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When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers

The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it has always represented a lot of work. The last century or so has given us a continuous race to make that work easier with modern gadgets designed to cook and clean. Since the dawn of the computer age, the idea of a kitchen computer has been tried over and over, with little success. The first one was offered in 1969.

As depicted in this colorful advertisement, the sleek, enormous Honeywell Kitchen Computer would have commanded attention in any kitchen. But it did not actually cook dinner. Rather, its functions included storing recipes, meal planning, and balancing the family checkbook. Though marketed towards housewives, it was very impractical. The advertising campaign’s tagline “If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute!” sought to hide that the Honeywell Kitchen Computer was merely a complicated digital recipe-card box and a calculator.

The department store Neiman Marcus sold the Honeywell Kitchen Computer as a luxury item, pricing it at a kingly $10,600 (around $78,000 today). Buying the computer made little economic sense for the target audience, and required a 2-week coding course on how to properly use the 16 buttons on the front panel. There’s no evidence that anybody actually purchased one.

That was only the first of a series of ideas to get computers into the modern kitchen. But what could a computer actually do in the kitchen that wouldn't take up valuable room and cost more than it's worth? In the end, the solution turned out to be pretty simple. We have a few computerized systems that run through the whole house, for things like energy consumption and security, but getting a computer to help in the kitchen is as easy as making that computer small and portable. My daughter cooks with a recipe displayed on a computer screen while music plays ...on her iPhone. Read a short history of kitchen computers at Atlas Obscura.

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20 Epic Fails From the History of Pop Culture

"It seemed like a good idea at the time..." could be the beginning of every one of the 20 stories in this list. If you think back, you can probably recall a few huge mistakes in movies, TV, advertising, music, video games, and the like, when someone's great idea was actually executed before the target audience turned it down in spectacular fashion. And there are some that may have flown under your radar, like the time that Stephen King's horror story Carrie was turned into a Broadway musical.

Murder stories have a pretty good track record on Broadway—Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors, etc.—but the 1988 musical adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie bucked the trend. The creative team did include some musical theater heavyweights: Michael Gore, composer of 1980’s Fame, and Debbie Allen, choreographer of the Fame TV series (Allen also appeared in both the film and the show). Alas, their razzle-dazzle ’80s style clashed with all the carnage, and critics’ reviews were their own kind of bloodbath—The New York Times went so far as to compare the production to the Hindenburg disaster. Carrie closed after just five performances.

Almost thirty years after it closed on Broadway, the musical Carrie found a kind of revival in high school theater productions, where you might still be able to catch a glimpse of the carnage. Hear a song from the musical, and read 19 other stories of pop culture gone wrong at Mental Floss.  

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Look What Washed Up on the Beach

This looks like the kind of tropical fish you'd see in someone's salt water aquarium, except this fish is 3.5 feet long and weighs 100 pounds! It is an opah, found washed up on the beach in Seaside, Oregon. The fish was already dead, but was found before the birds could help themselves to it.

Keith Chandler, the general manager of Seaside Aquarium, told CNN that an opah on the Oregon coast is "uncommon to find" and he also added that the fish was "in such great shape."

"They're pretty cool fish, and we don't normally see them on the shore," said Chandler. "It was pretty exciting for locals."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), little is known about the species since they live deep in the ocean. The species is usually found in temperate and tropical waters.

The Seaside Aquarium took the opah and plan to dissect it to learn more about the species. -via Fark

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Five Ways Humans Evolved to be Athletes

With the 2020 Olympics beginning this weekend in Tokyo, all eyes are on the elite athletes of the world. From gymnastics to weightlifting, from the 100-meter dash to equestrian events, the eyes of the world will be on the amazing feats of the human body. How in the world did we ever develop such abilities? You might say, practice and more practice, but looking back into the evolution of human abilities, we find that such skills came along before we were ever Homo sapiens. Archaeologist Anna Goldfield explains what we know about how those abilities came about. Walking upright made us into runners, but it's hardly the only athletic skill we have that differs from other animals.

While the bottom half of our body has evolved away from an arboreal lifestyle, our upper body still retains traits that we inherited from tree-dwellers. Our glenohumeral joint, the ball-and-socket connection between our upper arm and scapula, allows us to swing our arms around in a full rotation. This is a very different type of mobility from that of quadruped animals that don’t swing in trees—a dog or cat’s front legs, for example, primarily swing back and forth and couldn’t perform a butterfly swim stroke. We, on the other hand, can.

Our rotatable shoulder joint also allows us to throw overhand. The ability to throw accurately and forcefully appears to have originated at least 2 million years ago, with our ancestors Homo erectus. Recent research has also shown that Neanderthals might have thrown spears to hunt at a distance. The few known examples of Neanderthal spears were long thought to be used only for thrusting and close-in killing of prey, in part because when researchers tried to throw replicas, they didn’t go far.

Recently, however, researchers put replicas into the hands of trained javelin throwers and were stunned to see the spears fly much farther and faster—more than 65 feet.

Read how evolution got us running, jumping, grasping, and playing ball at Sapiens magazine. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user Naoki Nakashima)

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Why Do We Call a Software Glitch a ‘Bug’?

Why do we call a software glitch a "bug"? You've got to call it something, and you may as well ask where the word "glitch" came from. Still, language origin stories are often interesting, and the idea of an insect causing problems in our computers makes sense. Insects love small, protected places to hide, and they reap all kinds of destruction from our point of view. It's also a handy excuse for human error.

According to the most often-repeated origin story, in 1947 technicians working on the Harvard Mk II or Aiken Relay Calculator – an early computer built by the US Navy – encountered an electrical fault, and upon opening the mechanism discovered that a moth had had flown into the computer and shorted out one of its electrical relays. Thus the first computer bug was quite literally a bug, and the name stuck.

But while this incident does indeed seemed to have occured, it is almost certainly not the origin of the term, as the use of “bug” to mean an error or glitch predates the event by nearly a century.

The first recorded use of “bug” in this context comes from American inventor Thomas Edison, who in a March 3, 1878 letter to Western Union President William Orton wrote: “You were partly correct. I did find a “bug” in my apparatus, but it was not in the telephone proper. It was of the genus “callbellum”. The insect appears to find conditions for its existence in all call apparatus of telephones.”

The genus "callbellum" does not exist, and turned out to be Edison telling a joke. But don't take that as Edison coining "bug" for a technology glitch. Edison was in the habit of taking other people's ideas. Read the story of how we came to see "bugs" in the system at Today I Found Out. 

(Image credit: Naval Surface Warfare Center)

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For 60 Years, Indigenous Alaskans Have Hosted Their Own Olympics

While the international Olympic Summer Games are getting started in Tokyo this weekend, Fairbanks, Alaska, is hosting the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, as they have every year since 1961 ...except for 2020. The return of the games this year is particularly exciting. People of all ages will compete in feats of strength and skill that harken back to a traditional way of life such as the ear pull, blanket toss, fish cutting, knuckle hop, greased pole walk, four-man carry, Alaskan high kick, and the Indian stick pull.    

In 1961, two commercial airline pilots, Bill English and Tom Richards, Sr., who flew for the now-defunct Wien Air Alaska, were flying back and forth to some of the state’s outlying communities. During these visits, they watched Alaska Natives perform dances and other physical activities, such as the blanket toss, an event where 30 or more people hold a blanket made of hides and toss one person in the air. The goal is to remain balanced and land on one's feet. (The event stems from the Iñupiaq, an indigenous group from northern Alaska, who would use a blanket to toss a hunter in the air as a way to see over the horizon during hunts.)

“They [English and Richards] had a true appreciation for what they were witnessing and knew that these activities were something that people in the rest of the state should see for themselves to get a better understanding of the value of traditions happening outside Alaska's big cities,” says Gina Kalloch, chairwoman of the WEIO board who is Koyukon Athabascan.

Read about some of the WEIO events and how they descended from traditional indigenous culture at Smithsonian. The 2021 competitions are going on now through Saturday.   

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Abandoned 1980s McDonald’s

Urban explorer triangleofmass discovered a McDonald’s that was stuck in the 1980s. The YouTuber explored the abandoned McDonald’s, showcasing the aesthetic choices prevalent during its time. From the odd baby pink and blue color scheme (that is strikingly the opposite of the monochromatic and earthly colors restaurants employ these days) to the tiled walls and the bistro-style dining chairs, the fast food area looked like a retro diner instead of a fast food place: 

In terms of wall art, what you'll find are highly saturated nature scenes surrounded by a teal border. They are, of course, housed in a baby pink frame.
Lastly, you're going to want to see the computers. If you grew up in the '80s or '90s, they will bring you right back to those decades with their bulky, cream-colored exteriors.
You might be surprised to learn that this particular McDonald's location only closed down in 2007. However, according to YouTube commenter Dale Gibson, the location was last remodeled in 1986 to accommodate for salads being added to the menu.
Gibson adds that, according to the asset stickers in Triangle of Mass's video, it would appear that the McDonald's was abandoned because the sales volume was too low. Also, it would seem that the owner was not able to sell the store to another buyer.

Image credit: Triangle Of Mass /YouTube 

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Why Do Dogs Lick You?

Ever wondered why dogs loved licking people, even if they’re not their owners? While licking people is often seen as a sign of affection, there are some instances when other reasons come into play. Sydney Bartson Queen, a senior manager of the behavioral sciences team at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), explained that the meaning of a dog lick can depend on how the licks are offered

"Some small kisses at the mouth are sometimes appeasement behaviors, like the way some small puppies lick at the mouths of adult dogs," the ASPCA manager added.
Dr. Mary Burch, a certified applied animal behaviorist who is the director of the American Kennel Club (AKC)'s Family Dog program, says: "Licking can be a sign of affection. It might also give a dog a feeling of security and comfort, just as the dog had when licked by its mother in the litter."
Queen added that licks can also be a way for dogs to gather more information, such as small licks near the mouth. "The licking helps the scents get up to the dog's vomeronasal organ)."
Dogs may also offer a lick or two in order to appease the person so that they can be left alone. This tends to happen when a person puts their face too close to the dog's face before they are comfortable, Queen told Newsweek.
"Some dogs are even unintentionally taught to give kisses as a way to maybe create space between them and a person.
"A dog learns that you can get a person's face further away from them by licking it when the person moves away after receiving their "kisses," she explained.

Image credit: Honest Paws (Unsplash)

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Real Life Lord Of The Flies

Don’t worry, this story did not end with murder and despair. A group of school boys in 1965 stole a traditional whaling boat and recklessly set off for Fiji, without any navigational assistance or naval expertise. After a violent storm ripped the sails from the mast of the boat, they drifted aimlessly for over a week, and then ending up in a volcanic island, as the boys, now grownups, tell CBS News

For over a week their crippled boat drifted aimlessly. 17-year-old Sione Fataua, the oldest of the group, told us they were convinced they'd die.
Sione Fataua: No food, no water. We was just drifting around by the wind. And after eight days we saw the island. 
It was a volcanic island, jutting out from the sea. As the boat neared, a wave sent it crashing into the rocky shoreline, leaving it in pieces. The exhausted teenagers struggled ashore. 
Mano Totau: The only thing we do, grabbing each other together and say a prayer, "thank you, God."
The schoolboys later discovered they'd drifted a hundred miles from where they'd set off and had landed on the island of 'Ata—on maps, nothing more than an uninhabited speck.
It was a story so remarkable that later an Australian television crew brought the teenagers back to 'Ata to re-enact their experience. In the film, Sione, Mano and their friends show how they survived.
"The Castaways" film: They were able to salvage an oar and a piece of wire, and with this they set out to catch what they hoped would be their first meal in 8 days.
They demonstrate how they ate the fish they caught raw and quenched their thirst by raiding the nests of seabirds—drinking their blood and their raw eggs. 

Check out the full transcript of their interview, and the full tale of their survival here! 

Image credit: Jacob Buller (Unsplash)

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An Honest Trailer for Black Widow

One of the bonuses from last year's lockdown is that we now get Honest Trailers for movies that are still in theaters. The drawback is that this trailer for Black Widow surely has some spoilers, but not so much that you wouldn't still want to see the entire film. Screen Junkies' major criticism is that this Marvel film has a formulaic plot and stereotypical characters, as if that's a real surprise. Nothing could have prevented this movie from being a big hit.

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The Last Duel Trailer

Imagine Jason Bourne, Kylo Ren, Batman, and Villanelle all in one movie. And it's directed by Ridley Scott. With a screenplay by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Set in medieval France. Based on a true story involving both complicated ethics and violent action. I'll have to say The Last Duel looks like it might be pretty good.  

You can read the historical account of the duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, which is a pretty exciting story even in plain text.

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Pornhub Is Giving A Tour Of The Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s Nudes

In a surprising turn of events, Pornhub announced “Classic Nudes,”  a series of interactive guides to different ...steamy artworks housed at different museums around the globe. From  the Met, Paris’ Louvre, Madrid’s Prado Museum, and London’s National Gallery, Pornhub has got it covered! But just how good are the guides anyway? Input’s Matt Wille reviews the Met’s Classic Nudes tour: 

This unintentional meandering did have one fortunate side effect. With nudes at the forefront of my mind, I ended up finding a bunch of scantily clad subjects that had been left out of the tour. French painter Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian Women Bathing (1892) ended up being right where I thought the Corot painting would be, for example. Finding these other gems got me thinking about how exactly Pornhub curated its tour. Why, for instance, had Gauguin’s nude been excluded?
Officer & Gentlemen, the design firm Pornhub worked with on this tour, had the answer: Gauguin is canceled. “The original long list of paintings was put together by ourselves and vetted by a team of art historians here in Spain, who gave us insight into each piece and helped us remove those with questionable backgrounds or subject matters,” Officer & Gentlemen co-founder Alex Katz tells Input via email. And when I took a few minutes to Google Gauguin on the subway home, I found out about his very problematic history with portrayals of Polynesian people.
Despite Pornhub’s insistence that it worked to feature “as many works by women and BIPOC artists as possible” and its inclusion of a section on the Classic Nudes site meant to highlight diversity in the world of naked art, every work but two on my tour were created by white men. It’s no wonder, then, that the vast majority of the stops on the tour are of nude women.

Image credit: Matthieu Joannon (Unsplash) 

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The Peculiar Flapper Fad of Rouged and Decorated Knees

Flapper fashions from 100 years ago were all about freedom, fun, and flouting society's restrictions on women. But what in the world inspired these young ladies to put faces on their knees? The faces, and other artworks, were an extension of the fad of wearing makeup on one's knees, and that, of course, was to draw attention to what was supposedly forbidden.

As Velma’s character croons, these young women often forwent garters and rolled their stocking down into a bunch, drawing attention to the knee. Dress styles were still too long to show upper legs, but the popular dances of the era, from the Charleston to the Fox Trot, allowed for glimpses of the blushing knees, bringing more attention to that illicit flash of skin. Flappers might have started rouging their bodies because the 1920s was also when cosmetic formulas were first developed for commercial use and many women copied the looks of movie stars, especially Theda Bara’s vamp aesthetic and Joan Crawford’s wide-eyed beauty. As Emily Spivack wrote in Smithsonian, blush had historically been associated with promiscuity, “but with the introduction of the compact case, rouge became transportable, socially acceptable and easy to apply. The red or sometimes orange makeup was applied in circles on the cheeks, as opposed to dabbed along the cheekbones as it is today.”

Once makeup was worn on knees, it took some effort to make them even more outrageous. Read about the rise and fall of decorated knees (with plenty of pictures) at Messy Nessy Chic.

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Evidence Of Past Life On Mars Might Have Been Erased

A new NASA study has concluded that evidence for ancient Martians may have been scrubbed from the planet. Thanks to the agency’s Curiosity rover, experts have found a former lake that was made when an asteroid struck the planet billions of years ago. The clay around the lake is excellent for storing microbial fossils! However, upon examination of the samples taken by the rover, researchers found that one patch contained only half the expected amount of clay minerals, but held a great amount of iron oxides (which give Mars its reddish hue): 

The team believes the culprit behind this geological disappearing act is brine: supersalty water that leaked into the mineral-rich clay layers and destabilized them, flushing them away and wiping patches of both the geological — and possibly even the biological — record clean.
"We used to think that once these layers of clay minerals formed at the bottom of the lake in Gale Crater, they stayed that way, preserving the moment in time they formed for billions of years," study lead author Tom Bristow, a researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, said in a statement. "But later brines broke down these clay minerals in some places — essentially resetting the rock record."

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

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Designing Less Addictive Opioids

Whenever we confront the problem of opioid addiction, the response is to restrict their use in one way or another. However, opioids are currently the world's best pain relievers. Restricting their use hurts patients who deal with severe or chronic pain from conditions that cannot be immediately fixed. At the same time, offering opioids to relieve the pain often turns the patient into an addict. Short of finding a better pain reliever, the best option science can offer is to turn opioids into something non-addictive. And scientists are working on that.

Many of the addictive qualities of opioids are due to the feelings of calm and euphoria they induce in the brain. For conditions like arthritis and wound and postoperative pain, however, these drugs need to target only the diseased or injured areas of the body to provide pain relief. The question researchers face is whether it’s possible to limit the effect of opioids to specific areas of the body without affecting the brain.

One recently proposed solution focuses on the acidity difference between injured and healthy tissue. Injured tissue is more acidic than healthy tissue due to a process known as acidosis, where lactic acid and other acidic byproducts produced by damaged tissue collect. This means that an opioid could potentially be altered to be positively charged and active only in injured tissue, while staying neutral and inactive in normal tissue. The drug would be biochemically active only at a higher acidity level than found in healthy tissue.

Read more about this research and its potential at The Conversation. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Vaprotan)

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