The Battle for Ketchup Supremacy

The history of ketchup, or catsup, goes way back. The condiment was made with fermented fish, or mushrooms, or bananas, or whatever was locally available for cooks to turn into a sauce to liven up other foods. In America, the main ingredient was tomatoes. But early ketchup recipes called for fermented tomatoes to make the sauce last longer. After the Civil war, commercial food companies started mass-producing tomato ketchup. It was usually made from the parts of tomatoes that were left over after other products were made. Then the buying public started turning away from the flavor of fermented tomatoes, so companies began using new food preservatives to make ketchup shelf stable, particularly benzoates.

Dr. Harvey Wiley of the Department of Agriculture led a campaign against chemical preservatives in food, and particularly hated benzoates. He couldn't get them outlawed, but Wiley convinced Henry Heinz that they needed to go. Yes, that Heinz. Heinz worked diligently to come up with a recipe for ketchup that didn't require fermentation and didn't contain chemical preservatives. Read how he did it, and why tomato ketchup using his recipe became the only ketchup most of us know, at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Mike Mozart)

The Concepts Behind Dementia Villages

Anyone who has cared for a family member with dementia knows how terrifying it can be, and how depressing nursing home care can be. Since the first dementia village, De Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, opened in 2009, the concept of designing a safe place to live that seems more like normal life than like a hospital has spread to other parts of Europe. Here we take a deep dive into how these villages are designed and operated. The video mentions that dementia villages are expensive, costing around $70K to $90K a year per resident. That may be expensive to a European, but it's no more expensive than the standard nursing home in America, and it feels more like a retirement community. The real question is, does this system work? Raw data is hard to come by, but then how can you measure comfort and happiness, and what is it worth? -via Digg

Scientist Attempts to Determine the Best Way to Cook Bacon

Jess Pryles is a graduate student in meat science at Iowa State University and the founder of Hardcore Carnivore, a company that produces meat seasonings. She developed those seasonings after careful, scientific experiments.

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The Prickly Pears That Took Over Australia

Ever since Europeans colonized Australia, that country has been fighting invasive species that threaten its unique ecosystem. Some of that was accidental, but other invasive species were deliberately introduced with disastrous results. The British imported the first prickly pear cactuses in 1788 to establish a plantation in New South Wales. The purpose of the cactus was to feed cochineal insects which produce a lucrative red dye, but that never happened. Cochineal insects didn't thrive in Australia. What happened was that prickly pears escaped the plantations and spread all over the desert and into farmland. By 1880, farmers were throwing their hands up because prickly pears had taken over their land, often growing 20 feet high. Chopping them up did no good, because each part of the cactus can root and regenerate. Trying to poison them only caused other problems.

It took until 1932 to get the prickly pears under control. But you might have guessed that the solution was to import a unique species of insect to kill it, which later caused problems when the scheme was tried in other countries. It's a story told again and again, like the woman who swallowed a fly. Read about the prickly pear invasion and the battle to defeat it at Amusing Planet.

(Image source: State Library of Queensland)

Man Shows Perfect Timing While Interacting with His TV

Vinoy Alexander calls himself "The Timing Wizard" for a good reason: he times his interactions with movie and TV characters on the screen with seemingly magical precision.

This video from his Instagram page shows him pranking Luis Guzmán's character in the 2012 film Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. In this scene, Guzmán's character is hit by bird poop while riding on the back of a giant bee. Alexander is, presumably, eating a different substance when he flings a spoonful of it at the screen.

This is a typical interaction that Alexander has with his fictional acquaintances. He can be rather mean at times.

-via @tyomatee

The History of the World, Including the Future

This video takes you through the history of the earth in just three minutes. We see the earth's formation, the evolution of species, and the rise of civilizations. It even jumps into the future! This is an art film, not an educational video. What's really notable is that the art was generated by artificial intelligence. The neural network program used was StableDiffusion, which was given 36 different prompts to generate the images. The thousands of images were then programmed to morph into each other. It's altogether trippy. If you look closely, you'll see a human being at about :58, and a couple more at :59, during the reign of the dinosaurs. Time travelers, or just a glitch? -via Geeks Are Sexy

Why Many American Recipes Call for One Clove of Garlic

People from many cultures look at American recipes that call for one clove of garlic and they laugh. One clove? It seems like a waste of a clove. If a recipe requires garlic, then it should be an entire head. However, the folks who write those recipes have their reasons. On one side are the cooks who assume that people will adjust the recipe to their own tastes, or at least they will eventually. On the other side are chefs who don't want to turn off cooks who aren't used to garlic or may be afraid that it will overwhelm the dish. There are other reasons why recipe writers may hold back on the garlic even though they use much more of it themselves, which you can read about at Eater. -via Digg

How do you approach garlic in a new recipe? Do you automatically multiply the amount of garlic, follow the recipe exactly, or just leave it out since one clove won't even be detected?

Suddenly, a Square Pit in the Road

A few months ago, we were fascinated by watching the mayhem of the physics game BeamNG.Drive when someone put a massive hill in the road. Here's another dangerous situation from the game that's going viral. The road looks just fine from a distance, but there's a giant square pit. Who can drive fast enough to get to the other side? Not many vehicles can do it, so the allure here is watching the rest of them getting ruined in a variety of ways. The takeaway is that you do not want to approach a hidden square pit while pulling a trailer. Unless you're driving a Tesla cybertruck. Plenty of commenters swear they see potholes this big on their drive to work. The rest of them are arguing that it isn't a square hole, it's a rectangle. They're certainly right. It leaves you with a wreck and a tangle. -via reddit

Toddler Bites Snake to Death

(SLURPent t-shirt now on sale at the Neatoshop)

Newsweek brings us a story from a village near Bingol, Turkey, of a snake which passed away after suffering a toddlerbite. Neighbors heard the 2-year old girl screaming and ran to her. When they arrived, they found that the girl had bite marks on her lip and a living 20-inch snake in her mouth.

The snake died shortly thereafter. The little girl was taken to a hospital. After 24 hours of observation, she was released in good health.

The snake species is unknown, but of the 45 snake species native to Turkey, 12 are venomous. It is likely, but not certain, that the late serpent was non-venomous.

-via Dave Barry

Kindergarten Teacher Uses Words Invented by Her Students

Mrs. F, a kindergarten teacher in California, knows the importance of adapting her communication to meet the needs of her audience. Right now, that's 5-year old children.

Her kids have a language of her own. She explains that this is because kids will naturally create words that fit into their pre-existing mental schemas. A lot of words invented by little kids simply make more sense than adult words. Why not call the lower half of your leg your foreleg if the lower part of your arm is the forearm?

When she was a toddler, my eldest daughter referred to our stroller as the gogogol, presumably because it was used to go places. This was a superior designation to stroller, so my wife and I started using it, too.

Foods That Went from Gross to Glorified

Just about anything that the earth produces will be loved by some, detested by some, and eaten by many. But food has always been a marker of class, and many types of food have suffered from class discrimination. If it is edible and plentiful, then it will be affordable to poor people, and the rich will look down on it for just that reason. It's happened over and over, but eventually that food's reputation will change, either because it became expensive enough to be prized, or else enough people try it and like it that a tipping point is reached. Sometimes a dish is considered "low class" only until someone finds a way to get rich from it, like importing it to places where no one knows that it's a staple among the poor.

For example, lobster was so plentiful when Europeans first colonized America that people got sick of eating so much of it. When other food sources were established, lobster was relegated to poor people, prisoners, and livestock. It's much better when it's a rare treat, which people will pay a premium for today. Read about 15 foods that were once considered trash but are now a treat at Cracked.

(Image credit: Digimint)

The Life Story of the Iceberg That Sank the Titanic

The voyage of the RMS Titanic in 1912 was such a spectacular disaster that it's never really been out of the news in over a hundred years. It dominated newspapers for months afterward, books were written, and movies were made about it. Millions were spent to find the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean, and relics from the ship have taken their places in museums. But rarely do we hear the story from the other side- that of the iceberg.

When it was born as an iceberg in 1909, it was 100 feet tall and two miles wide, much bigger than most icebergs. But the unnamed iceberg's story began much earlier, when it started its journey as part of a glacier. The iceberg was already elderly for an iceberg and had outlived its contemporaries when it encountered the Titanic. Read about that iceberg, its origins, travels, and ultimate death, at Smithsonian. 

The Names That Are Most Often Changed in the US

People change their legal names at different times in their lives for different reasons, the most common reason being marriage. But what about first names? The Social Security Administration released a list of the names that were changed the most in the past five years. At the top of the list for names that are changed to something else are Chole and Issac. At the top of the lists for the most commonly adopted names when a name is changed are Chloe and Isaac. Coincidence? No, these have to be cases in which the name was accidentally misspelled on a birth certificate. We'd really like to know who did the misspelling and how long it took the parents to notice, but that information is not available.

See the rest of the lists of names that are most often changed, and also lists of baby names that are gaining in popularity and those that are dropping in popularity. Surprisingly, Karen is not at the top of the girls' list of names that are dipping in popularity. I don't know what Denise, or Denisse, has done to deserve such disgrace. The boys' names that are falling in popularity make sense, because no one can spell Jaxtyn, Karsyn, and Xzavier. And maybe people have figured out that Willie is supposed to be a nickname for William. -via Fark

Paper Shredder in the Form of a Pooping Dog

Did your dog eat your homework? Or did your dog protect your sensitive documents from prying eyes? You can blame or praise this dog sculpture by Atlanta-based artist and art director Pablo Rochat.

Behind the cover, the paper shredder in the dog's mouth routes the strips to the rear. Perhaps a receptacle would be handy, but it's more realistic to show the dog uncaringly pooping on your nice clean floor.

Pro tip: do not put dog poop in your shredder. Instead, put it in someone else's shredder for mirthful hijinks.

Why Brands Are Simplifying Their Logos

There's an emerging trend in graphic design: brands are simplifying and flattening their visual logos. They're taking out the flourishes, shadows, accents, and other details that were common just a decade ago.

Why? Photographer, writer, and miscellanist Ben Schott explains in this video for Bloomberg News that the digitization of graphic design made complexity more feasible, so designers made complex works to demonstrate their skills. This is no longer necessary.

And, with graphic designs increasingly focused on small smartphone screens, complexity is counterproductive. "Pixel pressure" -- the maximum size available to a logo -- encourages designers to create images that are easier to instantly comprehend. The details must go.

-via Laughing Squid

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