Whether it's two billion years from now, when the Sun will no longer provide enough heat to support life on earth, or two hours from now in a nuclear holocaust, life on earth will inevitably come to an end. All religious traditions grapple [wiki] with this fact. Here's what they've come up with so far.
Things Get Bad: At least according to the Book of Revelation, things will be very bad indeed. Weeping, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, blood in the streets, etc. All of this will occur during "the Tribulation [wiki]."
And Then: the Second Coming of Christ, wherein Christ - to quote the Nicene Creed - "comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead."
Until: the Rapture [wiki], wherein all Christians (or at least good ones, depending on your particular denomination) are moved from earth directly to heaven with no dying or passing Go.
Things Get Bad: The Last Judgment in Islam is known as the Qiyamah [wiki]. At a time of God's choosing - no one knows when - Jesus (yes, that Jesus) will come down from heaven, end all wars, and kill ad-Dajjal [wiki] (Islam's equivalent to an Antichrist).
And Then: Each and every person who ever lived will be bodily resurrected and judged by God. Those found wanting will be sent to hell either temporarily or permanently; those who have been good and faithful go to heaven.
Until: No, that's it, actually. For the record, most Muslims do believe that some "People of the Book," that is, Christians and Jews, will also get to heaven.
Things Get Bad: The end of days [wiki], or acharit hayamim, will be marked by conflict and tumult. When? Well, the Talmud states that the world will only last 6,000 years - so many Orthodox Jews believe the world as we've always known it will end in 2240 CE.
And Then: All of Israel's enemies will be defeated, the twice-destroyed Temple will be rebuilt [wiki], the dead will be resurrected, and the Jewish Messiah will become King of Israel.
Until: God intervenes in the Battle of Armageddon, saving the Jews, evil leaves the world, and earth becomes perfect. It's like Belinda Carlisle song: "They say in heaven love comes first/We'll make heaven a place on earth."
Things Get Bad: According to the Buddhist holy scripture, the Tipitaka, we'll know the end of the world is coming when morality disappears and people start following the "10 Amoral Concepts." Those concepts? Theft, violence, murder, lying, evil speaking, adultery, idle talk, covetousness, greed, and perverted lust. Um, uh-oh.
And Then: Once morality disappears, things will degenerate into misery.
Until: A Buddha named Maitreya (known in English as the "future Buddha"), the successor to the Buddha we all know and love, will arrive on earth and begin teaching the pure Dharma.
Things Get Bad: Most Hindus believe that we are currently living in Kali Yuga [wiki], the Iron Age, or age of darkness. Unfortunately for us, that means that evil is on the upswing. Eventually, Vishnu will become incarnate for the 10th and final time. By then, karma will have been completely turned on its head, with good people suffering needlessly and the evil rising to ranks of power.
And Then: Shiva [wiki], "the Destroyer," will dissolve the evil and corrupt universe. And then, because all things are cyclical, the universe will simultaneously be reborn.
Until: We start getting evil again and get ourselves into another age of darkness. Most Hindus are careful not to put an exact time frame on eschatological matters. If you do, you can end up looking awfully foolish ...
Not the End of the World: People and Groups Who Falsely Predicted the End-time
Can't Keep Those Davidians Down
In 1942, a Seventh-day Adventist named Victor Houteff [wiki] broke away from the church with 11 followers and founded a "Davidian" branch of the church in Waco, Tex. Davidian. Branch. Waco. You see where this is going. But what a winding path the church took.
After Houteff died, his wife prophesied that the world would end on April 22, 1959. In point of fact, about the most interesting event of April 22, 1959, was the Yankees' Whitey Ford [wiki] striking out 15 Washington Senators en route to a 1-0 victory. Several hundred members of the Davidians left after the non-Apocalypse, but - remarkably - dozens remained faithful. In 1962, Benjamin Roden [wiki] became the group's leader and proclaimed himself successor to not only Ms. Houteff, but also to King David, noted star of the Hebrew Bible. Roden's wife became the new Davidian (get it?) when she took over the church. She quickly declared that in the Second Coming, Christ would assume the body of a woman.
You'd think by now the group would have theological whiplash, and yet it stayed together until 1981, when Vernon Howell, who would later rename himself David Koresh [wiki], showed up. By the time the ATF raided the compound in 1993, the Branch Davidians had 130 members. While their numbers dwindled after the massacre, Davidianism is still alive: A few people still claim to follow Koresh's teachings.
Go Ahead, Drink the Kool-Aid.
Jim Jones, cult leader of the People's Temple [wiki], portrayed as the loving father of the "Rainbow Family"
By now, "Don't drink the Kool-Aid" is a well-known admonishment not to buy into collective wisdom. It derives from the 1978 Jonestown massacre, when 914 followers of Jim Jones [wiki], included 276 children, committed suicide. But here's the thing: No one at Jonestown drank Kool-Aid [wiki]. They drank cyanide-laced grape Flavor Aid, a Kool-Aid competitor - but the poor, innocent Kool-Aid man has been taking the fall ever since.
Prominent (False) Prophets
Henry Adams Famous for: being the grandson and great-grandson of American presidents and writing the memoir The Education of Henry Adams, which Modern Library named the Best Nonfiction Book of the 20th century.
Prophecy: In his old age, with the confidence of a man who would not live to be proved wrong, Adams [wiki] declared the world as we know it would end in 1921.
What Happened Instead: Adams' world as he knew it ended in 1918.
Louis Farrakhan Famous for: leading the Nation of Islam, organizing the Million Man March, believing in flying saucers.
Prophecy: Farrakhan [wiki] said that the Gulf War - the first one - would be "The war of Armageddon, which is the final war."
What Happened Instead: It turned out not to be the final war - not even between those two countries in that particular place.
Jacob Bernoulli Famous for: being the mathematician behind the "Bernoulli numbers."
Prophecy: Bernoulli [wiki] predicted that a comet first seen in 1680 would soon return and slam into the Earth with Deep Impact-esque results.
What Happened Instead: The comet hasn't been seen since.
Ronald Reagan Famous for: being the 40th President; 1951's Bedtime for Bonzo.
Prophecy: In 1971, Reagan [wiki] said, "For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ."
What Happened Instead: The world went on, and Reagan got elected president, which was a boon for conservatism and also for jelly beans, Reagan's favorite snack.
From mental_floss' book Scatterbrained, published in Neatorama with permission.
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Ant Farms Who knew infestation could be this much fun? Inspired by the events at an outdoor barbecue, "Uncle Milton" Levine modified a clear plastic tissue box into a prototype for the ant farm. And what a prototype it was! Between 1956 and 1966, he sold some 12 million of them (ants originally not included), thanks in part to creative product placement. Levine gave away fancy, mahogany ant farms to Dick Clark and other TV personalities who kept the trinkets on their on-screen desks and, thus, in the public eye.
Bermuda Shorts Once the uniform of British soldiers stationed in (not surprisingly) Bermuda, the shorts were first appropriated by American tourists. Then fashion magazines got involved, and Bermuda shorts became the summer office wear of the 1950s - tastefully paired with jacket and tie, of course.
Breakdancing for the Pope - Yes, that's Pope John Paul II in the background!
Break Dancing Forget the coin toss. In the late 1970s, Bronx gang leaders would stage "West Side Story" - style dance-offs to determine which group got to choose the rumble location. Gangsters' moves were meant to show (via sensitive dance interpretation, of course) what the dancer planned to do to his enemies during the upcoming fight. Somewhere along the way though, they got hip to James Brown, particularly the fancy footwork he displayed performing his song "Get on the Good Foot."
Pop 'n' Lock Payoff: Early break-dance impresario Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon turned his talent into Hollywood gold as one of the stand-ins for Jennifer Beals in 1983's "Flashdance."
Breaking' Bodies: Like many high-impact sports, break dancing can lead to long-term health issues, including those medically regarded as (no joke) Breaker's Thumb, Break Dancer's Pulmonary Embolism, and Break Dancer's Fracture of the Fifth Metatarsal.
Cocaine Sure, Nancy Reagan told Americans to "Just Say No." But the U.S. government estimates that between 1980 and 1985, the number of Americans taking extra-long trips to the bathroom more than doubled - from 10 million to 22 million. Apparently, cocaine use began its upsurge in the mid-1970s, after the smokeable form, freebase, hit the market. Ironically, freebase wasn't technically cocaine. Rather, it was an alkaloid made by reverse-engineering pure cocaine powder - a nifty little transformation American chemists decided to try in 1974 after mistranslating the Spanish word basé. The chemists thought they were dealing with a base substance, not realizing that basé referred to a cheap paste byproduct of cocaine commonly smoked in Peru.
Death of the Fad: Around the same time acid-washed jeans went out of style. Coincidence? Not Likely.
Conical Bra Movie producer Howard Hughes touched off a decade-long fashion fad in 1943 when he designed a state-of-the-art cantilevered bra for actress Jane Russell - thus allowing women to stride confidently into the 1950s lifted, separated and pointed toward the future.
Doctor Spock with granddaughter Susannah in 1967.
Doctor Spock Sometimes, simple sells. Just ask pediatrician Benjamin Spock [wiki]. In 1946, Spock released his book, Baby and Child Care, in which he claimed that parents actually know more than they think they do about how to raise their children. His revolutionary child-rearing advice? Just relax. Americans lapped up the laissez faire methodology. Within 10 years, Spock's book had become the second-best selling tome in the United States (after the Bible). In fact, his philosophy became so connected to the Baby Boomer generation that some pundits still blame the free-love hippie lifestyle of the era on Dr. Spock's permissive parenting tactics.
The world's first drive-in movie in Camden, New Jersey. Photo from dvrbs.com
Drive-Ins Looking for a way to promote his auto-parts business, Richard Hollingshead of Camden, N.J., built the first drive-in theater in his driveway. All he needed was a sheet strung between two trees and a movie projector mounted to the hood of his car. Hollingshead patented the idea an opened a more practical version to the public in 1933, but his invention didn't become a sensation until after World War II, when Americans had more spending money.
The inside of an 8 track cartridge.
The Big Idea:Improve vehicle-based listening pleasure by creating a reliable, inexpensive taped-music system.
The Innovator: William Powell Lear [wiki], the man who brought you the Lear jet. ("You" in this case refers to the sizable - and good-looking! - billionaire sector of our readership.)
The Thrill of Victory: Eight-track tape [wiki] players first became available as optional add-ons to 1966 Ford model cars. More than 65,000 new Ford owners opted in that year alone, and the medium quickly spread from in-car to in-home use.
The Agony of Defeat: Eight-track sales sped along until 1974, when they ran smack into a brick wall called cassette tapes - an even more reliable and less expensive taped-music system. The last new-release eight tracks were sold in the mid-1980s.
Fallout shelter cir. 1957
The Bad News: It's 1962. Your country is locked in a nuclear stalemate with the forces of communism, the CIA is recovering from a botched Cuban invasion, and President Kennedy is urging you to prepare for a possible nuclear attack.
The Good News: For as little as $100, you can buy your family a fallout shelter [wiki] stocked with enough food and supplies for two weeks of glorious, radiation-free living. Or you can keep up (and alive) with the Joneses and splurge on a $5,000 model complete with stylish interior design and claustrophobia-relieving faux windows. And don't worry; if the Cold War ever starts to thaw, you can always convert that backyard eyesore into a playroom the kids will love!
The Even Better News (If You're Swiss): In the 1960s, the ever-prepared Swiss government built an extensive network of fallout shelters with enough space and supplies to protect the nation's entire population for two years. But, really, would you expect anything less from the makers of the world's coolest Army knives?
Flagpole Sitting The 20th-century award for Best Center of Gravity definitely belongs to Hollywood stuntman Alvin Kelly. In 1924, Kelly sat atop a flagpole for 13 hours, inspiring copycats across the country to replicate his feat (to varying degree of success). Kelly returned to the pole in 1929 just in time to set the world record (49 days) before the Great Depression put an end to such frivolity.
Read more about goldfish swallowing at BadFads
Goldfish Swallowing Or reason No. 452 why you should never let your elders claim that kids were more mature "in their day." On March 3, 1939, Harvard freshman Lothrop Withington, Jr., touched off a firestorm of publicity - and imitators - when he swallowed a goldfish on a $10 bet. For the next three months, students sucked down goldfish in record numbers while every authority figure from the Massachusetts State Senate to the U.S. Public Health Service tried to get them to stop. The craze slowed down after many schools threatened to expel the fish eaters, but the stunt managed to remain popular enough to ensnare the next generation. The current world record, 300 fish in one sitting, was set in 1974.
Have a Nice Day The yellow smiley face [wiki] and its now-ubiquitous catchphrase actually began life separately. Smiley was originally created in 1963 as part of an insurance company campaign to improve employee morale following its merger with another organization. For the next seven years, the face smiled silently from office posters, buttons, and desk cards until entrepreneurs Bernard and Murray Spain began publicly marketing smiley buttons - "Have a Nice Day" included - in 1970. By 1971, the feel-good pair had sold more than 50 million of 'em. No doubt, they were smiling all the way to the bank.
Hula Hoop Although the hula hoop [wiki] is thought to have made its first appearance (in wooden form) in 14th-century England, it didn't take America by storm until 1958. That's when Wham-O, Inc., the same friendly folks who brought you the Superball and the Frisbee, released a "futuristic" plastic version and promptly sold 25 millions in only four months.
J. Fred Muggs
Bear of B.J. and the Bear
I Can't Believe There are All These Monkeys on TV!
Lifespan: Long. Adding Muggs to "The Today Show" in 1953 saved the program from cancellation. But the fad truly took off in 1970, when the all-chimpanzee cast of "Lancelot Link" became superstars, spawning a chimp rock band (The Evolution Revolution), complete with chimp rock album. America's monkey mania ended when "B.J. and the Bear" was pulled off the air in 1981, but interest spread abroad. "Lancelot Link" was the No. 1 show in Kenya in 1987.
Diet: Varies. While Lance Link and his cast mates apparently stuck to a traditional fare of veggies, Bear favored light bear (on and off the camera). J. Fred Muggs, on the other hand, had a taste for human flesh - once taking a bite out of comedian Martha Raye.
Cydia deshaisiana moth inside of the jumping beans.
Jumping Beans Americans love a good novelty item, and nobody appreciates that fact more than Mexico native Joaquin Hernandez. Since introducing the toy here in the 1940s, Hernandez has ruled as the "King of the Jumping Beans." A periodically recurring fad for more than 60 years, the beans are actually moth larvae trapped in seedpods [wiki]. But their mystery continue to capture the public imagination. In peak years, when the beans are really hopping, Hernandez has been known to sell as many as 20 million of them, employing as many as 50 people to collect, package, and export them.
The Kilroy schematic!
Kilroy Was Here And here. And here. During World War II, Kilroy was everywhere. Accompanied by a cartoon of a large-schnozzed man peeping over a wall, the "Kilroy Was Here" [wiki] phrase graced everything from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to hut walls on Polynesian islands. So who was Kilroy? Turns out, he was probably Navy shipyard inspector James J. Kilroy, who reportedly scrawled the phrase onto parts he'd examined. Sailors later made a game of the enigmatic phrase, vying to be the first to impersonate Kilroy in a newly liberated era. In fact, "Kilroy Was Here" became such a ubiquitous military fad that Apollo astronauts are said to have written it in the dust on the moon.
Leg Makeup In 1941, the U.S. government banned silk stockings. Why? After Japan cut off America's silk supply during World War II, it became apparent that parachute production outranked women's fashion needs. Fortunately, however, the gals on the home front were a crafty bunch. Women resorted to D.I.Y. hosiery, rubbing liquid foundation onto their legs to simulate the color of pantyhose, then using eyebrow pencil to draw a "seam" up the back.
When in Rome: According to Roman theology, limbo is God's eternal waiting room - a place designed for all folks who weren't good enough for heaven or vile enough for hell.
When on the Caribbean Island of Trinidad: It's the name of a funeral dance representing the difficult passage from life to afterlife.
When Bastardized by Americans: Trinidad's sacred ritual became a game 80-year-olds play on cruise ships. In the late 1950s, American tourists "borrowed" the limbo and turned it into a fixture at dinner parties, beach movies, even in rock 'n' roll songs. In fact, Chubby Checker's "Limbo Rock" was the No. 9 hit song of 1962, beating out now-classics like the Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari."
Metrics in America As the Charlie Brown of American measurement, the metric system [wiki] got its one chance to kick the football in 1975 when the U.S. federal government adopted it as the nation's preferred measurement system. Of course, the moment of triumph was short-lived. Throughout the late 1970s, metric-hating was a national pastime, egged on by confused citizens, businessmen concerned about the cost of replacing machinery and tools, and conspiracy theorists who feared metric road signs would facilitate a Russian invasion.
Finally, President Ronald Reagan put an end to the conversion program as a part of his 1982 budget cutbacks. Today, with the notable exception of 2-liter soda bottles and camera film, the United States remains the world's only industrialized country not using the metric system.
Neon Hypercolor Shirts Hypercolor [wiki] blinded America with science in 1991. Using a revolutionary dye process, the shirts overlaid a traditional neon dye with a special dye that became colorless when hot, exposing patches of bright color beneath. But Hypercolor often stopped working after a couple of washes, which helps explain why the company that owned it was bankrupt by 1993.
How about an Ouija mousepad?
Ouija Boards Believe it or not, when Parker Brothers acquired the rights to the Ouija board [wiki] and released its first version back in 1967, the games' early sales trounced the company's traditional bestseller, Monopoly®. The moral of the story? When given a choice, people will choose the undead over capitalism.
Pac-Man even made it as Mad Magazine's "Man of the Year" in September 1982.
Birth of the Fad: 1980
Death of the Fad: 1981, when Atari released a home version of the popular arcade game that was so bad, it's still frequently blamed for the video-game-business crash of 1983.
Unbelievably, the first perfect game of Pac-Man [wiki] wasn't played until July 1999. That honor went to a 33-year-old Florida hot-sauce manufacturer named Billy Mitchell, who played Pac-Man for six hours straight to reach the 256th screen and achieve a score of 3,333,360.
Pyramid Power Sometimes, it pays to do your spring cleaning. After languishing in a British storage room for roughly 50 years, the ancient Egyptian treasures of King Tut were reintroduced to the world in 1977 via an American museum tour. In the grip of the ensuing Egypt-mania, more than a few people became convinced that pyramids had powers beyond those of the average mausoleum. Pseudo-scientists who hawked miniature models of Egypt's Great Pyramid [wiki] claimed the structure could keep food fresher for longer periods of time, sharpen razor blades, purify water, an even relieve pain. The grand promises inspired plenty of purchases, but the reality didn't inspire many repeat customers.
Quiz Shows CBS hit ratings gold in 1955 with the premiere of the first big-time, cash-prize TV quiz show, "The $64,000 Question." In less than a year, it had spawned a host of imitators, including "The Big Surprise," "Giant Step," "High Finance," and "Twenty-One." In fact, "Twenty-One" [wiki] became one of the most popular show of the day, drawing 50 million viewers to the December 5, 1956, showdown between meek-but-eccentric Herbert Stempel [wiki] and blue-blood WASP Charles Van Doren [wiki]. Van Doren won, but it was later revealed that the show's producers had rigged the whole thing because they felt Van Doren's clean-cut good looks would bring in better ratings. The ensuing scandal went all the way to a New York State grand jury and a U.S. Congress subcommittee hearing. Ultimately, it killed the quiz show craze - that is, until Alex Trebek hit the scene.
Don Kracke, at The Jackson online
Rickie Tickie Stickers
Rickie Tickie Stickies Are Not: fictional mongooses. That's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a product of Rudyard Kipling's imagination.
Rickie Tickie Stickies Are: those giant flower decals favored by hippies that appear in every mental image you have of the 1960s. Despite their counterculture reputation, Rickie Tickie Stickies were invented by capitalist-loving ad exec Don Kracke. His inspiration? Kracke simply saw some (poorly drawn) flowers painted on the side of a Volkswagen bus and decided there might be a market for prettier posies. He started selling his stick-on decals in 1967 and, within a year, had unloaded 90 million of 'em. Who knew hippies had such deep pockets?
Average Cost of a Rubik's Cube Circa 1980: $6 to $10
Number of Cubes Sold in 1980: approximately 4.5 million
Number of Possible Color Combinations: 43.2 quintillion
Possibility That the Rubik's Cube Could Actually Drive a Person Crazy: pretty darn. good. (Oh, and priceless.) When Hungarian architecture professor Ernö Rubik [wiki] introduced his "magic cube" to America in 1980, some people feared the popular puzzler would seriously drive fans mad. And legitimately so. Way back in 1874, a game called the "Fifteens Puzzle" was blamed for inducing insanity in roughly 1,500 people. And while Rubik's Cube [wiki] addiction was apparently responsible for the break-up of at least one marriage, Man triumphed over Toy in this particular case. In fact, by 1983, the puzzler was considered so harmless, it got its own Sunday-morning cartoon, "Rubik, the Amazing Cube."
Superball Already on top of its game after introducing the Frisbee® (then known as the Pluto Platter) in 1957, the Wham-O® Company staged another toy-industry coup in 1965 when it introduced the Superball. In only six months, the company sold close to 7 million of the high-bounce balls. Of course, they probably couldn't have achieved such impressive stats without the help of McGeorge Bundy, special assistant to President Johnson, who bought at least 60 Superballs. Why? He passed them out to White House staffers as stress-relieving devices.
Telephone-Booth Stuffing Simultaneously striking a blow for both originality and anarchy, 25 South African students climbed into a telephone booth in 1959 and announced they'd set the world record for a non-existent event. Not to be outdone, college students across England, America, and Canada immediately set to work honing their skills in this not-so-toll free sport. Some M.I.T. students tried to outwit the competition using physics, while others took a simpler route, starving themselves into more compact "units." At the same time, British college kids bickered over whether official booth-stuffing rules required teams to be able to place a call, while their Canadian counterparts were accused of cheating for using plus-sized booths. Thankfully, they all seemed to reach a truce later that year, when everyone abandoned phone booths in favor of Volkswagens, the latest people-stuffing container of choice.
Toga Parties Inspired by a famous scene in the 1978 frat house flick "National Lampoon's Animal House," [wiki] 10,000 University of Wisconsin students donned bed sheets and leafy headwear for their very own version of a toga party later that year. Thus the late-1970s pseudo-Greek revival was born. And while the phenomenon was widespread enough to warrant coverage in Newsweek, it wasn't America's first brush with bacchanalia. In fact, one of America's first-known toga parties took place in the White House. Even stranger, Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly organized the festivities as a way of mocking her husband's Caesar-like reputation.
Troll Dolls Proving that everybody's a sucker for good double entendre, Danish woodcutter Thomas Dam made a mint off his so-ugly-they're-cute troll dolls [wiki] by marketing them as "Dam Things." In fact, the creatures were the second-most popular doll of the 1960s, right behind Barbie.
UFO sightings It's true that people started reporting mysterious glowing objects in the sky in the 1st century B.C. E. And, yes, strange shiny objects in the atmosphere appeared in paintings throughout the Middle Ages. But in the early 20th century, UFO [wiki] sighting became downright commonplace. Between Jules Verne's sci-fi masterpieces and Orson Welles' [wiki] infamous radio address, Americans had become so accustom to extraterrestrial sightings that, by the 1970s, alien invasion was a normal topic of conversation. Want proof? During his successful 1976 campaign, future president Jimmy Carter publicly admitted to having once spotted a huge, bright object hovering over a meeting of the Lions Club in Leary, Ga. Nobody even blinked.
Victory Gardens Helping the war effort, one tomato at a time! That's right. During World War II, some 20 million Americans answered the government's call to plant Victory Gardens [wiki] in their yards so the nation's agriculture industry could focus on feeding the troops. And, boy, did it work. In the early 1940s, homegrown greens accounted for 40 percent of all vegetables consumed by the nation. Unfortunately, when the Victory Gardeners summarily quit in the spring of 1946, the impact was just as large - fueling food shortages that lasted the rest of the year.
Water Beds Although there are reports of ancient Persians snoozing on water-filled goatskin bags, the water bed [wiki] as we know it was born in (where else?) San Francisco during (when else?) the late 1960s. Originally called "the pleasure pit," the prototype was a bean-bag-esque vinyl bladder that sat on the floor. Popular with hippies and would-be ladies' men, the bed broke into the mainstream when someone thought to add a frame to the contraption. Oh, and the inclusion of a puncture-proof liner helped, too. By 1987, water beds had achieved full-fledged fad status, accounting for an astounding 22 percent of U.S. mattress sales. Unfortunately, poor quality control lead to some decidedly ungroovy publicity, and enthusiasm had completely drained by the early 1990s. Today, water beds constitute less than six percent of mattresses sold.
Ken Hakuta with his Wacky WallWalkers
Wacky WallWalkers® It's not every day you meet a guy who can say his fortune was built on slimy, plastic octopi. But Ken Hakuta [wiki] can claim exactly that. In 1982, Hakuta brought the North American rights to a Japanese toy that was essentially the sticky, amorphous, wall-based cousin of the Slinky. He proceeded to convince American kids of its virtues by giving away millions of the things in cereal boxes, so when Wacky WallWalkers finally hit stores, they were already popular. Hakuta sold some 250 million Walkers and raked in roughly $20 million before the fad hit the ground.
Open just about any comic book from the 1950s to the 1970s and you'll find an ad for the "blushingly funny" entertainment of X-Ray Spex [wiki]. According to the sales pitch, $1 could buy you the ability to see through walls, your own skin, and (most importantly) clothing. Unfortunately, to the dismay of pre-pubescent boys everywhere, the glasses didn't exactly deliver on their superpower promises. They did, however, provide the illusion of X-ray vision. Each "lens" consisted of a feather sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard with a quarter-inch hold punched through the center. So, if you held your hand up to a light and looked through the hole, you'd see the darker image of the feather superimposed on your body, making it look like the bones on an X-ray.
How to Tell Your Yippies From Your Yuppies
Yippies: Members of the 1960s-era Youth International Party [wiki], a far-left political group that had some pretty theatrical ways of expressing their views. Yippies are known for, among other things, causing a near-riot by dumping bags of money onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as means of mocking conspicuous consumption and unapologetic materialism.
Yuppies: Young urban professionals of the 1980s. Yuppies are known for, among other things, conspicuous consumption and unapologetic materialism.
Yippies: Often said, "Don't trust anyone over 30."
Yuppies: Were often older than 30. And they probably would have proved Yippies right, had the groups' members not suspiciously overlapped.
One Thing They Can Agree On: German cars. Yippies drove Volkswagens. Yuppies drove BMWs.
Zoot suit in 1942.
Zoot Suits Sometimes, youth rebellion requires just the right outfit. The zoot suit [wiki], popularized by African-American and Mexican-American teens during the late 1930s and early 1940s, didn't look like your average workday attire. It had broad shoulders, a tapered waist, and baggy pants that ended in neat, pegged cuffs. All that tailoring (and all that fabric) made the ensemble a kind of defiant luxury item - a sign that the wearer wasn't affected by Depression-era poverty, World War II fabric rationing, or disapproving looks from Mom.
The article above was reprinted from the Jan-Feb 2006 issue of mental_floss magazine, featured on Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss.
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The Virgin Mary has been busy lately, in the month of August alone, she has appeared in chocolate:
As a chocolatier to the rich and famous, Martucci Angiano has posed with many celebrities. But this month she held in her hand a figure that dazzles her more than any Hollywood star: a 2-inch-tall column of chocolate drippings that workers at her gourmet chocolate company believe bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary. Since the discovery at Bodega Chocolates, Angiano's employees have spent much of their time hovering over the tiny figure, praying and placing rose petals and candles around it. Since the discovery at Bodega Chocolates, Angiano's employees have spent much of their time hovering over the tiny figure, praying and placing rose petals and candles around it. "I was raised to believe in the Virgin Mary, but this still gives me the chills," Angiano said as she balanced the figure in her hand. "Everyone should see this."
... on the stomach of a pet turtle named, of course, Mary:
An 81-year-old woman in Chicago said the image of the Virgin Mary appeared to her on the stomach of a pet turtle, according to a Local 6 News report. Shirley McVane said the image mysteriously appeared on a sand turtle given to her by a family member. McVane, said she had had the turtles for about a year and the image is plain to see. "I told some of our friends, you know I've got a turtle and I said it has the image of the Virgin Mary on it, and I said it's getting plainer and plainer," McVane said. "And they said, 'Yeah sure. Yeah, I know, you're 81 years old, you think we believe that?' I said, 'Well, it's the truth.' So, now they all believe it."
... in a piece of wood paneling in the Souplantation restaurant in Grantville, California:
John Milanos was cooking a hamburger on his George Foreman Grill last week in Missouri. After he was done, he said the Holy Mother's face appeared in the leftover grease. The grease was in a small plastic drip pan that catches the grease and other fluids that run off the grill.
Milanos saved the grease in his refrigerator so he could show his friends and the makers of the George Foreman Grill. So far, the company has not responded to Milanos.
She's probably mad that someone stole her 700 year-old religious icon in Greece, by scaling a sheer cliff face!
Not to be outdone, her son Jesus also made a few appearances, like for example on an oyster shell (selling right now on eBay, of course):
(Pretty neat, though not as cool as the one found last year, also on an oyster shell)
A 34-year-old woman in Pittsburgh, Pa., claims the image of Jesus appeared to her in a recent magnetic resonance imaging scan of her body, according to a Local 6 News report. Rhonda Hodge of Duquesne had several X-rays taken of her spine because of a bulged disc, which has been causing numbness in her neck and left arm. One of the images caught her attention and that of her friends and co-workers. "What went through my mind?" Hodge said. "Just surprise. Oh my God, that's the crucifixion." Hodge said there is no doubt in her mind that the image looks like the crucifixion.
After seven months of a difficult pregnancy, Laura Turner looked anxiously at the latest ultrasound picture of her unborn son. She was reassured to see not just the baby sucking his thumb - but what she believes is an image of Jesus watching over him.
The man wrote that he wanted to share with viewers a smile and a sense of hope. He claimed that when he finished his first shrimp, he disregarded the tail, but then looked at it again and saw the face of Jesus.
The writer said he believed it was a sign, as he's currently going through a nasty divorce.
Fiddling with modern technology used to mean prank calling the Pope. (Hey, Steve Jobs did it, and now he's the CEO of Apple!) But these days, it can mean hacking your way into some serious prison time, jeopardizing national security, or worse. So when exactly did this underground art form take a turn for the nefarious? And what's a cereal-box toy got to do with it all? mental_floss takes a brief look at the godfathers of hacking, including the geniuses who think your antivirus software's a joke.
In 1983, Mark Abene [wiki] was nothing more than a beanie-wearing mall rat with too much spare time. He didn't own a computer, so one day he wandered into a Radio Shack, cozied up to one at the store, and tapped out a few commands. And that's how his hacking habit began - as simple as that. By 1984, with echoes of Orwellian symmetry, he was already using his own PC to sneak into other people's computer systems. While his parents were busy upgrading to a touch-tone phone, Abene was figuring out how to redirect traffic between switchboards.
Then the world learned what a pimple-faced intruder with simple Radio Shack gear was truly capable of. In 1991, in response to the AT&T telephone system crash that left 60,000 customers without a phone line for nine hours, federal authorities burst into Abene's bedroom, guns drawn, and confiscated his computer equipment. Although Abene was ultimately acquitted in the scandal, authorities nailed him for related mischief. Today, his phone hacking, or "phreaking," is an infamous milestone in hacker history. At just 19 years old, Abene (a.k.a. Phiber Optik) became the first hacker to serve time in a federal prison.
Living the High-Tech Life
So, why do they do it? What motivates a suburban teen to hack into a university computer to chat with 40-something garbage collectors, or to compromise bank systems and steal credit card numbers? It's hard to know for sure. But one thing's certain: Not all hackers [wiki] are created equal. As technology has evolved, its human predators have evolved, multiplied, and diversified with it. Today, there are "phreakers [wiki]," who break into major telephone systems to make free phone calls, as well as "crackers [wiki]," who decode encrypted computer systems (often those belonging to major corporations) with alarming ease. Then there are your "spammers [wiki] " - the ones who remotely tap into "zombie" computers to send marketing emails to millions of unsuspecting dupes - and "phishers [wiki]," who con you with look-alike Web sites to steal your account information. Some of them are simply pranksters, out to do nothing more than upload a few erotic http://www.neatorama.com/images onto a government Web site just to prove they can. Others use their powers for good instead of evil, actually working for security agencies and helping define hacking as a worthwhile, productive endeavor. Yet, every hacker seems to have one underlying urge: to exist on the fringes of society and reveal vulnerabilities to all those coloring inside the lines. And it's been that way wince the dawn of the computer age.
In the 1960s, computers were Pontiac-size behemoths encased in glass or housed in wax-floor laboratories accessible only to keycard-wielding geeks. The term "computer scientist" implied a Princeton degree and a government pedigree. Only accredited professionals were allowed the privilege of programming these powerful computers to track university enrollments, analyze medical anomalies, or monitor traffic conditions. Everyone else - the ostensibly computer-illiterate general populace - could only sit back and absorb the impact from the sidelines.
Cap'n Crunch Whistle, now a collector's item.
This kind of elitism stuck in John Draper's craw. A Vietnam veteran who loved to tinker with electronics, Draper [wiki] happened upon an opportunity to take the tech bigwigs down a peg. In 1972, one of Draper's friends tipped him off to a curious discovery: a toy whistle from a Cap'n Crunch cereal box could be modified to emit a 2,600-hertz tone - the precise frequency needed to authorize Bell System long distance calls, thus making them free. For Draper, this unlocked a goldmine of vulnerabilities in major phone company systems, and to exploit it, he developed what was known as a blue box [wiki]. At the push of a button, Draper's invention could produce a number of different sound frequencies to manipulate the telephone route and switching systems. Dubbed "Cap'n Crunch," Draper soon found himself the unlikely father of phone phreaking and - arguably - the founder of the modern hack. Interestingly, he shared the news of his invention with Steve Wozniak [wiki], future cofounder of Apple Computer, at a potluck supper for the People's Computer Club in Menlo Park, Calif., where the two enjoyed a prankster rapport. Wozniak later used the blue box with his pal and future Apple head honcho Steve Jobs [wiki] to make untraceable prank phone calls, including one to the Pope.
Back then, phone phreaking offered hackers a potent allure. It meant unraveling a mystery and sharing the results with friends. It wasn't as much about the nefarious phone exploitation as it was about understanding the complexity. Draper, for example, would revel in routing calls through multiple countries just to talk to his neighbor. But no matter how harmless some of his work might have been, Draper did damage to the profit margins of some major companies. In 1976, he was arrested on toll fraud charges and spent four months in prison.
Today, the blue box still works on some foreign phone lines and a few toll calls, but Draper says phone companies have become increasingly adept at spotting illegal usage. The 2,600-hertz tone - now almost meaningless in an age of fiber optics - is a kind of phone phreaking mascot. It even inspired the name of the well-known hacker rag, 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. Meanwhile, Draper has become a god to the hacking masses. To an extent, the concepts of beating the telephone conglomerates, scanning for security flaws, and exploiting a hack as far as possible all originate with Draper. He's promoted the mystique with a hacker portal (www.webcrunchers.com - link not working?) that documents his early days. But now he's working as a security software developer and running a security site (www.crunchtv.net) that seems to disavow hacker mantras.
The Birth of the Worm.
After Draper, there was a time shift in computing. While phreakers were still blowing whistles into phone receivers, a new type of delinquent emerged: the cracker. By the late 1980s, the home PC had become more prevalent but large corporations still cornered the market on the technology. In response, hackers tried even harder to get in on the fun. Hacker clubs surged in popularity - most notably, Germany's Chaos Computer Club, a kind of think tank that fought for free access to computer infrastructure, and Masters of Deception [wiki], a New York hackers club fronted by the Radio Shack hack himself, Mark Abene. Code tinkering for sport was becoming nothing short of an epidemic, and in 1986, the U.S. government tried to thwart the problem by passing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
Ironically, computers were about to fall victims to crime and abuse never before imagined. In 1988, Robert Tappan Morris [wiki], a Cornell University grad student (and son of the chief scientist at the National Computer Security Center), created the first Internet "worm [wiki]," a destructive program that replicates itself and moves through a computer network at breakneck speed. Partly to demonstrate his cracking prowess to classmates and partly to show how an MIT security system was vulnerable to attack, Morris wrote a software program that exploited a glitch in a Unix email program. Allegedly, Morris intended the worm program to infect only the MIT network. But during a 12-hour period, it spread rapidly, infecting thousands of systems and forcing some universities to shut down their computers altogether.
Shocked by how quickly the worm was spreading, Morris helped a friend send out an anonymous message with instructions for system administrators to stop the plaque. But it was too late; the worm had propagated beyond control. In the end, every university affected had to spend thousands of dollars to fix its infected computers. Morris became the first person indicted under the CFAA when the U.S. government fined him $10,000 and sentenced him to probation and community service. However, the source code for the worm remains in wide circulation today. Almost 18 years after the incident, hackers are still using Morris' worm as a starting point for new viruses.
When Code Goes Criminal
By the 1990s, hacking had clearly transitioned from the child's play of Cap'n Crunch toys to a brave new world of tech crime. And nothing underscored that shift more than when Kevin Mitnick [wiki] became the first hacker to earn an FBI Most Wanted distinction.
In 1976, while other Americans were celebrating the centennial, Mitnick was sweeping floors at a Radio Shack - not because he loved cleaning, but because he loved using their computers at night to hone his cracking skills. Before long, he'd developed a habit of unraveling computer code in order to see how an operating system worked or (later) how a cell phone connected to a network. Combine that kind of know-how and enthusiasm with a gregarious personality, and you've got a problem. Mitnick once called Motorola and charmed them into sharing their source code for free - information he promptly used to break into the computer systems at Motorola, Nokia, Sun Microsystem, and Fujitsu.
Kevin Mitnick's Wanted Poster: First ever for computer crime.
The New York Times broke the story about Mitnick's activities that ultimately led to his 1995 arrest and a five-and-a-half-year prison term. However, there remains widespread misunderstanding (and controversy) about the case. Mitnick denies causing any serious damage to the computer systems he hacked, though he admits sneaking into private networks was wrong. Regardless, the government - still uncertain of what hackers were capable of - treated him as a seriously dangerous man. Authorities were bombarded with claims that Mitnick had done everything from wiretapping the FBI to hacking his way ito NORAD. (He denies those allegations, as well.) They assumed he could crack anything, even fearing he could launch nuclear bombs or shut down the Internet by whistling into a phone. In fact, after he was released from prison, Mitnick was barred from owning or using any electronic communications devices. When he played the role of a computer whiz on a 2001 episode of "Alias," the producers would only allow him access to a dummy computer.
Mitnick has influenced an entire generation of hackers with his innovative and stealthy cracking tactics, such as using IRC (Internet Relay Chat) [wiki] technology, an Internet conferencing system. He's also written treatises stating his belief that the future of hacking lies in "social engineering," in which sensitive computer and coding information is not obtained through people's computers, but from the persons themselves, via false emails and the like. But Mitnick's greatest legacy might be in setting a good example. Today, he's on the straight-and-narrow. The master hacker now spends about 25 percent of his time earning primo consulting fees helping fellow specialists break into "secure" systems in order to show companies how their networks are vulnerable.
Hack to the Future
Perhaps because of the Mitnick case, government authorities in America and other foreign countries hurried to establish Internet crime division. In 1990, the U.S. Secret Service launched Operation SunDevil [wiki], a crackdown on telephone abuse and credit card fraud. Only months into its investigations, a task force raided the homes of several suspected hackers and confiscated their equipment.
Such dramatic courses of action may help protect the public, but combating hacker crime can be problematic because there remains so much uncertainty about who is hacking and why. The term "hacking" is usually considered negative, but many security experts don't classify attempting a cyber break-in as illegal - only the resulting crimes. What's more, there are plenty of hackers devoted to protecting computer systems. A perfect example is the hacker collective "L0pht Heavy Industries [wiki]," which met in Boston throughout the 1990s to discuss security flaws on the Internet. In 1998, the group reported to Congress that it could shut down the entire World Wide Web in 30 minutes. (Note: This is only partially true, because the Internet consists of disparate zones. A hacker could conceivably shut down individual Internet zones, but not all of them at the same time. Nevertheless, it was a major eye-opener for the U.S. government.)
While helpful hacking is possible, there will always be the tech-savvy among us who have bad intentions. New phenomena such as "denial-of-service" [wiki] attacks, which flood a network with traffic to slow down targeted computer systems, and "phishing [wiki]," where hackers con unsuspecting customers into entering personal information on fake Web sites, have replaced phreaking as the big cracking techniques of the day. Also, because wireless hotspots are becoming so common, hackers now are working on programs that can de-encrypt various signals and wreak havoc on corporate networks without leaving a trace.
So, where will it end? No one really knows. But as long as technology continues advancing, you can bet the imagination and skills of hackers will advance right along with it.
Hackers, Crackers, and Phreakers, Oh My! Other Prominent Hackers
Ian Murphy (a.k.a. Captain Zap): That "Sneakers" Guy
Ian Murphy is the king of the old-school hackers. One of the first phone phreakers to hit the scene in the mid-1960s, Murphy developed a device that allowed him to listen in on phone conversations - mostly eavesdropping on girls in the neighborhood. But in 1981, he and three accomplices broke into the AT&T phone system and changed its internal clocks so that customers would get midnight discounts in the midday, while late-night callers got stuck with outrageous bills. For the incident, Murphy became the first hacker to be charged with a computer crime. He also provided the inspiration for the 1992 film "Sneakers." Today, he runs his own data security company.
Kevin Poulsen (a.k.a. Dark Dante): Wired for Success
Armed with self-taught lock-picking skills and a freakish knowledge of high-tech wiring, Kevin Poulsen [wiki] pulled off one of the most famous hacks in history. Poulsen hijacked all phone lines running into Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM to ensure he would be the 102nd caller in its car giveaway contest. It worked. He won a Porsche 944 S2. Later, he used his talents to help a friend resurrect outdated phone numbers from the Yellow Pages in order to start an escort service. In April 1991, he was arrested on charges of fraud and money laundering, after being featured on an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries." After paying more than $50,000 in restitution and serving 51 months in prison, he revamped his bad-boy image by working as a journalist for tech publications. Today, he is the senior editor of Wired magazine.
Tsutomu Shimomura: Kevin Mitnick's Arch-Nemesis
Tsutomu Shimomura [wiki] is the famous anti-hacker who aided in the arrest of cracker kingpin Kevin Mitnick. Shimomura's motivation for tracking down Mitnick was part work (he was a research scientists at the San Diego Supercomputer Center) and part revenge. In 1994, a hacker stole Shimomura's personal files and distributed them over an online community for expert computer programmers. The culprit was Mitnick. Using a trace-dialing technique and locating telephone loop signals, Shimomura hacked his way to locating Mitnick for the FBI. In 1996, he co wrote about the experience in a book called Takedown, which was later adapted into a movie.
Jon Johansen (a.k.a. DVD Jon): A Different Kind of Movie Enthusiast
Jon Johansen [wiki] was only 15 years old when he wrote the code for DeCSS, a program that de-encrypts a DVD so that you can save it - not just watch it - on your computer. The program is a large part of what allows average Joes everywhere to exchange DVD files through networks, which clearly violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Authorities have arrested DVD Jon twice, but he's never been convicted. His latest target? Apple Computer and the protected music files on its iTunes Music Store. and while media corporations may hate him, plenty of folks in his Norwegian homeland love him. Supporters marched in the Oslo May Day parade carrying "Free DVD Jon" signs and even made T-shirts advertising his software code.
David Smith: Not-So-Sweet Melissa
If you'd never been personally affected by hacking before 1999, the Melissa virus [wiki] probably changed that. That's when New Jersey programmer David Smith [wiki] unleashed the first self-replicating worm to attack the Internet since Robert Morris' 1988 worm. Traveling via Microsoft Outlook email software, Melissa brought computer networks at some 300 corporations to their knees. It's estimated Smith caused nearly $500 million in damages, but he was sentenced to five years in prison for $80 million in damages. Why? Because that was the maximum allowed under federal law. "The Melissa case," wrote author Richard Power, "had reached the outer limits of what was even conceived of in the federal sentencing guidelines."
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak: From Phreaking to Freaking Rich
Yup, the two guys that founded Apple Computer in 1976 did a little hacking themselves. After John "Cap'n Crunch" Draper developed the blue box [see main article], Wozniak and Jobs decided to get in on the phone phreaking action. Wozniak, the technical whiz, built the boxes, while Jobs, the marketing genius, sold them for $150 a pop. They split the profits and, along the way, realized they made a pretty good team.
The article above was written by John Brandon for the May-June 2006 issue of mental_floss magazine and is featured in Neatorama in partnership with the magazine. Be sure to check out mental_floss' cool website and blog:
Houseguests from Hell: 6 Horrifying Parasites Guaranteed to Overstay Their Welcome.
When it comes to parasites, it's all about perspective. You may call a lifetime of growing and feeding off another organism lazy, but we call it opportunistic. In fact, these life-sucking go-getters have managed to carve out some of the most ingenious survival strategies in the world. By some estimates, parasites outnumber free-living species nearly four to one. So show some respect. After all, mooching isnt' as easy as it looks.
Cymothoa exigua: Biting Your Tongue, So You Don't Have To.
When fish mommies want to strike fear in the hearts of their misbehaving fish babies, we suspect they draw on the chilling animal savagery of the Cymothoa exigua. As a youngster, this nasty little parasitic crustacean begins a life of terror by fighting its way through the gills of its fish host of choice, the snapper. Once there, it attaches itself to the fish's tongue and begins feeding on the rich blood pumping through the artery underneath. As the parasite grows, it drinks more blood and eventually causes the tongue to atrophy and disintegrate. But does the Cymothoa mouth-squatter leave its fishy friend tongueless? Of course not. It does any craft parasite would do and replaces the old tongue with its own body. The fish is actually able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue, only it has to share all the food with its new friend. Yes, the whole foster-tongue thing seems like a pretty nice gesture on the part of ol' Cymothoa - until you remember there was nothing wrong with the fish's old tongue in the first place.
Previously on Neatorama: When Exigua Got Your Tongue, It's For Real
Screwworms: Causing Problems Right out of the Hatch.
The screwworm isn't really a worm at all; it's a type of fly. But if living under a false name were the worst of the screwworm's misdeeds, you can be sure it wouldn't appear in this story. No, this parasite's rap sheet is about to get much, much more disturbing. To find its host, an adult female screwworm seeks out exposed flesh on an animal (usually some sort of livestock, but an injured soldier or a human baby isn't out of the question) in search of a place to lay her eggs. She prefers wounds, but may also settle on using the eyes, nostrils, or anus of her victim to construct a nursery. Next, the 200-or-so eggs hatch, and the larvae start burrowing into their host's flesh. Once they're situated in their cozy little meat tunnels, the infant flies continue to feed and grow. The bigger they get, the more they have to eat. Eventually, this creates a whole lot of festering and oozing on the host, which attracts more flies, which lay more eggs, which do more feeding and burrowing. It's a brutal onslaught, and a swift one. Screwworm larvae are reportedly capable of consuming an entire sheep or dog from the inside out in five to seven days.
Sacculina carcini: Reasons You Shouldn't Pick up a Hitchhiker.
If you ever have a choice between being possessed by the devil and being possessed by a Sacculina carcini, opt for the devil - no contest. A female sacculina begins life as a tiny free-floating slug in the sea, drifting around until she encounters a crab. When that fateful day arrives, she finds a chink in the crab's armor (usually an elbow or leg joint) and thrusts a kind of hollow dagger into its body. After that, she (how to put this?) "injects" herself into the crab, sluicing through the dagger and leaving behind a husk. Once inside, the jellylike sacculina starts to take over. She grows "roots" that extend to every part of the crab's body - wrapping around its eyestalks and deep into its legs and arms. The female feeds and grows until eventually she pops out of the top of the crab, and from this knobby protrusion, she will steer the Good Ship Unlucky Crab for the rest of their co-mingled life. Packed full of parasite, the crab will forgo its own needs to serve those of its master. It won't molt, grow reproductive organs, or attempt to reproduce. It won't even regrow appendages, as healthy crabs can. Rather than waste the nutrients on itself, a host crab will hobble along and continue to look for food with which to feed its parasite master.
Filarial Worms: Proof You Need Thicker Skin.
Filarial worms are the nasty little suckers you can thank for lymphatic filariasis, which, according to the Pacific Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, is the second-leading cause of permanent and long-term disability in the world. (Mental illness is No. 1.) Filarial worms are round, threadlike parasites that travel from human to human via that harbinger of disease transmission, the mosquito. How do they make the leap of host? In an interesting (if scary) example of parasite ingenuity, filarial worm embryos living underneath the skin can sense the onset of night, which is their cue to head upward to the skin's surface in order to increase their chances of being picked up by a passing 'skeeter. Should they get sucked up, they grow into larvae within the mosquito's muscle fibers and then get themselves injected into new hosts. Once they've returned into a human home, they open up a franchise in the family business - Wreaking Havoc. Filaria often lodge in the body's lymphatic system, where they can inflict any number of torturous symptoms, not the least which involves carting your genitals off to the elephantiasis clinic in a wheelbarrow.
Read more: The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis | Lifecycle of Filariasis
Where there are guinea worms, there is Guinea Worm Disease - and that's usually in Africa. When a human consumes water contaminated with guinea worms, the little buggers infiltrate their host's intestinal walls and commence mating. After conception, the males die off, and the females hang around for about a year, growing and eating. Eventually, these slender ladies get bored and decide they need to lay some eggs. To do so, they make their way down the body to the lower extremities, where they bore a small hole through the skin. The resulting lesion begins to fester and burn, which usually leads the host to plunge his or her foot into a soothing bucket of water (Of course, in areas where an entire village shares a single water source, this helps spread the infection.) Unfortunately for the sufferer, the water doesn't solve the problem of having a three-foot female worm dangling its genitalia out of your foot. And to complicate matters, if you yank on that sucker, it'll break apart and could cause a fatal infection. So how do you rid yourself of the not-so-little hitchhiker? You go see a doctor, who - over the course of three or four weeks - will kindly wind the worm around a stick, inch by agonizing inch. Not the most pleasant method, but certainly a proven one. This cure for a guinea worm infection has been around so long, so believe it's where we get the snakes-around-a-staff symbol for medicine.
Leucochloridium paradoxum: Parasite for Sore Eyes.
Prepare to be dazzled. This parasite's got a life cycle more mind-bending and chilling than an M. Night Shyamalan film. Leucochloridium paradoxum are a type of fluke (a.k.a., parasitic flatworm) that prey on birds - a fascinating turn of events considering they begin their lives as eggs in bird droppings. Thus, the problem facing baby Leucochloridum paradoxum is, "How do I get myself back into one of those feathery things?" Taking a page from Greek history, the infant flatworms rely on Trojan trickery. First, they hang out in the droppings until a snail happens along and eats the bird dung. Then they initiate their devious plan of action by taking up residence in the snail's eyestalks. (Sure, it sounds slimy and gross to us, but after a childhood spent living in bird feces, it's a step up.) As they mature, the flukes become visible through the snail's translucent skin. And that's when things get interesting. To a bird, this fluke-filled eyestalk looks like a caterpillar. So the bird devours the stalk and ends up with a bellyful of Leucochloridium paradoxum that will, of course, lay eggs and begin the cycle again. Meanwhile, the snail shakes its head, shops for an eye patch, and vows never to eat feces again.
This article was written by Chris Connolly for our friend mental_floss magazine, and is republished here on Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss. Don't forget to check out their awesome blog - it's worth a daily visit!:
The Missing Body Parts of 10 Famous People. Remember that goofy uncle of yours who always tried to impress you by "stealing your nose" or pulling the ol' separating-his-thumb-from-his-hand move? Well, those parlor tricks are nothing compared to the appendage stunts pulled by these 10 famous people.
1. John Wilkes Booth's Neck Bones
John Wilkes Booth might have been a successful assassin, but he was a largely ineffectual escape artist. Just 12 days after murdering President Abraham Lincoln, Booth was shot in the back of the neck and killed. His body was (eventually) buried in an unmarked grave at Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery. His third, fourth, and fifth vertebrae, however, were removed during the autopsy so investigators could access the bullet. For a peek at those bits of Booth's spinal column, just check out the display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
2. Einstein's Brain.
Before he died, über-genius Albert Einstein considered donating his body to science. Unfortunately, he never put his wishes in writing. When he passed away in 1955, Einstein's family and friends made plans to cremate him, but the pathologist who performed the autopsy, Dr. Thomas Harvey, had a different idea. Instead, he opted to remove the math man's brain and then tell the family about it. For 30-some years, Harvey had Al's gray matter tucked away in his Wichita home in two Mason jars. Naturally, Einstein's loved ones weren't thrilled when they found out, but they eventually allowed the misappropriated mind to be sliced into 240 sections and disbursed to researchers for examination. Today, many of the cerebral sections remain in scientific institutions, with the bulk held at Princeton Hospital. As for Einstein's body, that was cremated and scattered in a secret location.
3. Dan Sickles' Leg.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, Major General Daniel Sickles was sitting on his horse when a cannonball hit his right leg and almost tore the thing off. Though reportedly so unfazed by the event that he smoked a cigar en route to the medical tent, Sickles' leg had to be amputated. The nonplussed Sickles saved his detached limb and later donated it to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. He even found a convenient use for the extremity: picking up chicks. Apparently, Sickles would bring ladyfriends to the museum when he wanted to impress them with his tales of bravery. The rest of Sickles was buried at Arlington National Cemetery after his passing in 1914.
4. "Stonewall" Jackson's Arm.
Confederate general Thomas Jackson got his nickname by sitting astride his horse "like a stone wall" while bullets whizzed around him during the Civil War. But that kind of bravery (or foolhardiness) didn't serve him well. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was accidentally shot in the arm by one of his own men. Said arm had to be amputated, and afterward, it was buried in the nearby Virginia town of Ellwood. Only eight days later, Stonewall was stone-cold dead of pneumonia. The rest of his body is resting in peace in Lexington, Va.
5. Saint Francis Xavier's Hand.
Francis Xavier was a saint with a few too many fans. In the early 16th century, the Spanish missionary was sent to Asia by the king of Portugal to convert as many souls to Christianity as possible. Turns out, he was pretty good at the job. Francis Xavier became wildly popular, and after his death in 1552, so did his relics. In fact, demand out-fueled supply. Throughout several years and multiple exhumations, his body was whittled away. Today, half his left hand is in Cochin, India, while the other half is in Malacca, Malaysia. One of his arms resides in Rome, and various other cities lay claim to his internal organs. The leftovers? They went to Goa, India.
6. Saint Catherine of Siena's Finger.
Ever think you're going to pieces? Saint Catherine feels your pain. After the holy woman died in 1380, her body became an object of veneration. Pilgrims believed touching her miraculously unrotted flesh could heal illnesses and bring them closer to God, so they flocked to visit the body from all over Europe. Eventually, the Catholic Church laid Catherine to rest - part of her, at least. Before she was buried, one of her followers removed a finger (along with a few teeth and other various and sundry body parts). Meanwhile Pope Urban VI got a similar idea and took her head. Today, both finger and head are on display at San Domenico Church in Siena, Italy. The rest of her is beneath the main altar at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church in Rome.
7. Napoleon's Penis.
Exiled emperor Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821. The following day, doctors conducted an autopsy, which was reportedly witnessed by many people, including a priest named Ange Vignali. Though the body was said to be largely intact at the time of the undertaking, it seems the priest took home a souvenir. In 1916, Vignali's heirs sold a collection of Napoleonic artifacts, including what they claim to be the emperor's penis. While no one knows for sure if it really is Napoleon's, uh, manhood, people have paid good money for the penis. Currently, it's in the possession of an American urologist.
8. Oliver Cromwell's Head
Oliver Cromwell, the straight-laced Puritan who usurped the English throne, wasn't exactly a wild man. His head, however, was sometimes the life of the party. Cromwell died in 1658, but two years later, the reinstated English monarchy exhumed, tried, and hanged his body, then dumped it in an unmarked grave. In addition, as a warning to would-be killers, his head was placed on a pike in Westminster Hall, where it remained for 20 years. After a subsequent sting in a small museum, it was sold in 1814 to a man named Josiah Henry Wilkinson (perhaps looking to parade it around as an exceptionally gruesome ice-breaker at parties). Such was the ironic afterlife of the Puritan until 1960, when his head was finally laid to rest in a chapel in Cambridge.
9. Sarah Bernhardt's Leg.
Ever tell an actor to "break a leg"? Be careful what you wish for. In 1905, the Divine Sarah injured her knee performing the last scene of the play "La Tosca." Sadly, the injury never healed. By 1916, gangrene had set in and the leg had to be amputated. Afterward, she continued to perform, sticking to roles that allowed her to remain seated. According to legend, circus mastermind P.T. Barnum offered Bernhardt a hefty chunk of change for the amputated leg, but she turned him down. The true whereabouts of the appendage remain a mystery.
10. Thomas Hardy's Heart.
In his will, English novelist Thomas Hardy specifically requested to be buried with his beloved first wife. His friends, however, didn't think this was good enough for the author and lobbied to have him buried in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey instead. An ugly fight between Hardy fans and family ensued, until they reached a compromise. The author's heart was removed and buried with his wife; his ashes were preserved in a bronze urn inside the Abbey. There's also a long-running (but unsubstantiated) rumor that Hardy's sister's cat snatched the heart of a table, and that a pig's heart had to be substituted for the burial ceremony.
The article above was written for July-August 2005 issue of the awesome mental_floss magazine by Terri Schlichenmeyer, and is featured in Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss. Be sure to visit mentalfloss.com, buy their magazine, read their blog and feed your brain!
Mascots. You gotta love ‘em. They can make an intimidating team seem cuddly (Miami and its adorable dolphins), turn losers into lovable underdogs (Chicago Cubbies, anyone?), or make backwater minor-leaguers memorable (we’ve never seen the Montgomery Biscuits play, but we’re fans on principle). So it’s no wonder that countries capitalize on the phenomenon with mascots of their own. England has its bulldog, France has a beautiful warrior woman, and America … well, America has a New York meat packer. But you know him better as wacky, stilt-legged Uncle Sam. Allow us to explain.
Arguably America’s most famous eccentric relative, Uncle Sam is a fairly recent addition to our national consciousness. But that’s not to say the United States didn’t have its fair share of political personifications before Sam came along. Lady Liberty was one of the earliest. Usually depicted draped in a toga and donning an elaborate headdress, she represented the blending of classical ideals and new world spirit. Another early mascot, Brother Jonathan, served as the face of the common man. Appearing in countless political cartoons, plays, and novels, his character applied homespun wisdom, acerbic wit, and a generous dose of orneriness to both political issues and pop culture.
Then came Uncle Sam, the famous face of U.S. Army recruitment campaigns. And fittingly, he’s an icon born out of a military contract. During the War of 1812, a meat packer from Troy, N.Y., named Samuel Winslow won the right to supply beef to the American troops. Wilson (apparently more genial than your average butcher-slash-military contractor) was known to his neighbors as Uncle Sam. So when soldiers from the Troy area started spotting barrels of meat stamped with the initial “U.S.” they joked that the letters stood for Uncle Sam, rather than United States. Before long, even civilians were saying that “Uncle Sam was feeding the troops.” The phrase became common, and Sam-as-symbol made his debut in a 1838 political cartoon alongside Brother Jonathan. But, with his red stocking cap and conspicuously whisker-free face, ol’ “U.S.” didn’t look much like the poster-boy we know today.
Earning His Stripes (and Stars)
By the time the Civil War started, Uncle Sam had become representative of a united federal government. That meant he had more resonance in the Union than Brother Jonathan, who’d become more associated with individualism. Consequently, when the north won, so did Sam. In fact, over the course of the next two decades, Jonathan virtually disappeared from newspapers’ editorial pages.
With Uncle Sam’s new political symbolism came a new look. The nation desperate for leadership, he began to take on the characteristics of another famous icon, Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly, this transformation is widely credited to 19th-century illustrator Thomas Nast, who’s also responsible for our jolly, fat, red-suited image of Santa Claus as well as the use of donkey and elephant as political party symbols.
But Sam still had one last (extreme) makeover ahead of him. That came during World War I, when artist James Montgomery Flagg designated the famous “I want YOU” recruitment posters for the U.S. Army. In the process, he gave Uncle Sam a new face with a stern expression. That signature mug, ironically was made in Flagg’s own image. In order to save the hassle and expense of hiring a model, Flagg decided to paint a self-portrait. The result was a national icon that’s truly a cross-section of America – incorporating the face of an artist, the style of a president, and the name of a New York meat packer.
This article was written by Mark S. Longo for the July-August 2005 issue of mental_floss magazine, and is featured in Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss. Be sure to visit mentalfloss.com for more cool stuff!
A lot of things happened this past weekend: Mel Gibson got in trouble, wars raged on in the Middle East, Neatorama had a server meltdown (again) ... and baby Madeline arrived early!
If you were wondering why there weren't any post on Neatorama for the past couple of days, you're looking at the answer: my lovely wife gave me the best present ever - a bawling, beautiful little poop machine baby girl. Mom and baby, understandably, were very tired from the experience and had to rest. Alex, who did nothing, was similarly exhausted ...
Updates to Neatorama will most likely slow down for the next few days - so, now would be a good time to ask you what you like/dislike about the blog, how it can be improved, and what you'd like to see more/less in the blog.
Being first time parents - Tiffany and I welcome any suggestion and advice on raising a girl. Funniest and best comment will win a Neatorama t-shirt. In the meantime, we'd like to thank everyone who called and visited, and all of you for visiting Neatorama regularly!
People magazine has its 50 Most Beautiful People ... Time has a Person of the Year ... And mental_floss magazine - besides having tons of fascinating, cool, and juicy stories, anecdotes, and trivia - now has something that trumps 'em both:
The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe.
Hard questions that matter, like "can a pregnant woman drive in the carpool lane?" or "how can I win at that ultra-important-corporate-decision-making- process, rock-paper-scissor?" and of course, "is turkey a country or a bird first?". Wait, is it *really* a natural bird? Never mind - don't answer that.
The folks at mental_floss were friendly enough to let us feature their stuff - something that will become a regular feature here at Neatorama (so be kind to them and visit their brand new and very chic blog, ok?). The text is verbatim from the articles, although I did add links, pics, videos and probably a couple of typos.
Let's go to the list, already:
1. What Makes No. 2 Pencils So Darn Special?
Little. Yellow. Identical. The No. 2 is definitely No. 1 in the pencil market. It's a staple in schools and workplaces everywhere, and the required writing utensil for Scantron® tests across the globe. But is it really that great of a pencil? You bet your bippy.
No. 2's use medium weight graphite, which makes them the ideal pencils for general writing. 18th-century French pencil maker Nicolas-Jacques Conté created the number system based on a pencil's hardness (the higher the number, the harder the graphite), and we've been using it ever since.
But let's not forget the other numbers of pencils out there. No. 1's are made with soft graphite and tend to smudge, and are often used to record bowling scores. No. 3's and above indicate harder pencils that are most often used for drafting, when you need a sharp, strong point.
2. Who's That AOL Guy Who Eerily Knows When You've Got Mail?
Meet Elwood Edwards, the man behind the message. Approximately 63 million times a day, Edwards' voice greets AOL customers to let them know "you've got mail."
Edwards' career as a disembodied cyber presence stretches back to 1989 when his wife overheard her boss at Quantum Computer Services discussing adding a voice to its online service, Q-Link. At the time, Elwood did voice-overs for radio and television, so his wife suggested him for the company's new program. Not long after, Quantum changed its name to America Online and premiered AOL 1.0, with Elwood speaking four phrases: "Welcome," "You've got mail," "File's done," and "Goodbye." Through AOL's numerous upgrades, one thing has remained the same: Elwood Edwards.
Today, his voice is so well known that he's created a website where fans can order their own custom phrases. The site also includes pictures of Edwards, just in case you're looking to put a face with that friendly voice you love so much.
3. Where Does Nougat Come From?
Like falafel and the number "0," nougat is a product of Middle Eastern genius. Originally made from a mixture of honey, nuts, and spices, the basic recipe was transplanted to Greece where it lost the spices and gained the name "nugo."
Later cultural exchanges brought the treat to France, where it became "nougat," and the recipe switched from calling for ground walnuts to ground almonds. In 1650, the French made another change for the better, adding beaten egg whites and creating the fluffier, modern nougat texture. The first commercial nougat factory opened in Montelimar, France, in the late 18th century, and today, the area is renowned for its nougat, with about a dozen manufacturers producing the sugary treat.
As for its ugly American cousin - the nougat you're probably familiar with from candy bars - it's not "true nougat." The imitation stuff is chewier, less almond-y, and contains enough artificial preservatives to make a French candy-maker swoon.
4. Is There One Move That's More Likely to Win a Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors?
To answer this question, we turned to the archives of the World Rock-Paper-Scissors Society (seriously!), where we found that RPS players rely on strategy, not probability, to win. From the playground to the annual International World RPS Tournament (really, people, we're not kidding), outwitting your opponent is job No. 1 for serious competitors.
According to the Society, one way to guess what hand someone will throw out is to know how many rounds they've won so far. Players who are in the lead will often use scissors, because it's believed to symbolize aggression, while paper is used for a more subtle attack. Rock is usually a last resort, when players feel their strategies are failing. There are also techniques you can use to mask your move, such as cloaking, in which players will pretend to throw rock and then stick out two fingers at the last second to make scissors. In addition, the true professionals (who do exist) will use sets of three moves, called "gambits," to help them make their moves out of strategy, not reaction.
But that's not all. The Society also keeps track of how common moves are, particularly as they relate to mentions of RPS in pop culture. For instance, after "The Simpsons" episode where Bart beats Lisa with rock and thinks to himself "Good old rock, nothing beats it," the Society recorded a .3 percent upswing in the use of rock.
But if you're gonna play, be prepared to pay; RPS can be a dangerous sport. In the late 1980's, Kenyan Mustafa Nwenge lost a match and the use of a finger when an overzealous opponent "cut his paper" a little too hard and crushed Nwenge's finger ligaments.
See also: Rock Paper Scissors on Steroids
This is a Vargo titanium spork: spoon, fork, can opener, and bottle openers all in one!
5. Which Came First, the Can Opener or the Can?
While the mental_floss staff is still working round the clock to figure out that blasted chicken/egg question, this one we can definitely answer.
In 1810, a British merchant named Peter Durand patented the tin can, making it possible for sterilized food to be preserved more effectively than was possible with breakable containers. The can were especially useful for long ocean voyages, where glass bottles were prone to breakage, and soon the British Navy was dining on canned veggies and meat.
So far, so good. But what Durand (and everybody else for that matter) forgot to invent was a way to open the cans. For almost 50 years, getting into your pork 'n' beans required the use of a hammer and a chisel. The first can opener was patented by American inventor Ezra Warner in 1858, but even that wasn't particularly convenient. These early openers were stationed at the grocery store, and clerks did the honors. It wasn't until 1870 that the first home can openers made an appearance.
6. How Does a Word Become a Curse Word?
Our parents are totally going to ground us for talking about this, but if you must know, a "curse" was originally just a bad type of prayer. Thus, the first curse word was likely "damn," as in asking God to damn someone to Hell, which was considered taboo because of the religious power it wielded.
Condemning people to an eternity of suffering isn't something to let everyone just go around doing on a daily basis, so the government stepped in, leading to the first censorship laws. Among the first victims was William Shakespeare, whose works were considered quite racy for their time, and not just because he sent his fair share of characters to Hades. The Bard's plays were littered with sexual innuendo, and eventually, these types of references became swear words as well.
Depending on what the sexual mores of the current generation were, formerly innocuous words could suddenly become unfit for polite company. The Victorians, for instance, instituted the practice of referring to the thigh meat on a chicken as "dark meat" because saying the word "leg" or "thigh" at dinner could be enough to give your hostess a case of the vapors.
And in the 17th century, the "c-word" that formerly referred to a certain barnyard fowl took on another, er, more inappropriate meaning, leading to the invention of words like "rooster" and "weathervane" to keep the newly dirty word from crossing genteel lips.
Sometimes these avoidance tactics went a little too far, though. Case in point: the 1952-53 season of "I Love Lucy," during which, despite the star's stomach being about the size of the Superdome, censors prevented the show's writers from even once mentioning the word "pregnant."
7. Can a Pregnant Woman Drive in the Carpool Lane?
Expectant mothers, start your engines! In 1987, a pregnant California woman was ticketed for driving "by herself" in the carpool lane. Sure, the citation was only for $52, but she sued anyway, contending that her 5-month-old fetus constituted a second person.
Lo and behold, the jury agreed with her, despite the prosecution's argument that women could then just stuff pillows up their dresses to drive "carpool" on California's freeways.
But as it turns out, the California Highway Patrol took care of that concern, brushing off the case as a bunch of hooey. Verdict or not, officers said they would continue to ticket solo drivers, even if they claimed to be pregnant.
8. Why Do Battery Letters Skip from A to C? Was There Ever a B-Cell Battery?
Battery letter designations are based on the size of the battery: for common sizes, A is the smallest, and D is the largest. By the same logic, AA batteries are larger than AAA. Unfortunately for B batteries, it's not the size that counts. You never see B batteries around because they aren't very useful. The size never caught on in products made for consumers, so stores didn't carry them, and the cycle continued. They are sold, but only in Europe, where they're used primarily to power bicycle lamps.
9. What Does McDonald's Have in Common with the CIA?
"Clowns wanted! We are looking for clowns to fit high profile, permanent positions. Must be wiling to relocate."
If this ad seems a little peculiar, it's because McDonald's execs share an intense policy of employee secrecy with their less-delicious counterparts over at the Central Intelligence Agency. Clowns who portray the company mascot, Ronald McDonald, are strictly forbidden from disclosing their identities.
It's also taboo for two (costumed) Ronalds to be in the same place at the same time. In fact, the only time they get together is at the biennial Ronald McDonald Convention, which, as you might imagine, is also very top-secret.
All of this helps keep up the image that Ronald, the second most recognizable figure worldwide after Santa, is a single, magical character. There are, of course, many Ronalds - an estimate 250 of the clowns worldwide, in fact. Their average income is about $40,000 a year, but the busiest clowns can bring in as much as $100,000. The Ronald McDonald who appears in the company's television commercials earns a salary of more than $300,000 and must be booked a year in advance. We could tell you who he is, but then, of course, we'd have to kill you.
While we'd like to believe Hawaii's Interstate system exists for the sole purpose of annoying George Carlin, the name is actually a misnomer. Not all Interstates physically go from one state to another; the name merely implies that the roads receive federal funding.
The three Hawaii Interstates (H1, H2, and H3) became Interstates as part of The Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and National Defense Highways to protect the U.S. from a Soviet invasion by making it easier to get supplies from one military base to another.
11. Why Do Most Snooze Buttons Only Give You Nine More Minutes of Sleep?
By the time the snooze feature was added in the 1950's, the innards of alarm clocks had long been standardized.
This meant that the teeth on the snooze gear had to mesh with the existing gear configuration, leaving engineers with a single choice: They could set the snooze for either a little more than nine minutes, or a little more than 10 minutes.
Reports indicated that 10 minutes was too long, since it allowed people to fall back into a "deep" sleep, so clock makers chose the nine-minute gear, believing people would wake up easier and happier after a shorter snooze. We'd tend to disagree with that logic, but, then we must be in the lazy minority.
Although today's digital clocks can be programmed to have a snooze of any length, most stick with nine minutes because that's what consumers expect.
See also: Puzzle Alarm Clock
12. Why Do We Call Them Grandfather Clocks?
Grandfather clocks are grandfather clocks for much the same reason M.C. Hammer pants are M.C. Hammer pants: It's all about the pop music.
In 1875, American songwriter Henry Work checked in for a stay at the George Hotel in North Yorkshire, England. In the lobby was a large pendulum clock that had belonged to the inn's pervious owners, both deceased. The clock was said to have stopped dead - to the minute - on the day the last surviving owner died.
Work thought this was a great story and went on to fictionalize it in a song called "My Grandfather's Clock [wiki]." The lyrics centered around a clock that was "taller by half than the old man himself" and that "stopped short never to go again" when the grandfather died. It was, obviously, a runaway hit. Work sold over a million copies in sheet music, and eventually, the term "grandfather clock" became attached to the style of clock that inspired the song.
See also: Eric Harshbarger's Lego Grandfather Clock
13. Was Turkey a Bird or a Country First?
And the award goes to: Turkey-the-country! Turns out, turkey-the-bird is native to North America and acquired its name when the Spanish brought it from Mexico to Europe. When the bird made its debut in England, it was mistaken for a Guinea Hen, a common fowl regularly imported from Africa by Turks. Then the English, demonstrating that they are the real turkeys in this story, named the bird after its supposed importers.
Turkey Target found at Airhog
14. How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood?
Probably none. Woodchucks aren't particularly tree-oriented, and while they can climb to find food, they prefer being on the ground.
In fact, they got the name "woodchuck" from British trappers who couldn't quite wrap their tongues around the Cree Indian name "wuchak." More commonly (and accurately) known as groundhogs, these animals are closely related to squirrels, marmots, and prairie dogs, with which they share an affinity for burrowing.
And actually, a burrowing woodchuck can chuck dirt, in the form of tunnels that can reach five feet deep and as much as 35 feet in length. So, based on that number, New York State wildlife expert Richard Thomas calculated that if a woodchuck could chuck wood, he could chuck as much as 700 pounds of the stuff.
15. We Know Nothing Better Has Come Along Since then, But Who Invented Sliced Bread Anyway?
It may get a lot of credit now, but at the time of its debut in 1928, sliced bread received less-than-rave reviews.
Baker and inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder had spent 15 years perfecting his bread slicer (finally settling on one that wrapped the sliced bread to hold it together as opposed to the hat pins he'd tried earlier), but consumers weren't quick to convert. People found the sliced bread strange and senseless. It wasn't until the advent of Wonder Bread, and the collective realization that sliced bread worked better in the toaster, that Rohwedder's invention really took off.
By World War II, the military was using sliced bread to serve peanut butter & jelly sandwiches as part of soldiers' rations. Previously uncommon, the PB&J gained a loyal following among servicemen, who kept making the sandwich, sliced bread and all, after they came back to the home front.
The first blackmailers were Scottish landlords who exploited farmers by making them pay rent in livestock or services if they couldn't pay in cash. The goods they had to hand over were usually worth more than the rent owned, and the landlords didn't make change.
Around the same time, local chieftains started going after the same farmers with the kind of scheme the mafia usually refers to as "selling insurance." They made an offer the farmers couldn't refuse: pay a fee for protection. If the farmers didn't pay, then the chieftains would unfortunately be unable to prevent ruffians from destroying crops and sacking property.
The Scottish farmers called both nefarious deals "black" because they associated that color with evil, and because both payments were made in goods rather than silver coins (called "white money"). As for the "mail" part, it doesn't refer to the postal system. That "mail" comes from the German word for "pouch." The "mail" in blackmail is related to the Old Norse word for "payment" or "agreement."
Neatorama's note: The photo above is of Monty Python's skit Blackmail [wiki], where "Michael Palin plays a smarmy television game show host who extorts money from his viewers by threatening to reveal embarrassing or illegal facts about them. One game is "Stop the film," where a scandalous film is played until a phone call is received, and the amount of money needed increases the longer the subject waits."
17. Is It Possible to Own Property on the Moon?
That depends on what your definition of is, is. According to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, countries can't own lunar real state. However, the Treaty doesn't say anything about the rights of individuals to claim land.
Enter Dennis Hope, a California entrepreneur / ventriloquist who'd exploited the loophole to its fullest. In 1980, Hope announced his ownership to the moon (and, incidentally, the rest of the solar system) and promptly started selling off plots through his company, Lunar Embassy.
Space-faring nations vehemently denied the legality of Hope's business, pointing to the 1979 Moon Treaty, which forbids individual interstellar land investment. Finding yet another loophole, Hope countered by noting that none of the space nations ever actually signed that treaty after the U.S. and Russia both refused.
But Moon Treaty or not, an individual can still only own land through the jurisdiction of his or her home country, and if nations can't own it, then people can't own land through them.
Tenuous as his argument is, Hope has still managed to inspire some serious investors. To date, the Lunar Embassy has made more than $1.6 million. If you're interested, plots go for as little as $30, but don't spend all your money on moon land: mental_floss has some contacts with beautiful oceanfront lots in Arizona and we'd love to get you in on the ground floor.
Much to the dismay of wacky masochist everywhere, the human brain is wired against self-tickling. Because the brain controls movement, it knows what your hand is going to do before you do it. Thus it anticipates the exact force, location, and speed of the tickle and uses that information to desensitize you to your own roving hands.
So why do we have a tickle response anyway? Turns out, it's a defense reaction meant to alert our cave-dwelling ancestors to creepy crawlies that didn't know their place, and the uncontrollable laughing fit that goes along with it is actually a panic response.
Even if you know someone else is about to go for your rib cage, it's hard to turn the response off because a) your brain can't anticipate exactly how and where they'll tickle you and b) knowing someone is about to tickle you is usually enough to keep those panic receptors open and ready to go.
19. Human Meat Isn't Appetizing, But is It Healthy?
You are what you eat. So it stands to reason that if you're a cannibal, and you eat a diseased, dead guy, you're going to become a diseased, dead guy.
But the cannibalistic Fore people of New Guinea found that out the hard way. For most of the 20th century, the Fore were plagued with a disease called Kuru [wiki], also known as the laughing death. Kuru, a relative of mad cow disease, paralyzes its victims and cause dementia by turning the brain into something resembling Swiss cheese - literally creating holes in the brain.
Fascinated by what he though was a genetic disorder, scientist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek [wiki] traveled to New Guinea in 1957 to study the Fore. While there, he discovered that women made up the vast majority of Kuru victims. He also noticed that women and children were the ones ceremonially eating the brains and intestines of dead relatives. Putting two and two together, Gajdusek deduced that the Fore were ingesting the prions, or misshapen proteins, that caused the disease.
Gajdusek received a Nobel Prize for his work, and today, cannibalism and Kuru are all but wiped out in New Guinea.
20. Can You Actually Sense Weather with an Injured body Part?
There was a time when scientists would walk barefoot, through the snow, uphill both ways, just to ridicule you for believing that sensing weather with the body was anything but an old wives' tale.
Today, many will still scoff at the idea, but maybe just in an email. In 1961, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School conducted a series of tests that proved changes in climate could affect your health, especially if you suffered from arthritis.
It works like this: When a storm is approaching, the barometric pressure of the air falls, which can cause an inflammation around a bone injury to swell and stretch, irritating the nerves around the joint and causing a lot of pain.
The Pennsylvania scientists tested their theory on 12 volunteers in a climate-controlled chamber, and found that those who had arthritis experienced more pain when the air pressure was lower, thus suggesting that they could sense an approaching storm.
21. Why Won't Pineapple and Jell-O® Be Friends?
If Jell-O® ads and 1950's cookbooks are to be believed, you can mix almost anything with gelatin and have it come out tasty. Ham? Absolutely. Carrots? Sure thing. Tomato soup? M'm, m'm, good.
The only ingredient that seems to be taboo is one that actually sounds delicious: fresh pineapple. Unfortunately, the tropical treat works like kryptonite on Jell-O® because it contains an enzyme called bromelain, which prevents gelatin from forming into a solid.
But fret not, fruit salad mold fans: canned pineapple doesn't contain bromelain. The canning process heats the pineapple to a temperature sufficient to break the enzyme down, making it oh-so Jell-O® friendly.
See also: Elizabeth Hickok's San Francisco in Jell-O.
22. What are Sea-Monkeys®, Anyway?
Ah, Sea-Monkeys®. You know 'em; you love 'em; you're totally confused by them. Well, consider he monkey mystery solved. Turns out, they're Artemia salinas, or brine shrimp.
In the 1960's, inventor Harold von Braunhut [wiki] discovered that the eggs of these shrimp lie dormant in salt flats waiting for the right conditions before they spring to life, so he started experimenting with them for his toy product, Instant-Life. But later, he changed the name (and struck pop culture gold) after a colleague heard him call the creatures his "cute little sea monkeys."
The shrimp became popular because of their ability to "come back to life" after being stored dry on a shelf, but hey weren't so popular after children discovered that the shrimp only had a life span of about a month.
Over the years, however, Von Braunhut has managed to breed better Sea-Monkeys®. Today's comic book ads now promise that they will live up to two years. Von Braunhut, who passed away in 2003, was also the man responsible for X-Ray Specs, and the late 1980s' hermit crab craze.
23. How Many Pounds of Chimpanzee are Needed to Defeat the Average Human?
In 1924, the Bronx Zoo tested the relative strength of a 165-pound man against a 165-pound chimpanzee. Using a dynamometer, which measures strength by the force of a pull on a spring, the man was able to pull 210 pounds. The chimp pulled almost 900. The lesson: Don't mess with the apes. Pound for pound, chimpanzees are about five times stronger than humans. In fact, a human is no match for a chimpanzee, regardless of its age or sex. In the same Bronx experiment, a 135-pound female chimp pulled a whopping 1,260 pounds. Scientists also estimate that, at the tender age of five, young chimpanzees are already stronger than adult humans.
See also: Karate Chimp [YouTube link for video above] | Smoking Chimp | Chimp Playing Ms. Pac-Man | Chimp vs. Navy Seal Obstacle Race [video]
24. Why are Grape-Nuts® Neither Grapes Nor Nuts?
Post Company founder Charles W. Post might have been good at creating popular cereals, but he wasn't the best at naming them.
One of his first breakfast treats, Post Toasties, was originally known by the more, er, zealous name, Elijah's Manna.
And then there's the misleading Grape-Nuts®, which Charles named after a key ingredient in the cereal called maltose, which tasted like nuts and, at the time, was known as "grape sugar." Hence, Grape-Nuts.
It may sound like false advertising, but it's not. Post would likely be protected from such allegations by that precious little hyphen. The Federal Trade Commission might consider a cereal called Grape Nuts "deceitful," but that hyphen makes the name "fanciful," which excludes it from prosecution according to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.
25. How Many Licks Does It Take to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop?
No thanks to that animated owl and his woeful lack of willpower, this question has plagued the American public ever since the commercial first aired in 1970. Fortunately, there have been plenty of noble efforts to get to the bottom (or center, as the case may be) of it all.
But the answer depends on who you ask. A group of students at Swarthmore Junior High conducted an extensive study on the subject and concluded that getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop took a statistical average of 144 licks.
However, the more ambitious and distrusting engineering students at Purdue University chose instead to rely on a "licking machine" modeled after the human tongue for their results, and found that it took an average of 364 licks. Other studies have been done, and all results vary, so only one thing is certain: The world may never know.
Summer is nearly here, and with it comes the great American culinary tradition: barbecue!
BBQ is both a rite of summer and a rite of manhood (yes, BBQ is associated with male cooking, probably because any sane woman would not go near the combination fire, meat and beer). In some parts of the USA, BBQ is not just food, it's a religion. The fastest way to start a fight is not to talk politics, but to argue about the virtues of wood vs. charcoal vs. gas. Even the word itself is kind of controversial: is it barbecue, barbeque, bar-b-q, or BBQ? Just don't bring it up with a purist (or the one cooking your burger!)
There's no argument, however, about the popularity of BBQ. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (yes, it's a real organization - actually it is just one of many dedicated to barbecuing) did a study called "The State of Barbecue Industry Report". The 2005 study[pdf] stated that 4 out of every 5 US households own a grill - in fact, 1 in 5 own more than one grill. And not surprisingly, "the primary griller (male) in the majority of households considers themselves to be average or above in terms of cooking skills".
A central object in the BBQ world is the grill (or the smoker, or the pit depending on who you ask). These BBQ grills come in all shapes and sizes, but we're not here to talk about the grills you can pick up at your local home improvement store. We're talking about cool and unusual ones; if you're looking to feed your closest hundred or so friends at your next backyard party, this is the list for you!
So, without further ado, let's check out our picks for the Top 10 Coolest BBQ Grills.
10. Grills to Go!
Grills to Go makes grills that get up and GO! The one above is the 12 ft. model that uses wood for fuel - it comes complete with the company's distinctive "red wheel" that moves the grill up or down over 36" so you can fine-tune the cooking temperature. And oh, it also comes with standard installed tail-lights and removable hitch.
9. Nexo Fireplace and Grill
Is Nexo a fireplace or a BBQ grill? Why, both of course! This awesome outdoor fireplace is designed and built on the Danish Island of Mors by master craftsmen from "steel-reinforced, pumic-stone refractory core covered with beautifully colored sandstone rock or with stucco."
Think about it this way: it's the BBQ grill that your wife won't complain about lookin' ugly in the backyard!
8. Backwood Smoker's "The Competitor"
It's easy to mistake this Backwood Smokers unit as a safe, since, ... well, it kind of looks like one. That is, until you open the behemoth to reveal 8 shelves at about 20"x20" a piece to give a total of 22 square feet of cooking surface!
This model shown above, aptly called "The Competitor" (yes, men compete with each other to see who has the best grill) can cook 135 pounds of Boston Butts or 21 Slabs of St. Louis-style ribs at once. A steal at $2,445 list price.
Superior Welding Services' tailgate BBQ grill is guaranteed to make you the center of attention at tailgate parties. Plus, the grill is convenient to use: no need to pull out the grill or smoker out of the back of your truck - just park your car and start cooking!
The unique Swing-A-Way Receiver Hitch also allows you to swing this tailgate barbecue grill away from your car and prevent it from blistering your paint job.
Ah, the novelty grills - what's not to like about theml? Like all standard Traeger grills, the company's novelty lines come with Autostart, EZ-drain grease system, and a variable thermostat control. With 371 square inch of cooking space, you can grill to your heart's content.
With two models to choose from (the Lil' Pig and the Longhorn Steer), all you need is money. Lots of it, apparently, since they're $1,495 each!
And what is it with pigs and BBQ? Apparently, the irony of cooking pork in a BBQ grill shaped like a pig is irresistible to artists like Joel Haas, who made this Barbee Q. Piglet:
4. Kamado Ceramic BBQ Grill
Kamado's Ceramic Barbecue Grill is probably the most artistic and beautiful BBQ grill we've ever seen (and yes, it's from California).
The hand-made Kamado grill was invented by Richard Johnson, an American pilot who came across a ceramic rice cooker in Japan in the 1960s. He claimed that this method of cooking makes for better flavors of smoked, broiled or baked food.
Today, you can order a Kamado grill in various tile colors (so it'll match your decor, of course!), using various fuels such as wood, charcoal, gas, or electricity.
Tim Kowalec built this HEMI-powered BBQ grill for Chrysler's "What Can You HEMI?" contest in 2005. Tim's "manly man's barbecue grill" featured a 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine, and can cook 240 hot dogs in 3 minutes!
The Texas Legend Smoker and Grill is so big that two adults can stand up in the upright smoker - now that's big. Texas BIG.
This behemoth of a BBQ grill, built by custom builder Ritch Robin of Gator Pit, is roughly 30 feet long by 8 feet wide by 10 1/2 feet tall. It has approximately 27,500 square inch of cooking space. Check out the mind-blowing specs:
3/8" thick-walled, 38" diameter x 8 ft. horizontal smoke chamber, with 12 sliding food trays
1/4" thick-walled, 38" diameter by 48" tall upright smoker, with 5 sliding food trays
3/8" thick x 36" side grill, with 3 sliding food trays and sliding baffle for additional heat source to the upright smoker
Dual fish fryers/ burners
15" stainless steel bar sink with cold running water
Two bay stainless steel sink with hot and cold running water
3 x 4 ft. stainless cutting/prep table
5,500 watt generator
Four custom 18" chrome wheel
Dual propane tank holder
Refrigerator & Freezer
and much, much more...
Texas Legend construction photos | completed photo & gallery of other pits.
1. Lynx Professional Grills
It's. Just. So. Pretty. Oh. So. Pretty. And its the one I want for Father's Day, OK?
Yup, that sums it up - this mouth-watering, budget-busting, jaw-droppingly beautiful backyard set from Lynx Professional Grills has a 42" grill with access doors, double burner, storage drawers, warming drawer, and beverage area with outdoor refrigerator, ice machine, and coctail pro (a bar area with sink and faucet).
If you have to ask how much, you simply can't afford it.
[Update 6/8/06] What did we tell you about BBQ being the object of passion? People have been writing us because apparently, we missed a lot of cool grills, so in the spirit of catching up, here are a few more awesome BBQ grills:
The Ultimate Smoker and Grill.
Trace Arnold designed a true monster of a BBQ grill: The Ultimate Smoker and Grill. The 55-feet long grill is the size of a tanker and is hauled by a semi.
The wood-fired grill is huge: 48" by 120 ". It can cook 2,000 pounds of barbecue, 200 steaks, or 1,000 hot dogs at once. The lid is 20 feet long and goes up and down using a hydraulic system.
And of course, the entire rig comes with 48-in flat screen TV with satellite hookup and Bose Entertainment system.
Best of all, you can rent it for $5,000 a day plus $3 per mile traveled (excluding the cost of food).
And how could we missed David Klose's The King of Barbecues grill? Uber-Review writes:
The extensive list of features includes, (#1) a 160,000 B.T.U. propane burner that can bring 20 gallons of cold water to a boil in 5 min. The entertainment portion of the BBQ has a satellite radio, satellite television, Sony wega flat screen, DVD player and a DVR that are all solar powered. A (#3)low temperate smoker, (#4)a seven foot long, 90 lb door, that is counter weighted, making it a snap to open. The main chamber (#5) can smoke up 100 six-pound chickens, which is enough to feed 350 people. To ensure that everyone knows that you are the king of the BBQ, it comes with 24 karat-gold rims and door handles.
That last one was too hi-tech for you? How about yet another one by that talented guy David Klose: a Baby Carriage Pit:
This Baby Carriage was originally found in the countryside around Houston, this is believed to be a turn-of-the century baby carriage made in London, England.
When David Klose found this baby carriage, it was beyond recognition, totally crushed and completely rusted out. Then, after three weeks of restoration and a few beers. It was discovered to be an Allwyn Pramelator made in London Circa 1906. The hood folds down to complete the smoker effect, for cooking things like brisket, ribs, chickens and of course, Baby Back Ribs.
Link | If you like that, you'll like Klose's cookers that look like a Continental Airplane, Beer Bottle and Chuck Wagon. David Klose, you're awesome, dude!
BBQ Under The Hood!
This gives new meaning to the words "check under the hood" - unfortunately, it doesn't exist (yet, we hope!). via The BBQ Report
Texas Six Shooter BBQ Grill.
This awesome 6 foot 11 barbecue pit shaped was built by Joe Wood of Weimar, Texas:
The barrel is 10 feet long and 8 inches in diameter, and the entire rig is over 15 feet long. The pistol’s grips, which cover the firebox, are made of red oak. When cooking, the barrel acts as the grill’s chimney. It took over two years and 1,100 hours to complete, and used more than two tons of red oak, stainless, and carbon steel.
Grills aren't just for cookin' meat, especially if you're a redneck! You can use it to heat up your pool as well!
Todd Harrison and his daughter Veronica Harrison (who's in 8th grade!), modded a gas grill into a working pool heater so he can use his pool in winter (with only $28 cost in propane!):
I wasn't teaching during the spring of 2005 so I spent the time modifying mybackyard barbecue grill into a pool heater. (Redneck, I know but it worked!)
Our pool is between two tall homes and is shaded for all but 3 hours a day :( Normally you can't swim in our pool until June because it's just to cold (68F - 75F). I like swimming in about 80F to 85F myself, if it's sunny and warm out. I created a prototype heater coil that seemed to work for its size. I then create a large heater coil out of 180 feet of copper tubing that connects to my pool pump using a garden hose and fits inside the grill. The hose runs from the pump through the grill heater coils and then into the pool. I heated my pool from 68F to 89.4F in 48 hours using 3.5 tanks of propane.
Bucking the trend toward ever-increasingly large BBQ grill is the Q BBQ - a grill that looks like the "cross between the Starship Enterprise and a jet engine":
... the Q BBQ can be carried around like a briefcase, but opens up Transformer-style to become a stylish, stand-alone, gas-powered grill.
Not surprisingly, the Q BBQ won the Bronze Award in the 2003 Industrial Design Excellence Awards.
http://www.firebox.com/index.html?dir=firebox&action=product&pid=797 - via Boing Boing
The Table Is The Grill!
With Cook-n-Dine flameless cooking grill/table, you can cook and eat at the same place, literally! The center of the table heats up to form a cooking pit - you simply place your food and cook it there without the use of any pots or pans (the heated portion will turn into a concave pit). The price? $1,600 - worth it considering you will have fewer dishes to wash.
That old vintage Jaguar Austin-Healey not running anymore? Let's turn it into a grill! (This is not the automobile "grill" you're used to seeing, huh?) Found at Classic Jaguar
Jeppe Utzon BBQ Grill.
The Jeppe Utzon barbecue by Electrolux was created by the grandson of the legendary Jorn Utzon [wiki] (the guy who designed the Sydney Opera House). This stylish, minimalist BBQ grill is the perfect outdoor accessory for your ultra-modern house.
http://www.electroluxaustralia.com.au/jeppeutzonbbq/Default.htm - Thanks Andy Hansson!
Real Grill's Submarine BBQ Grill
No, that's not a submarine - that's Real Grill's TRG 500 BBQ grill!
This custom made oh-so-shiny grill boasts 46 square feet of cooking area with 3 available fuel sources (gas, wood, and coal), diamond plated doors, and ... a fire extinguisher!
SmokinTex's Pro Series Electric Smokers
SmokinTex's Pro Series Electric Smokers look like small dishwasher but they cook like a champ. According to the company, these smokers are so easy to use (just load 'em up with meat, shut the door, and set the temperature - that's it!). The food is slow-cooked "gently" over a real wood smoke.
Southern Pride's Commercial Ovens
Unless you're a restaurant, or you always have really, really hungry friends at your backyard barbecue, you probably don't know Southern Pride's ovens.
Well, here it is: the XLR-1600-4. I'll skip the technical details to focus on what's important - its cooking capacity:
Pork Butts (7 lb): 192 total/1344 lbs total
Spare Ribs (3.5 lb): 210 total/735 lbs total
Beef Brisket (12 lb): 96 total/1152 lbs total
Whole Chickens (3 lb): 312 total/936 lbs total
St. Louis Ribs (2.75 lb): 294 total/808 lbs total
w/ Optional Rib Racks: 432 total/1188 lbs total
Turkeys, Hams, Shoulders, Prime Rib (14 lb): 120 total/1680 lbs total
For over 30 years, J&R Manufacturing, Inc. has been making custom heavy-duty wood-burning BBQ pits. This one above is their Smokemaster E Series, a "very serious barbecue machine" and convection oven.
According to the company, Smokemaster is very efficient due to its air and smoke control system. The machine can cook over 500 pounds of meat per load, at an energy cost of only 3 cents per pound!
Grand Hall's Monster BBQ Grill
Not satisfied with a regular grill, BBQ enthusiast Alex Komarnitsky got this super-sized "beta model" Grand Hall (which he said is not yet released to the public).
The monster grill has ten 20,000 BTU primary burners, a 30,000 BTU infrared burner, and a side burner (yet another 20,000 BTU) for a total of 250,000 BTU cooking capacity. With almost 2,000 square inches of cooking surface, you can surely feed a hundred people (or probably four us fat Americans) at the same time!
When we first saw this BBQ, it seemed like a large dinosaur egg that the Flintstones would adapt to grill meat!
If you think this one looks like the Kamado (see above) - you're right:
Our technicians and artisans have carefully retained the nearly perfect cooking characteristics of the Kamado, while creating a stronger and longer lasting Big Green Egg.
You can clearly see the Daisy Wheel Top and lower damper that allow you to precisely control the inside temperature. Nearly closed—for lower temperatures and slow smoke flavored cooking, wide open—to quickly bring up the fire to sear meats, and anywhere in between to meet any cooking need you may encounter.
What do you get when you cross a BBQ grill with a beer keg? A Keg-a-Que, the perfect BBQ grill for all beer lovers. The best thing is about this grill is that it's only $49.95, so have more money to buy meat, and of course, beer!
http://www.kegaque.com/kegaque.html - Thanks Ray!
Piet Hein Eek's Sleek BBQ Grills.
If modern's your thing, then you'll like Piet Hein Eek's Grills. Link - Thanks SMQT!
No, that's not the Mars Rover - that's the Pyromid Stove, "the world's most portable grill" according to the manufacturer.
The grill folds to less than one inch thick when not in use and can be set up in seconds. Moreover, the grill reaches temperatures up to 1,100 degrees °F in less than 10 minutes using only 9 briquettes!
Magma Boat BBQ Grill.
Just because you're cruisin' on your boat, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy barbecuin', thanks to Magma Boat BBQ grills.
The company makes charcoal, gas, and combination grills for your boat, with optional boat stabilizer.
If you like Benihana, then you'll probably like the Evo Professional circular flattop griddle, er grill. This model sports a 30" cooking surface, and two independently controlled burners for a combined rating of 48,000 BTU.
What do you give for that BBQ-loving DIY weekend warrior? A grill that looks like a toolbox, of course!
But don't let this unassuming grill from Hans Plads fool you: it is built from heavy duty, 20-gauge steel and sports a large cooking surface at only 19-lb. weight.
Bradley Digital Smoker.
BBQ Grill goes digital with Bradley's Digital Smoker:
Temperature, time, and smoke are now completely controllable so you can decide how much smoke you want, how long your food is going to be smoked for, and at what temperature. Perfect for entertaining, creating gourmet foods in your own home, or just enjoying the flavor that smoking brings, the new Bradley Digital Smokers offer an easier and better way to automatically roast, smoke and barbecue in the outdoors.
The perfect BBQ smoker for the nerd in you! http://www.bradleysmoker.com/main-page.asp
Muscle Car Grill
Muscle Car Grill builder Steve Barker used real car parts to make this V8 engine grill!
Neatorama reader Steve Barker of Muscle Car BBQ Grills told us about his awesome custom-made grills, shaped like a muscle car engine block complete with exhaust ports that let smoke comes out, powder coated grill box that can withstand 900 degree of heat, pistons instead of knobs, and of course, diamond plates for side tables!
Steve uses real car parts where he can, and can install optional nitrous purge system with remote control, a 671 Blower on top with a power lid, LED lights and switches for night BBQ-ing, as well as CD and MP3 player with indoor/outdoor speakers and remote control. The grills comes in either charcoal or propane.
Outdoor Culinary Supply's shiny grill called "The Supreme" is all decked out in diamond plate! http://www.outdoorculinary.com/index.html - via Fark
Talos Outdoor Cooking Suite
Got a spare $35,000? Then you can get the Talos Outdoor Cooking Suite by Frontgate. This sprawling behemoth of a grill has a 42" grill with 800 square-inch of grilling area, 16,000 BTU ceramic infrared rotisserie, 2 side burners, a warming drawer, searing station with griddle, bartender module and sink.
This cute little grill is the Weber 10898 Smokey Joe Charcoal Grill, The Simpsons 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Grill.
Not available anymore, I'm afraid (D'oh!): http://www.amazon.com/Weber-10898-Smokey-Joe/dp/B00005JD39
Bonus: Liquid Oxygen Lighter
OK, it's not a grill that's interesting here: it's the way it's lighted. You're looking at George Goble of Purdue University lighting the 60 lbs of charcoal with 3 gallons of liquid oxygen:
Started with 60 lbs of charcoal, and burnt up 40 lbs of it in 3 seconds. Result is a grill ready to cook in about 3 seconds, and all the old grease, etc burned off. Don't try this at home.
WARNING: an ignition source, such as a lit cigarette or one glowing coal, must be present before pouring on the LOX. If charcoal is PRESOAKED in LOX first, an explosion will result. One briquette presoaked in LOX is approx equiv to 1 stick of dynamite.
And oh, this goes without saying: don't try this at home. Please, or this may happen.
http://www.doeblitz.net/ghg/ (scroll down) - via Fark
Take 6 PCI USB cards with 5 ports each, connect the 30 USB cables to a hacked USB cup warmer and you get ... a USB grill!
Texan grill maker Pitt's & Spitt's made this cute train engine BBQ pit for the TV series Monster House (the "Ghost Town" house).
http://pittsandspitts.com/monster.asp - Thanks George Shore!
This grill from Diamond Charcoal Island Grille is actually a new kind of charcoal barbecue unit that starts up fast with a blower and then has a garbage dispoal unit built into the bottom so you can just wash down all the ashes away!
http://charcoalislandbarbecuegrille.com/ - Thanks Ryan Guy!
Bruce BBQ Grill
Got a balcony? Then this "Bruce" BBQ grill (that looks like those flower pots hanging off balconies) is perfect for you. http://www.henrik-drecker.de/Henrik%20Drecker%20Design/bruce.html - via Random Good Stuff.
Update 1/5/07: Grilling on your balcony may be illegal or cause you to lose your apt. lease - Thanks Don!
Locomotive BBQ Grill
This German locomotive BBQ grill is awesome! It sold on eBay for over $12,000: Link - via smidigt
Classic Holden Monaro GTS Grill
A classic Holden Monaro GTS, reincarnated as a barbie! http://jalopnik.com/cars/where.s-the-shrimp?/on-the-barbie-holden-monero-gts-barbecue-grill-271272.php - via Born Rich
Chevy V8 Grill
This Chevy V8 grill may not crank out 500 HP, but it does produce 60,000 BTU! http://www.neatorama.com/2007/07/09/chevy-v8-grill/ - Thanks Trent Whatley!
RUB Restaurant's Mobile Barbecue Pit
When Andrew Fishel, the owner of New York restaurant RUB, wanted "the sickest, baddest thing in the world," he commissioned Orange County Chopper (of the American Chopper TV show fame) to create a mobile BBQ pit.
We have to agree: that mother is bad! Link - via Make
Dragon BBQ Grill: "Guardian of the Feast"
This is one awesome BBQ grill: a dragon-shaped welded steel grill and smoker called "Guardian of the Feast" by Ed McBride. Link - Thanks SteelisAlive!
Motor Head Grill
Here's the Motor Head grill by FAB Grills: http://fabgrills.com/products.php?image=1 - Thanks Russ Freeman!
Photo: Steve Stealey
Is that a 55-gallon drums or a BBQ grill/smoker? Actually, it's both! Steve Stealey of Steve's Services - BBQ division in Carthage, Mo. came up with the idea of using a steel drum as a smoker and BBQ grill when he was on his way to a cooking contest, lost his cooker in transit, found a used barrel and the rest is history.
Quite a few did the meme (wrote about the meme? participated in the meme? propagated the meme? What's the correct term here?) and tagged other people, and so forth. Anyhow, it's neat to see how the meme propagated in just one month and to read about their hometowns.
Here are a few excerpts from various blogs, in no particular order:
Gerard Vlemmings of The Presurfer wrote about Tilburg, Netherlands:
Tilburg's Town Hall is actually a palace, built for King William II in 1849. He loved Tilburg and wanted a comfortable home to stay at whenever he was in the neighbourhood. 'Here I can breathe freely and I feel happy here,' he once said about the town. Unfortunately he died a couple of months before it was completed.
Norwood Matt of Stuff on Fire wrote about Cincinnati, Ohio:
Cincinnati Meme of Coolosity Roman Numeral III — We Got Pigs!
A while back, there, we got the bright idea of getting even more pigs. Hundreds of them. Hundreds of huge painted pigs. Cincinnati's nickname is Porkopolis (remember? Les Nessman would occasionally win a Silver Sow award on WKRP Cincinnati?) We thought that, if we put some lipstick on these pigs, we could sell them to unsuspecting liberals. And we did - to the tune of about $800,000. This was back in 2000, when $800,000 wouldn't buy very many painted pigs. We still have a pantload of them. They're everywhere. We're sick of them and we're sick of pig-related puns. Please, come and pick up your painted pigs. Really. We have plenty.
An important Cincinnatian comfort food is "chili spaghetti," i.e., spaghetti with chili used as a sauce, smothered in grated parmesan cheese. I still make it frequently and it has always been my kids' favorite.
Apparently, this triggered a heated discussion on her blog:
Hold it, hold it, hold it gosh darn one second. You cannot use any food that comes out of Frisch's as anything Cincinnati Original. When you talk Chile, you can only talk Skyline Chile. No execptions. Anything smothered in grated parmesan cheese knocks it right off the Cincinnati orginal map. I suspect you eat the chili spaghetti by sticking the fork in it and twirling?!! You see, THAT"S JUST WRONG!!!! Damit.
Tom Hirt of Goferboy wrote about (what else - what's up with this? Is this a conspiracy?) Cincinnati:
Can't forget to talk about Cincinnati's German Heritage. After all, we only sport the Largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. And where else can you get Weird Al Yankawich to lead "The World's Largest Kazoo Band and Chicken Dance"? Yup, the sad fact is that only kids in Germany even attempt to do the Chicken dance. But don't tell the adult supervision here.
My town is SO small (chorus: how small is it?) that 1. if I wrote about it, I would lose the very last shred of anonymity I have left, and b. I can only think of two neat things about it that would interest you.
Instead, noting that I already changed the original meme, she opted to write about all of Kentucky. Lucky us, because she included this:
4 Neat Pieces of Eye Candy Born in Kentucky: 1. George Clooney 2. Johnny Depp 3. Ashley Judd 4. Billy Ray Cyrus
She also wrote about:
4 Neat Kentuckians You Don't Know: 1. Floyd Collins, cave exploring legend. 2. Edgar Cayce, mystical healer. 3. Randolph McCoy, the REAL McCoy. 4. Henry Earl, the Lexington town drunk.
We've actually featured Henry Earl on Neatorama quite a while ago. Sad to see that nothing has changed.
1. Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. 2. A great independant arts community. The Historic Third Ward. 3. Frozen custard and brats, two traditional Milwaukee foods. 4. Big city, small-town atmosphere.
1. Saguaros everywhere. More generally, the desert vegetation is incredible. 2. Just about everyone has a mountain view. 3. A significant portion of the population leaves in the summer. 4. The people are much friendlier (compared to California).
Tons of neat comments followed John's entry - for example:
Mark on Chicago:
1. It's not NY 2. It's not LA 3. It doesn't care that it's not NY 4. It doesn't care that it's not LA
Ajos on Caledonia, Minnesota:
1. Is the Wild Turkey Capitol of Minnesota (yet ironically was one of the last "Dry Counties" in the state ;)
2. Is the birthplace of the famous Kunst brothers, otherwise known as the "Earthwalkers"
3. Some reports say that the first dandelion introduced into the United States was planted by Jacob Webster in Caledonia, Minnesota
4. Is the home of the tree from whose cuttings the Summercrisp Pear was developed. Originally called the Gaspard Pear #5 after amateur local orchardist John Gaspard, it gained in popularity as a result of its clean mellow flavor, cold-hardiness, and resistance to fireblight.
Trash Cardiom on Upper Hutt, New Zealand:
1) More fast food outlets per head of population than anywhere else in New Zealand
2) More petrol stations per head of population than anywhere else in New Zealand
3) More black jersey/black jeans/black boots per head of population than anywhere else in New Zealand
4) I don't live there any more (and that's a relief).
Champton on Rome, New York:
1) Birthplace of Francis Bellamy, writer of the Pledge of Allegience. 2) Construction of the Erie Canal was started in 1809 in Rome. 3) We have a statue of Romulus and Remus from the mayor of Rome, Italy that's like, over a 100 years old now. 4) Home to the first Wal Mart Supercenter in NY State.
Nick on Niagara-on-the-Lake:
1. It takes three hyphens to spell. 2. It had an overhead sign that said Stop then Go, but I forget when they converted to conventional stoplights. 3. Everything is historic - eg. 1st golf course, 1st capital of canada, etc,etc. 4. It's not on the road to anywhere.
Savannah is a fairly conservative place, but once every year the city becomes a painted whore in full party mode. Drunken debauchery is the rule of the day, with a big parade thrown in for good measure. Port-o-Lets overflow with beer piss and downtown bars are standing room only. ...
One of my fondest St. Patrick's Day memories is holding my wanger with my left hand and shaking hands with Savannah Mayor John Rossikas (sp?) with my right as we both pissed in a River Street alley and I told him that I never voted for his ass. Hizzoner was drunk as a skunk.
For all its attempt to capitalize on the Buffalo River tourists, it's still a very insular area. If you weren't born there, you will always be someone from 'away', even if you live there till you're 100. If you were born there, you will always be from there, no matter where you live. I can still write a check at just about any business in town....even though it will have an out-of-town address. Sometimes the proprietor might peer at me quizzically for a few minutes, then say, "Oh, you're [my parents'] girl ain't you? Why sure you can write a check, for a little over if'n you need some cash."
Which used to irritate the shit out of me when I was younger. Not the check writing, but the recognition. How could all these old people see my parents in my face? Now I'm one of them, and I know how. You just do.
All of which gives me a tremendous sense of my roots, my history, of my belonging somewhere. I didn't appreciate that when I was young. But I do now. And there are days when I long for the time when I can return. Return to a quieter place where clocks are only important when you have a doctor's appointment.
Life moves much slower there. Which gives you time to better appreciate the finer things in life....like how a cool breeze on a hot July day rustles the trees with its promise of rain. Or how the little creek sometimes seems to almost giggle as it rushes around the rocks.
By the way, Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for "The thing speaks for itself", a legal doctrine which
is applied to claims which, as a matter of law, do not have to be explained beyond the obvious facts. It is most useful to plaintiffs in negligence cases.
If the previous sentence didn't make sense, that's because Res ipsa loquitur is an unnecessarily difficult concept, hence the joke: "Res ipsa loquitur, sed quid in infernos dicet?" (The thing speaks for itself, but what the hell is it saying?")
The "Hummer" was invented here. No, not that Hummer, but an ice cream drink with rum and Kahlua. They are delicious, but I think I made about 500,000 of them in my bartending career, and the mere thought of 'em now gives me nightmares.
If you're wondering about the Kahlua Hummer, DrinkNation's got the recipe.
Kearny was heavily populated with Scottish and Irish people (mostly Scottish), many of whom had parents or grandparents who immigrated to the U.S. to find work in the large thread mill in town. Over time, these folks sponsored their relatives, so it was not at all uncommon to find one’s self surrounded by people speaking with a thick Scottish accent. The town had (and still has) a Scottish butcher shop at which one can buy things like meat pies and haggis (I’ll take a Pasadena on the haggis), and it also boasts at least three fish and chips restaurants, an Irish-American Club, a Scottish-American Club, two pipe bands (one Scottish, one Irish), a place to buy bagpipes, kilts, and kilt stuff, and a store that specializes in darts and darts stuff.
#1 Authentic Mexican Food & Margaritas From inexpensive Taqueria (taco stands) to expensive Tex Mex gourmet restaurants in the surrounding area.
100% Taquito A very cheap place to grab a bite and have a Corona before you hit the bars in the Village.
Pappasitos Yes, I know it’s a chain, but damn their fajitas are so juicy and the service is one of the main reasons I go back for more - sizzzzzzle
El Tiempo Cantina In my opinion, this place is over priced for the kind of pretentious service you receive, for example they make you feel you should be privileged to be in their restaurant. I am sucker, sometimes. The food is always delicious and the margaritas are strong! I always recommend the Don Julio margarita on the rocks with salt, please.
Ninfias on Navigation Good food. Good ritas. Very good homemade tortillas!
I have never been in any of these food places, but based on the image on the Pappasito's website alone, I can tell I like the place!
On November 12, 1602, the first Christian religious service of record in California was conducted by Fray Antonio de la Ascensión, a member of Vizcaíno's expedition, celebrating the feast day of San Diego (English-speaking folk call him Saint Didacus of Alcalá, if they remember him at all).
The picture on the left is Saint Didacus of Alcala, better known as San Diego.
Scott Gilbreath of Magic Statistics wrote about White Horse, Yukon, Canada:
2. Something like three-quarters of McDonald's french fries come from farms around Moses Lake and are stored here for processing. In your face, Idaho!
3. We have one of the biggest airports in America, and the second-longest runway west of the Mississippi. We're an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle, although so far none has ever landed here. But we can always hope!
4. At one time, the largest brothel in Washington was located in Wheeler, which is now part of Moses Lake. The joint is still there, I'm told, but it's a lot smaller than it used to be. I can't say for certain; I've never been there. Honest.
Olle Zackrisson of Cool Finds wrote about Stockholm, Sweden (you have to scroll to the 19 April 2006 entry, there is no permalink as far as I can find):
Harbor cranes painted to look like giraffes.
A Stockholm artist once proposed painting these old harbor cranes to look like giraffes, and the city actually let him! This was in 1994 I think, but the cranes have since been moved from their original location to Beckholmen where they can be seen today.
On September 5, 1945, only weeks after the end of World War II, Ottawa was the site of the event that many people consider to be the official start of the Cold War. A Soviet cipher clerk, Igor Gouzenko, defected from the Soviet Embassy with over 100 secret documents. At first, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) refused to take the documents, since the Soviets were still allies of Canada and Britain, and the newspapers were not interested in the story. After hiding out for a night in a neighbour's apartment listening to his own being searched, Gouzenko finally persuaded the RCMP to look at his evidence, which provided proof of a massive Soviet spy networking operating in western countries, and, indirectly, led to the discovery that the Soviets were working on an atomic bomb to match that of the Americans.
Update 6/6/06: Hanan from grow-a-brain did a photoblog about Riverside - one particularly interesting photo is of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi, who led non-violent protests during the Indian struggle for independence, is admired by many in the United States as a symbol of peace.
But many Muslims see him differently. Some blame Gandhi for failing to prevent the deaths of thousands of Muslims when religious fighting broke out in 1947 as India and Pakistan moved away from British colonial rule.
``He was not a hero to everybody,'' said Jamil Dada, an investment manager. Religious violence forced his grandparents to abandon their home and business when they fled India for Pakistan, he said.
Thankfully, the muslims withdrew their objection, and the Riverside Gandhi statue was finally installed.