How a Robotic Parking Garage Works

Any time we see American cities from above, we are astonished at how much real estate is set aside for cars, both in streets and in parking lots. Sure, we have multi-story parking garages in places, but even they take up a lot of room because there has to be drivable roads to each floor and each space. Tokyo tackled that problem with mechanized and computerized garages that store many cars in much less space. Some of them are even underground, which means they take almost no real estate at all! Those kinds of garages cost an awful lot to install, and pay off in nebulous benefits over a long period of time, which means they are probably out of the question for the US. But when you add charging capabilities for electric vehicles, robotic garages sound like a complete winner.

In other news, Tom Scott is in Japan, so we are liable to see some really cool stuff in the next few weeks.

How to Survive Children with Cameras

Smart phones are so smart that a two-year-old can learn to use one in no time at all. And they do. If you've had children in your home in the last 15 or so years, you probably have some pictures of yourself that you would never share, but you keep them because your child took them. One of the women in Kira Cook's online mother's group shared one to lighten the mood during the pandemic, and then others followed. It's heartening to know others have the same experience. The photos are not flattering, but they give us a glimpse into what real life looks like and how children see it. They don't care that mommy doesn't want to have her double chin or droopy morning eyes recorded; they love mommy and think a picture should be taken.

Sharing such pictures brings out the humanity we all share. Life is messy, and kids don't care. Read about how liberating it feels for mothers to know that they are far from alone in their less-than-photogenic moments at Romper. -via Kottke

Five Planets Will Align This 2023

A rare sighting, indeed. 

With the end of March, we’d like to raise your attention to an interesting spectacle at night. If you have good, clear, and dark skies from March 25-30, you can catch a glimpse of what’s called the “parade of planets.” 

This event is when people can see five planets, namely, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus all in the same night sky. They also will line up with the Moon as a bonus. Some planets will be more visible than others, Popular Mechanics notes in their full piece on the event. According to them, Venus will be very bright and can easily be spotted. Mars, on the other hand, will look bright red and be near the Moon. 

Mercury, Jupiter, and Uranus may be difficult to spot. You might need some binoculars or a telescope to see them. “Wait until the sun has set and then go out and look low in that bright part of the sky where the sun has just set with binoculars,” Rick Fienberg, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope magazine recommended. “[And] you should see brighter Jupiter next to fainter Mercury.”

Image credit: Johan De Beer

This Boy Surprises Aunt With A Painting Of Her That Got Him In The Finals Of A Competition


Meet Lenny McNaughton, an 8-year-old that took inspiration from his favorite Aunt Steph. He entered an art contest with an abstract portrait of her at the prestigious Archibald Prize show. His painting, while not winning the grand prize, did end up being a finalist in the Young Archie competition.

But it was the moment when Lenny decided to show his aunt the artwork that really stole the show, so to speak. He started by giving her a tour of the exhibit without mentioning his painting. A video posted on his Instagram showed his aunt’s surprise and exclamation at seeing an artwork that looks like her. Upon reading the description, you can see her shock and how she embraced him after seeing his work. 

“Auntie Steph is a very favorite person because she makes my day brighter,” the description his aunt read. “She makes everything fun. Auntie Steph grows her own sunflowers in her backyard [and] gives them to people to make them happy. She's a beautiful person inside and out.”

Image credit: Lenny McNaughton/Instagram

This School Is Throwing Away Something Shocking

This is disheartening, really. 

An image posted by Reddit user alwayslurkeduntilnow in the r/anticonsumption forum has made rounds online for the sheer amount of computer monitors inside a room. At first glance, one might think that these are just some extra devices on hand in case of units need to be replaced. Unfortunately, while they are all still working, they were meant to be thrown out so the school can replace them. 

The post left Internet users talking about how e-waste is getting more traction with actions like throwing away still-functioning computer parts. The issue is that a lot of precious metals, such as copper, silver, and gold are just thrown away when they can be extracted, recycled, and reused. 

“I think the problem is that all electronics aren’t designed to be recycled. Every device which could be replaced by better technology will end like this. This is a huge problem,” one person commented.

Image credit: u/alwayslurkeduntilnow

Car Achieves Serious Air During Accident

How high did this Kia Soul jump? What caused this to happen? And is the driver alright? We don't know exactly how high, but one redditor noted "the brake lights of hope." This was caused by a runaway wheel. And the driver managed to walk away. Whew. Anoop Khatra caught the action on his dashcam Thursday when a truck lost a wheel that caused the havoc.

Notice how the tire came back a second time to get one last punch. The car was certainly engineered to handle this kind of accident. We can see the curtain airbags deployed.

The accident occurred on the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Los Angeles. There were no passengers in the Kia, and no major injuries.  -via reddit

The History of Premarital Blood Tests

If you are of a certain age, you remember when people had to undergo a blood test in order to get a marriage license. In my elementary school, kids who "knew" told us that it was to uncover possible Rh factor incompatibility, which was a thing at the time. Today, young people tell each other that it was a genetic test to make sure the bride and groom were not related to each other, which is demonstrably wrong, because DNA tests just weren't available back then. Eventually we all learned on our own that it was a test for syphilis, a part of a nationwide battle against the disease launched by U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran Jr. in the 1930s.

States took up the challenge with tests for people getting married until the majority of states required them. Some states later tested for other diseases, but then gradually dropped the requirement until the last premarital blood test was dropped 2019. Read about Parran's crusade and the results of these required tests at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Library of Congress)

Remote Control Car Goes Shopping

Personal robots don't have to be super high tech to get the job done. Kael Schoerlin has a FPV RC car (a remote control car with a camera) with a transparent cargo bed and he's not afraid to use it. When he ran out of fish food, he sent the car to get it! The car doesn't have a speaker, but can communicate pretty well by opening its bed and tooting its horn. It also has a tiny "driver" wearing a cowboy hat that will nod its head by remote control. The employees at Petco were delighted to be visited by a toy buying food for a fish, and even more delighted when it responded to them in its own limited way.

The original video is at TikTok. The car also went to get a banana and negotiated a deal, delivered a donation to a food drive, and purchased candy.  -Thanks, WTM!

The Baffling Case of Honeycomb Patterns in Salt Deserts May Have Been Finally Solved

Salt deserts around the world are created differently. For some reason, however, they all seem to share a similarity — they form honeycomb-like patterns of ridges. This peculiar feature of salt deserts has baffled scientists for quite some time. Over the years, two theories have been offered in an attempt to explain the phenomenon. The first theory attributed the honeycomb shapes to cracks that formed as the ground surface dried. The second theory proposed that the edges of the cracks might have pushed upward to form the honeycomb ridges. Neither was able to explain the pattern's ubiquity and regularity. But this new theory, proposed by a team of researchers from Germany and England, could probably be the key to the truth.

The secret of the phenomenon lies beneath the dry crust. The process involves constant evaporation and turnover of salty and freshwater. This explains the regularity of the honeycomb-like patterns of the ridges. This property also seems to be present in all deserts.

While the study does not have an immediate application in the world, Jana Lasser, the physicist who led the study, says that she feels accomplished. She describes the study as "the purest form of research" and a "very, very satisfying experience."

(Image Credit: Anouchka Unel/ Wikimedia Commons)

The Meownooker Cat Toy Set Is A Mini-Pool Table for Cats

One requirement when taking care of cats is keeping them occupied so they won't be bored. One solution to this is giving them toys to play with. Another is buying them catnip to make them relaxed and happy. Or maybe you can do both using the Meownooker Cat Toy Set.

The set includes a miniature table with a felt top and felted billiard balls filled with catnip. It's very likely your cats won't be able to stop playing pool all day (if you can count it as a game of pool, that is).

The Meownooker Cat Toy Set is created by pet goods shop Vetreska and is available over at their site.

Via Technabob

(Image Credit: Vetreska via Technabob)

The Ghost Catfish Can Turn Rainbow Through Its Muscles

Many fish can achieve an iridescent glow through the tiny crystals in their skin or through their scales that can reflect light. The Kryptoterus vitreolus, however, achieves its iridescent glow using its muscles. A team of scientists led by physicist Qibin Zhao discovered the fish's characteristics in their recent investigation.

Zhao's interest in the fish began one day in an aquarium store when he noticed it in front of him. Then the freshwater fish became iridescent. Intrigued, Zhao decided to investigate the fish in the lab, examining it under different lighting conditions. Using a white laser to illuminate the animal's muscles and skin separately, the team found out that its muscles — specifically, its sarcomeres — were the ones responsible for its rainbow glow.

As light passes through the muscles, the sarcomeres' repeating bands bend it, separating and enhancing the light's wavelengths, which creates the rainbow look.

While the iridescent glow is pleasing to the eyes, scientists are unsure about its purpose, but they have a few theories. For one, the iridescence could help the fish visually coordinate movements when they travel in groups (as they live in murky water). It might also help them blend in shimmering water to avoid predators like birds.

(Image Credit: Nan Xi, Xiujun Fan and Genbao Wu via Science News)

Handy Tips from the 19th Century Could Get You Killed

Some people call them "life hacks" today, but in bygone years they were "handy tips" or just "advice." Today they can rack up TikTok views, just like in the old days when they filled magazines that people bought, but the safety and efficacy can range from useful to downright dangerous. Sure, it might have once been a good idea to set your mattress outside in the sun to fight mold and vermin, and lard can heal chapped skin. You can distinguish butter from margarine by burning it, as illustrated above, but wouldn't it be easier to just taste it? However, some of these tips worked on the same principle as hitting your toe with a hammer to get rid of a headache.

For example, a mixture of menthol, cocaine, and boric acid could be snorted to fight congestion. Whether it worked or not, boric acid is poisonous. So is leaving mercury out to fight bedbugs. A pinch of borax might make your expired milk last a little longer, but it is also poisonous.

These old-timey tips sometimes came with a hilarious bit of honesty. One columnist suggested that you use roast peas, grains, or bread crusts if you run out of coffee beans. She added, "None of these are very good." Read all 25 handy tips from way back when at Mental Floss.

(Image source: New York Public Library)

MIT Tackles the Best Way to Eat an Oreo Cookie

I heard my niece is entering the research phase of her PhD course, and had to make jokes about the poor grad students who spend all day counting people in public bathrooms or sifting tons of dirt looking for bone fragments just to be listed as et al in the final publication. However, Crystal Owens of MIT's mechanical engineering department got approval for a study of the physics of an Oreo cookie.

Owens aimed to discover if there is any way to twist open an Oreo and achieve creme sticking to both wafers. You are shaking your head no. At least now it's been scientifically proven. Owens and her team used a rheometer, a device that twists cookies open, to test different twisting speeds and different cookie flavors. This involved gluing the cookies to the rheometer's discs, which takes some of the magic out of the experiment. They tested more than 1,000 cookies, both by machine and with hand techniques. The results showed that 80% of the time, the cookies ended up with all the creme on one wafer, no matter how slowly the cookie was twisted or what method was used.

The researchers suggested that Oreo might turn the wafers over so that the printed side could grab the creme. That's not going to happen, because that's branding. It is evident that the creme is more cohesive than adhesive. If you want to eat an Oreo and have a consistent ratio of creme-to-wafer, you can always bite them like you would another kind of cookie. -via reddit

(Image credit: Jacek Halicki)

The Ancient Roots of Booze and Language

When archaeologists discovered the oldest winery yet -8,000 years old- in Georgia (the country, not the state), linguists weren't the least bit surprised. They had already traced the modern word "wine" back to the region and the era by reverse-engineering it, since it occurs in various forms in so many other languages, in a way that might remind you of prehistoric genetic research. Linguists are a clever bunch. But they believe mead, or honey wine, is even older for the same reasons. Some of our terms for alcoholic beverages are indeed ancient, while the origins of others are just a matter of deciphering the historical record. When our anicent ancestors invented language, and later figured out how to write things down, they wrote a lot about alcohol. Humans have always cherished their booze. PBS's Otherwords gives us a quick lesson in how alcoholic drinks got their names. I'll drink to that! -via Laughing Squid

Canadian Pianist Tony Ann Transforms The iPhone Alarm Tone To A Heartwarming Ballad

You hear the alarm ring amid your dream, and you realize it's time to wake up. Your hands fumble as you search blindly for your phone so you can free yourself from the annoying sound that signals the start of your day.

"Opening" is the iPhone's default ringtone, but you can also use it as an alarm sound.

Canadian pianist Tony Ann takes four notes from the ringtone's motif and repurposes them to create a stunningly beautiful ballad. The result is an inspirational and heartwarming melody.

Tony Ann is known for re-imagining familiar melodies. He also creates songs inspired by everyday life.

Via ClassicFM

(Video Credit: Tony Ann/ YouTube)

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