Choreography in the Sky

The only way I would deliberately jump out of a plane is if the alternative is crashing, but some folks love the rush of skydiving. And when you seek adrenaline like that, you are always trying to up the ante. These folks managed to all sync up and hold hands while falling head first toward earth at terminal velocity. Just watching the video gives you a rush from the speed and the weird orientation.

We don't have any information on who these people are, how high they started out, or where they are skydiving. The most I could count at once was 18, meaning 17 in the frame plus the videographer. There may have been more. How many planes does this kind of stunt require? -via Born in Space

Pizza Hut Will Test Launch a Pickle Pizza

Have you ever tried a pickle pizza? Have you ever even heard of a pickle pizza? The idea seems intriguing, if it can be pulled off right. Pizza Hut has announced that they are offering a pickle pizza for a limited time. How limited? It will be available at exactly one Pizza Hut location in New York City, for three days only (June 9-11) while supplies last. What kind of test is that?

The Pizza Hut Pickle Pizza will feature ranch sauce, cheese, Nashville hot chicken, onions, and a layer of dill pickles, topped with more ranch dressing. Frankly, I would be more liable to try a pickle pizza with marinara sauce and pepperoni, but I'm not the one making these decisions.

Pizza Hut will reserve the right to offer Pickle Pizza more widely if the demand is there, but there are other places you can get a pizza with pickles if you so choose, or you could make one at home with the ingredients you choose. Read more about the Pickle Pizza trend at The Takeout.

(Image credit:Pizza Hut)

46 Books That Left a Mark on Society

Books become famously influential in different ways. Before mass printing and best seller lists, it depended on who got to read a certain book. If a book influenced a powerful person, it could change the world. If it were read by scholars, it could change an entire discipline, such as astronomy. In the modern world, best selling books can influence public opinion by revealing what was previously unknown to most readers, or by speculating on what might have been, or what could someday be. Public opinion goes a long way in changing society, and it was indeed books that fueled America's Revolutionary War, feminism, civil rights, environmental regulations, the Communist Revolution, and other world-changing movements.

Many of these book changed literature itself. Mary Shelley didn't set out to invent science fiction, but that's what she did with Frankenstein. You could say the same about JRR Tolkien and the fantasy genre. If you were to make a list of influential books throughout history, you'd probably guess a lot of the volumes on this list of 46 books that changed the world at MentalFloss. But probably not all of them, and therefore you'll find something new to catch up on what all the fuss is about.

(Image credit: Sally Wilson)

The French Version of The A-Team Introductory Theme Has an Upbeat Tune and Lyrics

The rocking theme song for the 80s action show The A-Team is really energizing. This creation by composers Mike Post and Pete Carpenter is arguably the greatest television theme song every written. Media personality Al Roker likes to play it when he wakes up in the morning to boost his energy for the day.

The show was dubbed into French. Producers changed the theme song a bit to make it upbeat and added lyrics about the organization called "L'Agence Tous Risques" -- "The All Risks Team." You can read the complete lyrics at Digital Spy. They sync well with the music.

-via Super Punch

Vivaldi's "Summer" at a London Tube Station

French pianist Aurelien Froissart visited the public piano at the St. Pancras train station in London and set up several cameras, as he often does for his TikTok videos in which he plays requests. This time a request came from a woman carrying a violin case. She asked if he knew Vivaldi's "Summer" from his Four Seasons. Froissart did, but got a little flustered during the duet wondering if he could keep up with the violinist.

Was it staged? Froissart has an awful lot of performance videos of public pianos with talented musicians joining in with him, so that's up in the air, but this one garnered 50 million views on TikTok. Unfortunately, the woman with the violin was never identified. But the performance was magic. -via Metafilter

Update: Rusty Blazenhoff reveals that the violinist is Ugne Liepa Zuklyte, a Lithuanian student at the Royal College of Music.

That Time Ciudad Juárez was Contaminated with Radiation

In 1977, a hospital in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, purchased a cylinder full of pelleted cobalt-60, a highly radioactive element, to be used in radiotherapy, and never registered the purchase with the government as required. The radiotherapy program never got off the ground, and the cylinder remained in storage. That is, until 1983 when a hospital employee took the cylinder to a scrapyard and sold it as scrap metal.

Do you recall the story about the butterfly who flapped its wings and set off a chain reaction that caused a tornado weeks later? The unregistered cobalt-60 was kind of like that, except it involved nuclear radiation. By January of 1984, a truck passing the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico set off alarms in their radiation detectors, leading to an investigation that turned up an accident that has been called “a hundred times more intense” than the Three Mile Island incident. Authorities identified 17,000 buildings in Mexico and the US that contained contaminated rebar, and 800 buildings had to be demolished. Thousands of people in Mexico were exposed to the radiation, some at dangerously high levels. Read how all that happened at Amusing Planet.

(Unrelated image credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Tucker Yates)

What Is This Thing?

Rain Noe of Core77 shows us an unusual tool. Can you guess what it's for? The answer is below the fold.

Continue reading

When Science Terms Get Weird

Science gives us an ever-expanding archive of knowledge, and each discovery bring a need for labeling. New species, chemicals, and processes each need their own name so that other scientists will know what you're talking about. Things can get weird. We may laugh at the term "spaghettification," but thanks to whichever physicist who came up with the term, it's pretty self-explanatory. And that's what's important.

You can't get much clearer than that. As long as a species name stays within the limits of taxonomic nomenclature, you can name a species anything you want, if you are the one with the right to do so. Besides, the western lowland gorilla can claim early adopter status. He can always claim he is the default gorilla! See a dozen of these strange science terms in a pictofacts list at Cracked.

PS: I believe they meant a Jiffy is a "short amount of time."

See also: 11 Naughty-Sounding Scientific Names, Funny Chemical Names, and Diabolic Acid and other Chemical Structures. And don't forget about the thagomizer.

What Color is the Sun?

If you want to know what color the sun is, the worst way to find out would be to look at it, especially it's high in the sky. That's a good way to damage your eyes. When you look at the sun as it is rising or setting, you get the idea that it is yellow, or maybe a bit orange. But you can't always believe your eyes. Atmospheric conditions affect the way things appear to us, and the limitations of our eyes affect what we perceive. So what color is the sun really emitting? All of them, but it turns out that it emits a green wavelength more than any other. To determine this, we first have to define color, and then measure the sun's wavelengths, and explain ehy we don't see the green color by looking at the factors that affect our perception. SciShow gives us an overview of all that in just five minutes.

Are Your Thoughts Keeping You Awake at Night?

Maybe it's too much screen time before bed, maybe it's too hot, but there's always the possibility it's our own brains who are disturbing our sleep. Those psychological questions you spend so much time avoiding during the day can try to come up when you are asleep, and it's hard to process them properly while sleeping. If we put some time into self-care, confronting the thoughts, ideas, and emotions we tend to avoid during our conscious time, it might help us sleep better at night. At least that's an idea from The School of Life you can try. Or at least think about trying. -via Laughing Squid

The Georgetown Transformers

The Transformer statues above are the crux of a controversy in Washington, DC, involving the questions of what is art, the difference between public space and private space, and historic preservation vs. property rights. In the historic and expensive Georgetown neighborhood, residents and tourists can see 10-foot statues of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee from the Transformers franchise. Dr. Newton Howard, a professor at nearby Georgetown University School of Medicine, installed the statues in January of 2021 atop two brick planters outside the front door of his $4 million home.

Tourists, and some of the neighbors, love the statues. Others neighbors don't, and some say they don't object to the statues as much as to the traffic and crowds they draw. Howard is in an ongoing battle with the Prospect Street Citizens’ Association, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Old Georgetown Board, and the D.C. Public Space Committee.     

Howard is a "mysteriously wealthy" character who's been referred to as the real Tony Stark. His home is filled with more Transformer art and memorabilia, and there's another large Optimus Prime visible on his roof. Read about Howard and the battle of the DC robots that are still up, but under orders to be taken down. -via Metafilter

Tom Scott Visits a Testing Ground for Explosions

The University of Sheffield Department of Civil and Structural Engineering has a Blast Laboratory. That's where scientists and engineers go to have a blast -literally. They study and measure explosions with some really impressive equipment that not only precisely measures what's going on during a detonation, but must also survive to relay that information.  

Tom Scott visited the Blast Laboratory to ask how explosives work, which is a great excuse for a video, but we all know he went there to watch them blow stuff up. In this video, you can, too, without having to buy a ticket to a Hollywood film. Those movie explosions are mostly CGI these days, but at the Blast Laboratory, they are real. However, these are for science, not for show. The explosion they perform in this video goes so fast that you can't really see it until they play back the high speed recording. How high speed? How about 250,000 frames per second!

If this topic interests you, the University of Sheffield has another video about their research you can watch.

We Find the Statue Guilty as Charged

We've heard stories of animals being put on trial, and at least once there was a dead body hauled into court, but now here's a tale of a statue that was prosecuted.

When the ancient Greek Olympic athlete Theagenes died, a bronze statue was made in his likeness. Another athlete had the habit of kicking the statue, until it fell over on him and killed him. The statue itself was put on trial, because someone had to take the fall, so to speak, for the athlete's death. But that wasn't the only time a statue was out on trial. During the Protestant Reformation, a Catholic statue of the Virgin Mary was put on trial in Riga, Latvia, for witchcraft! In that case, the statue's guilt was determined by the old "throw her in the water and see if she sinks" method.

Read about these trials, and three other cases in which statues were treated as if they were living human beings, at Cracked.

He Fought in Both the Civil War and World War I

We often read about teenagers who lied about their ages in order to serve their country during war. But this story is about an old man who lied about being young enough to enlist. To be sure, it's common for a military to recruit older people with specialized knowledge for the war effort, but they are rarely put on the front lines. John William Boucher just wanted to serve.

Boucher was a Canadian citizen who enlisted in the Union Army in America's Civil War at either age 18 or 19, even though it took three attempts for him to get in. After the war ended, he went back to Ottawa and continued his life. But when Boucher approached age 70, World War I broke out, and he wanted to serve his country. The upper age limit for enlisting in the Canadian military was 45, and Boucher was rejected three times. By 1917, the upper age limit was raised to 48, but Boucher was 72 by then. He showed up at a different recruiting office and adamantly insisted he was 48 years old. The doctor didn't believe it, but he passed the physical and became a sapper. As a member of the 257th railroad battalion, he constructed railways across Europe and gained the nickname "Dad." After his time in Europe ended, Boucher continued to serve in public relations by telling his story. Read about John William Boucher and his service in two widely-spaced wars at Smithsonian.

(Illustration credit: Meilan Solly)

They Sent 1,000 LEGO Astronauts into Space

The Slovakian marketing group Kreativ Gang collaborated with LEGO to perform a cool stunt. They 3D printed miniature space shuttles and launched 1,000 LEGO astronauts into space! They made three launches from Malé Bielice Airport near Partizánské in Slovakia, each carrying about a third of the "Legonauts," which took them 22 miles up to the edge of space by balloon. When the balloon burst, the shuttle and minifigs went into free fall until a parachute opened. It was a bit tricky, because the shuttles had no roofs. They wanted to the Legonauts to be exposed to space.

The launches went off without a hitch on May 20, and the Legonauts ended up back on earth... somewhere. When the project team has them all gathered up, they will offer the Legonauts as prizes in a sweepstakes open to people in the Czech Republic and Slovakia who buy a new LEGO set. Read more about the project at PetaPixel. -via Boing Boing

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