The Ever-Changing Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears

We know the story of Goldilocks as that of a little blonde girl who invades the home of a bear family and gets away with it because she's so young and not at all dangerous like you'd expect a home intruder to be. Besides, she's the protagonist. But it wasn't that way with earlier versions.  

The earliest documented version of the story of the three bears was from 1831, when Eleanor Mure wrote about an old woman who went into the bears' home and drank milk instead of eating porridge. But a version that could be from an earlier tale starred a fox named Scrapefoot who ventured into the three bears' castle. When the protagonist was changed to a little girl, she was first called “Silver-hair.” However, the story of a home invasion may go back much further if you don't have to have three bears in it. Read about the evolution of the tale of the three bears at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Elizabeth Tyler Wolcott)

The Traffic Sign Vandalism That Made the World a Better Place

One particular exit off the 110 in Los Angeles was both frustrating and dangerous because not only was it a left turn, it lacked a directional sign that would give drivers a chance to get in the left lane! After years of frustration, artist Richard Ankrom took matters into his own hands in 2001, literally, and added the instruction that the traffic sign needed. Ankrom is a professional sign maker, and went to great lengths to make the sign accurate to Caltrans standards and install it in a manner that no one would question. The result was indistinguishable from a genuine officially-sanctioned highway sign.

This act of vandalism immediately improved traffic flow and the peace of mind of the millions of drivers in Los Angeles looking for I-5. The new sign probably saved lives, too. Did Caltrans investigate this illegal change to their signage? No, they didn't even notice! Drivers were happy with the change, and just assumed it was official. Ankrom was surprised by his success, and eventually 'fessed up to the project about a year later. He even made a documentary about the project, which you can watch here. The stunt got all kinds of publicity, but Akrom wasn't arrested. After all, he did what needed to be done, and everyone was happy about it. Caltrans left Akrom's sign up for eight years before it was replaced with a new sign that has the proper directions. -Thanks, Brother Bill!

Recreating Itō Jakuchū's Edo-era Chicken Art

Japanese artist Itō Jakuchū painted many subjects in the 18th century, but he tended to favor birds, especially chickens. Jakuchū's chickens are more realistic and less stylized than other artists of the mid-Edo era, and hold up well today as beautiful images of nature.

Here in 2024, daiouika is an owner, admirer, and photographer of chickens. The chicken photographs he posts are akin to portraits. But daiouika's most fascinating project is recreating Jakuchū's paintings from almost 300 years ago in photographs! While you can't really make a chicken pose, he goes to great lengths to match the appearance of the chicken(s) and the background details. The results are exquisite. This kind of photo requires infinite patience, plus the subject's trust. And that's saying something, because chickens are the very definition of bird brains. But we love them, whether in the backyard or coming through a drive-through window. Check out daiouika's technique and see more of his Jakuchū recreations at Spoon & Tamago. -via Everlasting Blort

The Dutch Sport of Fierljeppen

Dutch people saw a pole vault competition and said, "That looks like fun but this is the Netherlands; we have to do it over water." And so the sport of fierljeppen was born. It's also called polsstokverspringen, or in English, canal jumping. But seriously, folks, this was once the way to get to the other side of a canal efficiently if there is no bridge. It's far from the only time an everyday activity was turned into a competition, because that's what people do. The poles are between 26 and 43 feet long, and you are supposed to climb it while you are flinging yourself across the canal. Fierljeppen may look strange, but it takes strength, skill, and often a bit of luck to successfully complete a jump without looking utterly ridiculous. Great Big Story talked to champion jumpers Ruben Van Eijk and Mark Van Der Horst about this strange sport and what goes into it. -via Damn Interesting

Hurricane-Impacted Texans Using Whataburger App to Track Power Outages

Hurricane Beryl hit the Houston area this week, leaving at least 1.9 million people without electricity in 100°F. The response of the CenterPoint utility company has been . . . suboptimal. It can be hard to track which areas of the city have or do not have power, which is why, a few days ago, X user BBQ Bryan turned to the Whataburger app. Restaurants that are closed are greyed out on the above map.

KHOU News contacted the corporate offices of Texas's own haaaamburger chain, which advises also calling ahead to verify that particular restaurants are open.

-via Not the Bee

Bizarre Bike Designs by Alessandro Tappa

Alessandro Tappa is an artist in Vigevano, Italy who designs and builds wonderfully weird bicycles that are just normal enough to serve as functional means of transportation. The above model, which has a name that translates as "bike on the belly", requires a fully prone position to ride.

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The Sad Story Behind Photos Found in a Thrift Shop

Back in 2015, Meagan Abell bought some vintage slide film transparencies at a thrift shop, which she first thought were photo negatives. There was no information about the pictures that showed two women, one in a red dress, the other in a blue dress with a red sash, posing ethereally on a beach. The photos appeared to be from the 1950s. Abell took to social media to enlist help in identifying the women in the pictures, with the aim of finding the story behind the photos.

First, the location was identified as Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles. Then the purpose of the photoshoot was revealed -it was for an album cover! Once the woman in red was identified, the discarded slides led us to a tragic story about a music career in which everything that could go wrong happened. That includes the frustrating missed connection as the singer never knew of the search for her before she died. Read the entire story of #Find the Girls on the Negatives at Flashbak. -via Strange Company

Chef Boi, the Claymation Cook

My clay mascot made me some pancakes!
byu/guldies inanimation

This little dude didn't get the memo about not cooking nude. His downfall is not burns, though, it's the mess he made. This very short animation by Guldies is 100% old-fashioned claymation, as we can see in the full video at YouTube. Oh, the finished product is just as short as it is here, but then he goes into the making-of process, which is long but fascinating. Watching a lump of plasticine turn into Chef Boi is a trip. Guldies got caught up in the incredibly-detailed clay kitchen. The furnishings are not painted, but covered in clay for color. The tiles are each individually set! Then we see how the animation was shot frame by frame, including the genius detail of a blur effect while Chef Boi tries to break the more stubborn egg. Then we see the soundtrack recording, and you'll be surprised at how authentic the sound effects are. -via Everlasting Blort

The Highly Competitive Process of Baby Naming

Cornell University has a research paper that starts with the assumption that parents naming a new baby are rational creatures working on reasonable assumptions, and pick a name for its uniqueness. They also work with the assumption that parents are myopic, meaning they can't see the possible consequences of their actions. The paper is authored by Katy Blumer, Kate Donahue, Katie Fritz, Kate Ivanovich, Katherine Lee, Katie Luo, Cathy Meng, and Katie Van Koevering. So you can see where this is going.

The entire paper is available as a PDF. This is real research, which they admit is incomplete in several places. The theory is that parents find a name they like that has the low popularity they desire, seen as the frequency of it being used, which can be ascertained by Social Security records. However, they should (but don't) also look for changes in that frequency year over year. This omission results in a shock when the child they so carefully named ends up at school with an extra initial attached to their name because there are so many others with the same name. Those who know say the study has some really good math jokes, but don't let the math put you off; you can skip over the numbers and just read the text to understand just how tragically real yet funny this project is. -via Metafilter

PS: Current naming strategies have left us with several songs about the phenomena, like Multitude of Amys, Daves I Know, and 27 Jennifers.

A Zero-Gravity Eyewash Tool for Astronauts

Don Pettit is an American astronaut who has previously spent over a year living on the International Space Station. He's scheduled to return in September for six months.

On X, Pettit educates the public about life and science in space. Recently, he posted this image of the emergency eyewash station used in low Earth orbit. A 2014 article on describes how it works.

To ensure that the water goes where it is supposed to go and, equally important, not where it is not supposed to go, the water flows into goggles. The machine pumps the water in and then out of the sealed goggles.

The First All-Women Juries had a Peculiar and Unique Role

For hundreds of years, British law said that a woman who was sentenced to death was not to be executed while pregnant. It naturally followed that many women in such circumstances claimed to be pregnant, whether they actually were or not. That's where the "jury of matrons" came in. These were panels of older women, sometimes including midwives, who were deemed as experts in detecting pregnancy. They were also used to determine signs of witchcraft or whether a woman had given birth. In other words, they investigated claims that wouldn't be proper for men to pursue, even if the men knew what they were doing. The jury of matrons were considered medical experts before gynecology was a thing. Of course, they had no say in the guilt or innocence of men.

These juries were used in the British colonies, like America and Australia, as well as in Britain. The practice only died out as men became qualified medical experts with modern instruments like a stethoscope. An article at Smithsonian tells us about the erstwhile juries of matrons and some notable stories from their history in the penal colony of Australia.

(Image credit: The British Museum)

History's Most Notable Con Artists, Imposters, and Fraudsters

It's only human to desire an easy path to money, excitement, and a better life. And there will always be con artists who take advantage of that desire, no matter if the plan is legal or not. The common sense rule for these schemes is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn't true at all. At least it warrants further research on your part before parting with any money.   

The title of this video is "The Most Insane Ponzi Schemes In History," but that in itself is deceptive, because the 12 stories include only two people who ran Ponzi schemes, Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. Six or seven were imposters, who profited by being someone they weren't, and the rest were just plain con artists. We can learn something from all of them, even if the lesson is that too many people are just too gullible.  

A Biological Explanation of Fire-Breathing Dragons

Despite the fact that there are no giant flying reptiles that breath fire, dragons show up in folklore from all over the world. Could there be any more frightening combination of features in a dangerous animal? Even contemporary stories, like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings present dragons as the ultimate fantasy monster.

But would it ever be possible for a creature of earth to spout flames like a fire-breathing dragon? To produce flames from the mouth, an animal would have to possess three things: fuel, oxygen, and a spark. Strangely, all three of those things are produced by living creatures already, although none produce all of them. If we were to rig up an animal that combines the biological processes of a cow, Devil’s Hole pupfish, or the the fulmar gull with the talents of the bombardier beetle and the electric eel, we might have a fire-breathing dragon (if it were also a flying reptile). Read about the biological possibility of a fire-breathing dragon at the Conversation. -via Kottke

(Image credit: Ltoinel)

Andy Anderson Shows Off His Crazy Wisdom

When was the last time you were really impressed with a skateboard video? Pro skater Andy Anderson built a reputation for his wide repertoire of technical tricks (and for the fact that he always wears a helmet; common sense over coolness), but he doesn't rest on his laurels. Anderson is always developing new routines that are ever more surprising and appear to break the laws of physics. His moves are a combination of balance, fancy footwork, and imagination, as you can see in his newest video titled Crazy Wisdom.

Lest you be fooled by the way Anderson makes it look easy, there are some scary falls in the video just to prove that working out and then perfecting these stunts is honestly hard work. Still, some of it looks like it's just everyday movement for Anderson after all these years, while other tricks are a triumph of effort. -via Metafilter

Babies Learn Language Even If You Don't Talk to Them

Parents are told that they need to talk to their babies to help them learn to communicate. Studies show that this helps children tremendously with language acquisition. But is it truly necessary? Those studies were done in modern times in developed countries. In more traditional societies, people don't talk directly to babies, and they learn language just fine by overhearing adult conversations. In other words, when people talk to each other, babies are listening and drinking it in.

However, in these traditional cultures, babies are carried around and are witness to all their mothers' social interactions. In places like the US, babies are often home all day with their mothers or some other lone caregiver, and don't socialize as much. They just don't have the opportunity to overhear conversations, so the directive to talk to your child may be compensation for that. Read what we have learned about the process of developing language by hearing it at Big Think.

(Image credit: Shikoha Tautiko)

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