffets, fast food outlets, or restaurants where you choose between sitting at the counter or a booth.

Even if you’ve never worked in a restaurant, spend enough time in upscale establishments and you know the deal: Women are served first, going clockwise around the table, then men are served clockwise. That goes for every step of the service, from how the water is poured to the order in which orders are taken to how plates arrive to (and are set down on) the table. The same goes for wine, though the host (the diner who receives the “taste” pour from the bottle) is served last, regardless of gender.

Who knew? But that, and other gendered service customs, are changing in favor of more equitable -and simpler- procedures. Not without complete consideration, though, as long-time professional servers have to learn entirely new rules and routines that most of us would never even notice. Read about the changing rules of restaurant service at Eater.

(Image credit: Vivian Shih)


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Panda Doesn't Realize She's Had Twins

(YouTube link)

Pandas often give birth to twins, but only nurse one of them, which is a tragic waste of pandas. Scientists have found a workaround that relies on their innate obliviousness, as you can see in this clip from BBC Earth. One may argue that this only perpetuates the survival of less-intelligent pandas, but that's akin to closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. But is it possible that they're smarter than we know?

Oh she knows. She's just milking it for more of that sweet sweet honey water.

 -via reddit


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Artificial Intelligence Image Generator

Okay, here's something to suck up your entire weekend. Enter some text, and let an online algorithm generate an image for you via artificial intelligence! Cris Valenzuela's online text-to-image generator makes it really simple for non-geeks. The image on the left was my first attempt, when I entered "flying bat." The right image was "flower garden." I'll be generating a lot more today. Read more about it at Digg.


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True Facts: Bobbit Worm and Polychaete Pals

(YouTube link)

Ze Frank has a new video in his True Facts series that is both informative and juvenile. Sea worms are quite photogenic for worms, even beautiful, although their lifestyles can make you cringe. Be warned that Ze Frank's phallic innuendos may be NSFW. -via Tastefully Offensive


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After 100 Years, Roald Amundsen’s Polar Ship Returns to Norway

In 1918, polar explorer Roald Amundsen set off on a research voyage to reach the North Pole via the Northeast Passage, on a ship he'd commissioned and named Maud. The expedition was one disaster after another, but the unfortunate life of the Maud was only getting started.  

From Alaska, the idea was to drift the ship over the North Pole, but poor ice conditions ultimately forced Maud south to Seattle to undergo extensive repairs. Once Maud was repaired, rather than try to ice drift again, Amundsen got distracted by the idea of flying an airplane over the North Pole and instead used Maud to haul aircraft to Alaska for the attempt. It never worked out, and by 1925 Amundsen was broke and forced to sell the ship to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The firm rechristened it the Baymaud and used it as a floating warehouse and later a radio station, one of the first in the Arctic, before the ship sank in the pack ice in 1930 in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

The ship lay at the bottom for 86 years, but has been recovered and has been made into a museum at a port in Norway. Read the story of Amundsen's jinxed ship at Smithsonian.


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The Twilight Zone: How Rod Serling Wrote Characters

(YouTube link)

The Twilight Zone will always be remembered as a creepy, entertaining anthology series that made us think. A story was presented, and then there's a twist that revealed some allegorical truth to ponder. While some viewers just enjoyed the science fiction and horror stories, others reveled in the allegories, which sometimes referred to historical events, but often just revealed something disturbing about human nature. How old you were when you watched a particular episode could vastly affect how you saw it, because everything in the script had more than one meaning if you were able to catch it. Zane Whitener of In Praise of Shadows explains what made The Twilight Zone so special.  -via Laughing Squid


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How a Transplanted Face Transformed a Young Woman’s Life

The cover story of the September National Geographic magazine is a detailed account of Katie Stubblefield's face transplant. At 21, she's the youngest American to ever receive a facial transplant. Before the transplant, Stubblefield underwent multiple surgeries for years to save and improve her life, but she sustained so much damage that the repairs didn't quite resemble a face. Her story is fascinating, but may be difficult for some because of the graphic images, including the surgery and one picture of the donor's disembodied face. The issues raised in the article are thought-provoking, and may also be disturbing: suicide, drug addiction, health insurance, guns, medical decisions, family caregiving, military experiments, and the ethics of non-lifesaving transplantation. The article at National Geographic traces Stubblefield's life as well as that of her donor, Adrea Schneider, their families, and the groundbreaking surgery itself.


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Bald Head Waxing

(YouTube link)

Lots of men go for a hairless head, because it's cooler in hot weather and you don't have to think about how your hair looks. It's also an easy way to hide the fact that you are losing hair. But shaving every day can get old. How about having your head waxed? Wax on, wax off! However, the procedure itself is not the most pleasant way to spend your time, as you can see. I don't know what's being said, but this is the most action I've ever seen in a barber shop. I could readily believe this was a skit from a comedy show. -via Boing Boing

And if you are interested in removing hair from your nostrils with wax, read this review.


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That Time the U.S. Government Set Off a Pair of Nukes Under Mississippi

As World War II slipped into the Cold War, the US conducted tests of nuclear weapons in the surface, in the air, and underwater. By 1959, scientists were considering underground tests. Government officials regarded such detonations as an experiment to figure out if the Soviets could conduct such tests without us knowing, which would give the Americans a reason not to verify an agreement with them about nuclear testing. Got that? Geologic requirements pointed to the salt domes of Mississippi as a possible site for an underground detonation in 1964. After a couple of false evacuations, the first test occurred on October 22.

To Brenda Foster, “It felt like the Earth just raised up and set back down.”

“The windows on the house were shaking and rattling, and you could see the chimney on the house cracked all the way down,” says Foster, who was a few days shy of her 10th birthday. “That’s about all I remember of that, but I never will forget it.”

In the aftermath, about 400 people filed claims for damages with the government, mostly for cracked plaster or masonry. On Nobles’s father’s farm, eight miles from the blast site, two wells quit working after the blasts. But one man, Horace Burge, found his house was “completely destroyed,” says Nobles, who was friends with Burge’s son.

“It broke everything on the inside of his house, threw the stuff out of his cabinets, and messed his foundation up,” Nobles says.

A second test was conducted two years later. Read about the nukes of Mississippi at Atlas Obscura.

(Image source: Mississippi Department of Archives and History)


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The 2000s Internet

(YouTube link)

Doesn't it just grind your gears when you see people getting nostalgic, or even historical, about the 2000s? Well, the 21st century started 18 years ago, even if it seems like just yesterday. Neatorama has been around for 13 years now. And even if you've been networking with other computer users "online" since the '80s, the real boom in internet usage came about in the 2000s. That's why the Mental Floss gang is taking a trip down memory lane with a look at the internet in the first decade of this century in the latest episode of Scatterbrained.   


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RIP Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul has passed. Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer this morning at her home in Detroit. Born into a musical family, she began singing professionally as a teenager in the 1960s, and eventually recorded music in a variety of genres: pop, soul, jazz, gospel, blues, and even opera. According to the New York Times,

Ms. Franklin had a grandly celebrated career. She placed more than 100 singles in the Billboard charts, including 17 Top 10 pop singles and 20 No. 1 R&B hits. She received 18 competitive Grammy Awards, along with a lifetime achievement award in 1994. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987, its second year. She sang at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, at pre-inauguration concerts for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Bill Clinton in 1993, and at both the Democratic National Convention and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968.

Franklin was an inspiration to generations of singers, and continued recording into her 70s. Aretha Franklin was 76.


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The Real Red Baron

(YouTube link)

Most of us know the Red Baron from the Peanuts comic, or maybe the song that was inspired by Snoopy's imaginary adventures as a World War I flying ace. But Manfred von Richthofen was a real German flying ace during World War I. Simon Whistler of Today I Found Out tells us his story.  


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How Not to Get Screwed Over by Your Mechanic

Car repairs can be expensive, as anyone who owns a car knows. But with such high bills at stake, we are scared of the prospect of paying for repairs we don't need, or in other words, getting ripped off by mechanics because we don't know as much about our vehicles as they do. The good news is that most mechanics are not out to cheat you. They are out to build a reputation and a loyal customer base. But the few that take the opportunity to wring extra money out of a car owner are enough to scare all of us. If you aren't inclined to learn car repair yourself, you should at least know what red flags to look for at a car repair shop.

Scare tactics can be a big, billowing red flag — especially if they’re accompanied by a long list of repairs or an expensive price tag. If the mechanic says you shouldn’t even drive the car home, or you’re fortunate it’s still running, or you’re lucky to be alive, or whatever, you might be reasonably suspicious, especially if you’re the type who services your ride fairly regularly.

The caveat in these instances, though, is for people who don’t regularly service their car. When that car finally develops a problem, or they need to take it in for something, there’s — duh — a greater chance that something major might actually be seriously wrong. “If you haven’t done anything to your car in two years, it probably is dangerous to drive!” Ibbotson points out. “I know people who don’t do anything to their car, and then 18 things are broken, and they go, ‘Why does it cost so much money to fix?’”

Mel magazine has more tips on how to deal with car repairs so you don't end up paying for repairs you don't really need. -via Digg


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How NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Will Touch the Sun

(YouTube link)

NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe on Sunday, heading toward the sun. It will take seven years to get there, and if the air conditioning system holds out, it will get as close as 3.8 million miles from the sun. It's also supposed to eventually become the fastest-moving object ever made by man. I'm impressed. Learn more about the mission at the Parker Solar Probe's blog. https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/parker-solar-probe  -via The Kid Should See This


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"Hey Jude" is 50 years Old

In August of 1968, the biggest band in the world released their biggest song ever. That was 50 years ago.

“Hey Jude” skyrocketed to the top of the singles charts in the United States and Great Britain in 1968. After an August 26 U.S. release, it immediately arrived in the Top Ten and sat atop Billboard’s Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks, making it the most successful single recorded by the most prosperous band in history. The single sold more than 5 million copies worldwide in six months and 7.5 million over four years. It performed more spectacularly on the charts than any other single between 1959 and 1977. It was also the first release on the Beatles’ own record label—Apple.

This year, after McCartney’s surprise appearance in the Liverpool pub with Corden, “Hey Jude” joined two new McCartney tunes as well as five other Beatles numbers on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs list. During the week of June 28, 5,000 people downloaded the song.

Read about the inspiration for the song, how John Lennon misinterpreted it, the recording session that Paul McCartney called "magic," how it resonated with audiences in a chaotic year, and the lasting legacy of "Hey Jude" at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: National Museum of American History)


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What If English Were Phonetically Consistent?

(YouTube link)

English is a weird language, in that the written version consists of letters and phonemes that we pronounce many different ways, depending on the context. It takes years for a child, hearing nothing but spoken English, to master it orally, then many more years to master reading it. But what if pronunciation rules were internally consistent? In this video, Aaron Alon gradually applies consistent pronunciation to vowels until it doesn't sound like English at all. -via Nag on the Lake    


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The 60 Greatest Capes in Movie History

In The Incredibles, Edna Mode yelled "No capes!" But she was being practical, because capes are just not safe for animated superheroes. That doesn't mean they aren't cool. Capes are in no way limited to superheroes, either. Vampires wear them. So does royalty. And historical figures, futuristic aliens, and drag queens. Oh yeah, and some superheroes. But most of all, capes in film grace the shoulders of fashionable and exciting women.

If you read this list and ask “why is [ICONIC CAPE] missing?!?!?!,” it’s probably because it was worn by a dude. Sorry.

Still, how iconic a cape is does factor into its ranking on this list. So does how good it looks, how it contributes to the characterization of its wearer, and how it is wielded by its wearer, and a certain… well, let’s just call it je ne cape quoi.

The capes are not numbered, and may or may not be in rank order. A couple of the pictures may be NSFW. See and read about them at Film School Rejects. -via Metafilter


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Inside the Lab Where Spiders Put on Makeup

Successful species have two main drives- survival and reproduction. In many species of the jumping spider, these two drives create a biological tug-of-war for males, because female jumping spiders can be cannibals. To survive that battle between fear and lust, male jumping spiders have developed signal adaptations to be attractive to females for mating and repellant for eating. In the Taylor Lab at the University of Florida, researchers go the extra mile to sort those signals out.

So what might those signals be? Well, they're mixed: Habronattus pyrrithrix males have enchanting red faces, which happens to be a color that signals toxicity in prey. But an especially rosy complexion can also signal that a male is healthy. “If we give them a really good diet, their faces become brighter,” says Lisa Taylor, a behavioral ecologist who runs the lab. “That all suggests that females should be paying attention to color.”

To figure out whether they were noticing, the researchers presented female spiders with male suitors who were either bare-faced or painted over with black liquid eyeliner (Urban Decay, if you must know). The data is still trickling in, but Taylor is finding that female spiders are indeed less likely to attack males with red faces versus their face-painted peers.

This suggests a red face is a kind of double signal. Well-fed males are redder, which may be a sign of their fitness. But red also acts as a deterrent, tapping into a female’s aversion to a color that typically screams I’m toxic. “One is like, I have to tell you how good I am, and the other one is, OK, I'm going to do all these things so you don't eat me,” says UC Berkeley behavioral ecologist Damian Elias, who also studies jumping spiders.

Other species do it differently, which means, for example, gluing false eyelashes onto spiders to make them look bigger from a distance. Read about the business of altering how spiders look at Wired. -via Digg

(Image credit: Taylor Lab/University of Florida)


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An Honest Trailer for Avengers: Infinity War

(YouTube link)

Wasn't it just yesterday that Avengers: Infinity War was playing in theaters? Well, it sure seems like yesterday. But Screen Junkies already has an Honest Trailer for the latest chapter in the Avengers series, and it's full of spoilers, just in case you've been away from the internet and don't know how it turns out.  


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Cities of the World Where You Don’t Need AC or Heat, Mapped

Living in a "temperate zone" often means cold winters and hot summers, with short interludes of perfect temperatures in between. While that breaks up the monotony, the power bills at the extremes can be terrifying. Nolan Gray is studying for a graduate degree in city and regional planning from Rutgers. Inspired by an interlude living in Guatemala City, he looked around the world for places where you can live comfortably without using a heating system or an air conditioning system. He found 13 cities that fill the bill, and quite a few other places where you don't need much temperature control. That resulted in an interactive map where you can select a place to live where the temperature doesn't fluctuate much from comfortable. Find those 13 cities and look around the map at Medium. 


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People Whose Last Name is Obama

The $100,000 Pyramid is still on the air -who knew? The game that aired Sunday contained the most embarrassing moment in contestant Evan Kaufman's life, as he played with SNL alum Tim Meadows. It's a classic brain cramp, in front of the cameras.  

Kaufman tells entire the story in his own words in this Twitter thread. -via Digg


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17 Red Flags That First-Time House Hunters Should Watch Out For

The old adage in real estate is that location is the only thing that matters. I would add the size of the property, too, as that is very difficult to change. But while you can change a house, some repairs may beyond your budget. Before buying your first home, it's best to listen and heed the horror stories of people who've been there, done that. A reddit thread is full of them. Some highlights:

12. If you're hunting in a college town, get a map, draw a line from the popular bars to the dorms, and then DO NOT BUY A HOUSE ON THAT LINE.

"You would be shocked by the amount of vandalism and noise in that area." —sewnlurk

13. Beware of staged properties.

"Staging can hide flaws like a rug put over a damaged floor. Picture the place empty and check everything twice." —scangemode

If you're on a budget, every house will have some flaws, but you should be able to identify them and figure out which ones you can live with. Buzzfeed compiled a list of the best tips, and you are welcome to add others here to help a first-time home buyer.  

(Image credit: A McCarron)


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The Rock Falls

(YouTube link)

The bigger they are, the harder they fall! Maybe that's why Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson always manages to get a scene in every movie where he falls -and always survives, mostly unscathed. Nerdist put together a supercut so we can appreciate just how often it happens. You have to admit it looks cool, and that's what's important. -via Tastefully Offensive


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The Potato Paradox

Most of us, especially those in the food or shipping industries, know that you can save a lot of weight by dehydrating food. What if you had 100 pounds of potatoes, and each potato was 99% water. If you dehydrated those potatoes just a little, to the point that they were 98% water, how much would they weigh?

They would weigh 50 pounds. Believe it or not.

Wikipedia gives us a couple of explanations for the Potato Paradox.

Method 1

One explanation begins by saying that initially the non-water weight is 1 pound, which is 1% of 100 pounds. Then one asks: 1 pound is 2% of how many pounds? In order for that percentage to be twice as big, the total weight must be half as big.

Method 2

100 lb of potatoes, 99% water (by weight), means that there's 99 lb of water, and 1 lb of solids. It's a 1:99 ratio.

If the water decreases to 98%, then the solids account for 2% of the weight. The 2:98 ratio reduces to 1:49. Since the solids still weigh 1 lb, the water must weigh 49 lb for a total of 50 lbs for the answer.

You can also find the algebraic explanations on the same page, if you want to check further. By the way, potatoes are only around 79% water, but the paradox is in the math as a normal person would visualize it, not the food. Don't confuse pounds and percentage. -via TYWKIWDBI


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How Norman Conquerors Changed the History of Europe

(YouTube link)

You might think of the Normans (if you ever think of them at all) as French, but they were actually Vikings who converted to Christianity after they settled in the northern part of France (which became known as Normandy). They conquered England in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but that was only the first leg of the path of conquests. This TED-Ed video gives us the short version of the long story of the vast influence of Norman conquerors in Europe, including our language.  -via Digg


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