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Yes, These Amazing Photographs Were Taken With Smartphones

Well, we can achieve professional-looking images without equipment or experience! Thanks to new features continuously added and upgraded to our handy smartphones and different applications that help us edit and enhance our photographs, we can make our photos magazine-worthy. Hell, we can now capture a decent image of different celestial bodies in our night sky, from the Milky Way to further galaxies and constellations without expensive equipment. PetaPixel lists the available applications and techniques to produce good images using our smartphones; check the full piece here! 

Image credit: Alyn Wallace 

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Kinetic Chairs


Rocking chairs are nice, but what if you want to move in different directions? That's an option, thanks to Nicholas Gardner and Saša Štucin, artists who operate a furniture design studio called Soft Baroque. Their collection includes elegantly crafted pieces that move as you do, such as the chair pictured above.

Continue reading

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The Deadly Portuguese Man O' War

While enjoying the gorgeous photography of this clip from the BBC series Blue Planet, I kept thinking of the camera operator swimming through the jellies. The Portuguese man o' war is not technically a jellyfish, but it acts in much the same way -only scarier. -via Laughing Squid

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14 Plaques That Will Make You Smile

There are various rules and regulations for placing historical markers in places where historic things happened, but anyone can put up a commemorative plaque, as long as it's okay with the landowner. It doesn't even have to be a true story. That why you can see where the first cheeseburger was served, in Pasadena, California.

According to local legend, a teenage cook at Rite Spot by the apt name of Lionel Sternberger was the first person to put cheese on a burger. Some claim it wasn’t an invention so much as a cover-up, as Lionel had burned one side of the patty one fateful day in 1924. To hide his mistake, he slapped a new ingredient on top. Regardless of the circumstances, the cheeseburger was a hit. It later appeared on the menu as “The Aristocratic Burger: The Original Hamburger With Cheese.”

A list at Atlas Obscura shows you where you can see plaques for the the site of the first kiss between Barack and Michelle Obama, the 7-11 store where the Ouija board was named, and a fight between Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs over the Oxford comma, among others.

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The Difference Two Inches Makes

At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the women's all around gymnastics event began with a disaster. The world's greatest gymnasts were falling and crashing at the vault. It was the 19th competitor who insisted that the vault height be checked, and it was two inches (5cm) lower than regulation height! No one had adjusted it after the men's competition the night before. The upshot was that the athletes had the floor come at them much faster than in their years of training. When the error was discovered, competitors were offered a chance to re-do their vault, but it was too late for some. Several were injured, and many were so shaken that it affected their performances in other events. -via reddit

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The Architecture of Honeycombs

We've seen enough "you had one job" pictures too know what happens when workers start a project on both ends and try to meet in the middle. Honeybees do this all the time when they build hives, and manage to come together, knitting their little hexagon cells quite nicely, even with the difficulty of having to work around corners and curves.   

This happens despite a number of major challenges. To begin with, multiple workers contribute to the constructions of each honeycomb, so the regularity can't just be explained by having a single worker engage in a series of instinctual movements. In addition, nests need two different-sized honeycombs, as they use distinct sizes for workers (most of the nest) and drones (males used for reproduction). Finally, honeycombs are often built as multiple units, starting from different areas of the hive and ultimately meeting in the middle somewhere.

To find out how all these issues are managed, an animal behavior specialist (Auburn's Michael Smith) got together with two computer scientists from Cornell: Nils Napp and Kirstin Petersen, who work on insect-like robots. Combined, they put together image-analysis software that could identify the boundaries of each cell, and they figured out the cells' basic statistics—number of sides, length of each side, etc. These could then be classified based on whether they were the right size for workers or drones or whether there was something unusual about the cell.

What they found out was that bees start diverging from their own plans ahead of time in order to mesh with the workers coming from the other direction. This implies brain power that goes beyond instinct. Read what honeybees do to make it all come together at Ars Technica. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Piscisgate)

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How Bad Photography Has Changed Our Definition of Good Pictures

The history of photography goes back almost 200 years now. The earliest  photographic images look pretty primitive to us now, but they were surely miracles in their time. As technology advanced, what was considered a "good" picture had a lot to do with the equipment. Eventually,  cameras became affordable enough for lots of people to own one. But to get a "good" picture, you needed to take lessons, or learn from your mistakes, which was expensive when film had to be purchased and then processed. Photography, and photo critique, is quite different now that almost everyone has a state-of-the-art digital camera in their pocket. Kim Beil, author of the book Good Pictures: A History of Popular Photography, explains how our view of "good" pictures has changed.    

A second type of failure concerns effects that largely began as mistakes produced by legions of amateur photographers shooting pictures with their new, boxy, Kodak cameras, which made their debut in 1888. Foremost among these failures were motion blur and lens flare. Once upon a time, both were frowned upon by the authors of the “How to Make Good Pictures” books. Thus, a blurry background while trying to capture a moving object, or a blurry object moving across an in-focus background, were considered mistakes that a few simple techniques could help you correct.

Shooting into a light source and thus drenching precious photographic real estate in overexposed rays of light was also considered a no-no. But just as sports photographers would eventually have a ball with motion blur, fashion and advertising photographers would eventually go crazy for lens flare. Intention created context.

“Intention is central to the way I think about art, and maybe even how we define it,” Beil agrees. “Take lens flare: I think the power of lens flare comes from its initial unintentional use by people who were just taking casual pictures without any premeditation, without much intention.” In these sorts of photographs, Beil says, lens flare was an amateur mistake that conferred “a kind of authenticity to an image.” That’s why advertisers find lens flare so appealing. “Because we still associate it with authenticity,” Beil says, “it makes an advertising photo seem more real, maybe even spontaneous.”

Today, lens flare is so widely used, so intentional, that billions of smartphone cameras offer multiple variations of this former failing in the form of filters, which can be activated with a click or a swipe. “Everything can be achieved and there are no more accidents,” Beil says of photography in the 2020s, “so photographers look to things that happened before to reinsert some kind of authenticity into their pictures.” Thanks to technology, photographers can now pretend to take pictures as if they lacked the tools to make their pictures, well, good.

Beil also explains how we judge the photos of the past without understanding the limitations of the art. Read a history of "good" vs. "bad" photography at Collectors Weekly.

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Horse-Drawn Heated School Bus in Northern Maine

The kids have to get to school, even when it's winter in northern Maine. Here's a school bus that, according to the Facebook group Crown of Maine, had benches and a woodstove inside. Redditor notbob1959 identifies the location as Main Street in the town of Presque Isle. Here's a modern Google Street View of the same location.

-via Book of Joe

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Magnetic Helmet Shrinks A Deadly Tumor

We’ve gone further than using helmets to spot brain tumors; we can now crush them. Okay, maybe that wording is too harsh and somewhat inaccurate, but a helmet that can actually treat tumors is real. Researchers have created a helmet that generates a magnetic field to shrink a deadly tumor by a third. The invention, as part of the latest breakthrough, was used to treat a 53-year-old patient: 

The 53-year-old patient who underwent the treatment ultimately died due to an unrelated injury, but an autopsy of his brain showed that the procedure had removed 31% of the tumor mass in a short time. The test marked the first noninvasive therapy for a deadly form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma.
The helmet features three rotating magnets connected to a microprocessor-based electronic controller operated by a rechargeable battery. As part of the therapy, the patient wore the device for five weeks at a clinic and then at home with the help of his wife. The resulting magnetic field therapy created by the helmet was administered for two hours initially and then ramped up to a maximum of six hours per day. During the period, the patient’s tumor mass and volume shrunk by nearly a third, with shrinkage appearing to correlate with the treatment dose.
The inventors of the device — which received Food and Drug Administration approval for compassionate use treatment — claim it could one day help treat brain cancer without radiation or chemotherapy.

Image credit: Houston Methodist Neurological Institute

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What Do We Do With Grass Clippings?

Listen, it’s easy to deal with grass clippings after a good mowing session if you throw them in the trash. Sure, that’s convenient and straightforward, but did you know that these clippings can be utilized to do multiple things for your yard or garden? Mark Wolfe lists different methods and uses for leftover grass clippings. From using them as free fertilizer to compost to garden beds-- we have a lot of options to choose from! Check the full piece here. 


Image credit: wikimedia commons 

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Little Known Facts About The Artist Who Used Gold In His Paintings

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt was popular for his symbolism and usage of actual gold leaf in his paintings. His work featured a lot of historical significance, and centered largely around women. Klimt is also considered one of the best decorative painters of the 20th century, as the Collector details: 

Klimt was born in Austria-Hungary in a town called Baumgarten near Vienna. His father, Ernst was a gold engraver and his mother, Anna dreamed of becoming a musical performer. Klimt’s two other brothers also showed great artistic talent, one of which became a gold engraver like their father.
For a while, Klimt even worked with his brother in an artistic capacity and they did a lot together in terms of adding value to the Vienna artistic community. It’s interesting that Klimt’s father worked with gold as gold became an important facet of Klimt’s career. He even had a “Golden Period.”

To learn more about Klimt, check out the full piece here! 

Image credit: wikimedia commons 

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The Most Expensive Food In The World

Don’t think about the gold-infused recipes served in New York, because this list features none of those dishes. Here’s a spoiler alert: you’ve probably seen or eaten some of these. While I can’t live like a rich heiress, I certainly can look up the extravagant practices and luxuries employed by the rich. The Internet, afterall, is a huge well of varying information! Luxury Columnist lists their top twelve most expensive food items here! 

Image credit: wikimedia commons

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Ancient Roman Parties

Have you ever wondered how people in the past threw parties? A good example to look at would be ancient Romans. Well, while their partying methods are completely different, they were known for their excessive feasts and parties. The Roman elite preferred to hold private dinner parties in their homes rather than big, open, public parties. A type of Roman dinner party called convivium was usually held in residences with a small group of friends, family, and business associates. Don’t underestimate the small number of guests, though, because conviviums were designed to be extravagant and expensive: 

[...]The most common reception room for such parties was the dining area, which in Roman homes were known as the triclinium, or "three-couch room," because dining was typically done while reclining on couches, which were arranged in a U-shape with a table in the middle in order to facilitate sharing and conversation. As these entertaining spaces were meant to be a delight to the senses, an upper-class triclinium would often have many decorative elements such as floor mosaics, sculptures or other pieces of art, and fancy furniture.
While the Greeks were known to enjoy drinking parties known as symposia (the one at which Socrates and friends discussed the true nature of love being the most famous one), Roman dinner parties were different in a number of ways. The chief difference is that women were allowed to attend Roman parties, providing that they were of the appropriate class. At Greek symposia, the only women allowed were entertainers, musicians, or sex workers known as hetairai. If you were Roman, at least your wife could be there.

Image credit: wikimedia commons 

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What's the Hardest Olympic Sport?

The Tokyo Olympics has 33 different sports, most with many events within the sport. Which one is the hardest? That's an impossible question, as you will have various opinions on what  makes a sport "hard." How can one compare the difficulty of withstanding hits to the face (boxing) to split-second timing (gymnastics) to incredible endurance (marathon) to juggling a variety of skills (water polo or decathlon)? It's an impossible question, but Gizmodo asked six sports experts with multidisciplinary practices, and got a variety of answers. Professor of Instruction in Sport Matt Bowers determined his answer by the process of elimination.

If we think in terms of a Venn diagram where we have two circles indicating the two most basic factors that could make a sport hard—physiological exertion and complexity of skill/movement—then the hardest sport would be classified where those two circles overlap. In other words, a sport that is demanding in both the physical and the skill requirements. Can we identify sports of those 33 that clearly do not fall in one category or the other? Since virtually any sport being played at the Olympics requires a high level of respective skill, perhaps it is easiest to make the first cut on the physiological side. Are there sports that do not require maximal exertion during competition? That eliminates, at a minimum, archery or equestrian sports. Next, do we believe it to be harder psychologically to compete solo than to be part of a team? You may disagree, but if so, then we can remove the team sports from contention. Another question to debate is whether we believe that it is harder to be competing against nature (for example, kayaking or sailing) and/or on a course (for example, cycling or golf or skateboarding), or whether it is harder to be competing in a sport where a fellow Olympic-level athlete is physically trying to prevent your success.

There's much more to Bowers' elimination scheme on the way to an answer, which differs from the other five experts. Read all of them at Gizmodo.

TL;DR: The difficulty of defining difficulty.

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Work Email Bingo

If you work for a normal company, this is most likely funny and relatable. I can go for the funny, but it doesn't happen to me. I've been with Neatorama for 15 years now, and when you work for a company this small and internet-savvy, you rarely need to communicate at all, and when you do, the email works as it should. This Bingo card is brought to you by Matt Shirley.

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