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

Big Sandwich Night: One Family's Tradition

Tumblr user mousemilf shares an endearing story of a holiday invented by her father. She grew up celebrating "Big Sandwich Night" -- a day when the entire family made a huge sandwich and ate it together:

I can see how this event could become popular. We need community, especially in-person community.

For a few years, my daughters and I celebrated Derpy Day, which is a brony holiday in which people bake muffins together in honor of Derpy, a minor character on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The girls eventually figured out that no one else at their school celebrated this particular holiday.

Does your family celebrate any unique holidays?

-via Glenn Reynolds

Beware the Bonnacon

A bonnacon is a legendary medieval beast that struck terror into the hearts of man. First described by Aristotle, it was widely known by the time medieval bestiaries were written, accompanied by rich illustrations. In most illustrations, the bonnacon resembles a goat, although its feet were sometimes clawed and sometimes hoofed. It had two horns that curled toward each other. So what was so terrifying about the bonnacon?

The bonnacon's unique defensive weapon was explosive diarrhea. You could call this an offensive weapon as well. Over time, the bonnacon's eruptions became more and more exaggerated. The effluvia was said to burn like fire, cover three acres, and hit a target at quite some distance. Tales of the bonnacon were widely told, possibly as a gag rather than a fable, and it was illustrated over and over. In fact, the Public Domain Review has 15 images of the bonnacon in addition to the animal's history. -via Everlasting Blort

Chased Overseas by Cats

The headline doesn't seem to make a bit of sense, but it's real. The syndicated story survives in more detail in the December 16. 1916 issue of the Nevada newspaper Elko Independent. A British man named Wilberforce Wiggins explained why he was in New York.

As the story goes, Wiggins was late for a lunch meeting with friends. To explain his tardiness, he spun a tale out of whole cloth. He said he was busy fulfilling an order from officials in India who were looking for 2,000 Manx cats to import in order to control snakes, and that they were paying $25 each for the cats.

Wiggins thought it was a hilarious tale, but the men he was dining with took it seriously, and each snuck off to make phone calls to connections on the Isle of Man (where Manx cats come from) to arrange fulfillment of Wiggins' mission. After all, $25 a cat was a lot of money in 1916.

Afterward, Wiggins was inundated by shipments of cats from the Isle of Man -and elsewhere, as the story got around quickly. There were also children carrying cats to his house, demanding their $25. His aunt even lost her beloved Angora cat when she walked away with one of the cats who escaped a cage at the dock. So Wiggins did the only thing he could do to escape the mess he caused, and fled to the United States to hide until the excitement died down.

Is there any truth to the story? Wilberforce Wiggins already proved himself to be a teller of tale tales with his luncheon story, so that's quite doubtful. But it's plausible that he actually said all this to a newspaper reporter in New York. -via Undine 

The Drive-Through Strawberry Stand

Atlas Obscura introduces us to a unique drive-through restaurant in the Netherlands. It began when Jan and Birgitte van den Elzen built up a successful strawberry greenhouse facility in the town of Uden. They looked for innovative ways to sell their fruit, including vending machines. Those vending machines are still present, but during peak strawberry season, which is from March to September, visitors to the Aardeien Drive-In can also purchase strawberry foods at the drive-through window.

These dishes include strawberry waffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries, strawberry shakes, strawberry smoothies, strawberry jam, and strawberries with whipped cream. Who's up for a yummy roadtrip to the Netherlands?

Photo: Aardeien Drive-In

Inside the Dreamhouse Set of The Barbie Movie

The live-action film Barbie opens on July 21. It promises to be a true reflection of the doll's life and culture, and that includes a dazzling pink set full of Barbie Dreamhouses. While the Barbie Dreamhouse has been produced in many different versions, they all evoke a midcentury modern design rendered in bright colors, mostly Barbie pink. And so the movie set had to reflect that.

Production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer talk about how they translated the Dreamhouse aesthetic into the real world in order to put real actors into the Barbie world. The set size is not exactly human scale, but close enough to use. There are few exterior walls, because there is no privacy in Barbie world, just as there is no place in the Barbie Dreamhouse you can't see -and the weather is always perfect. The San Jacinto Mountains in the background is not a CGI landscape, but rather a painted backdrop. Constructing the set meant causing a global but temporary shortage of pink paint.

Read about the Barbie set and the care that went into evoking the unique doll's world at Architectural Digest. The article has plenty of pink pictures. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Cleaning with Polonium

Redditor Mare Astra found this in her mother-in-law's basement. Take a closer look at the fine print. If you are not familiar with this gadget, it may be alarming.

In case you are wondering, the polonium in the product is polonium-210, which has a half-life of 138 days. It is considered harmful to humans only if it is ingested, like if it got into a skin wound or was drunk in the form of Russian tea from a political enemy.

The Staticmaster 500 is one of a line of products from the Nuclear Products Company introduced in 1950. It was intended for use in cleaning vinyl records or photographic film by ionizing the air around the object, therefore eliminating static electricity and making dusting easier. If you already had one of these around the house, you might use it to keep your clothes from clinging or get your hair to stay in place. Since polonium-210 has such a short half life, these products were only guaranteed for a year. If you find one of these gadgets, it's safe to be around by now. But if you really want to have some polonium-210 around the house, you can still buy new static eliminators that use it.

The Chimpanzee War, 1974-1978

Sometimes earth-shattering events go on right under our noses, and we pay no attention to them because we are human. We most likely would have no knowledge at all of a war going on for years in Nigeria if Jane Goodall hadn't been there to document the Gombe Chimpanzee War. She was there at the Gombe Stream National Park in 1974 when a war broke out between communities of chimpanzees. One population started to infringe on the territory of another, and they fought over it until 1978.

During the war, male chimps were observed forming alliances, sharing patrol duties, and carrying out raids and attacks that indicated strategic planning. Read about the human-like war and the implications of such behavior among chimpanzees at History of Yesterday. 

But that article didn't tell us how the war ended, or who won. Wikipedia has a longer and more detailed account of the war, and Goodall's reaction to it. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Syaibatul Hamdi from Pixabay)

Slow-Mo Fun with a 6-Foot Water Balloon

Gavin Free and Dan Gruchy, the Slow Mo Guys, know how to have some summer fun. They've played with water balloons before, but this year they're going all out, with a 6-foot balloon, rigged up with a high-speed camera and lights inside! The idea was that Dan (it's always Dan) would slide across a wet tarp head first right into it, bursting the balloon, and they would have some cool slow motion footage. Dan even rigged up a device to make sure the balloon actually burst instead of just acting like a brick wall he was slamming his head into. If you just want to see the ultimate balloon burst, skip ahead to the nine-minute mark, but the rest of it is pretty amusing, too. They titled the video "Giant Balloon June," which hints that they have more of these balloons, and have plans to use them in later videos this month. -via Digg

Five Examples of an Eternal Flame

There is a problem when people try to retrieve the huge deposits of natural resources underneath the earth's crust. The most valuable of these resources is fuel, and to get to them, we must expose them to air. One stray spark can cause that fuel to catch fire, and you've learned your lesson. But by then it may be too late, since there's a lot of fuel under there, and mines and wells continue to feed the flames while making it impossible to fight the fire. You know about Centralia, Pennsylvania, where a coal seam has been burning since 1962. But that's just one fire that's been burning an awful long time. The world is full of them.

The Jharia area of Dhanbad, India, was once a treasure of mining, as billions of dollars in prime coke coal lie underneath the ground. But it's turned into a nightmare, since that coal seam has been on fire since 1916! Over 40 million tons of coal has burned in that time, and in addition, no new mines can be opened to collect the unaffected coal, since the burning seam goes in all directions. The fire is making a growing area on top uninhabitable. That's just one of five places where the earth has been on fire for ages and probably will remain on fire for years or even centuries to come, that you can read about at Cracked.

(Image credit: miketnorton)

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