Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
I've personally only seen solar eclipses in the classroom, generally using complex pinhole projection devices designed to keep little-kid eyes safe. But when I saw this video from Argentina of a group of solar eclipse watchers, I realized the experience of people seeing this phenomenon as adults is very different. Watching the video, these people are totally freaking out -- and I found a similar pattern in other eclipse videos. Check it out, and prepare to witness why a tiny web video doesn't really... READ ON
William Shatner made a habit of stealing Leonard Nimoy's bike while working on Star Trek. Here's why.... READ ON
Now, I like big butts as much as the next guy. But I was floored when I came across the Wikipedia entry for Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic "Baby Got Back." This erudite description of the song reads like a college essay. I now present the entire "Synopsis" of the song, as proof that Wikipedia is completely awesome:
In the opening verse, Sir Mix-A-Lot professes his affinity for large buttocks and his inability to conceal this fact from others. He goes on to describe other desirable physical... READ ON
Sir Allen Lane is the creator of Penguin Books, which is credited with popularizing high-quality mass-market paperbacks. Paperbacks existed prior to Penguin, but they were often poorly made and/or had trashy subject matter. Lane changed all that, publishing classic literature in paperback form and legitimizing the paperback and offering an affordable price (sixpence per book at launch; or about the same as a pack of cigarettes). But he didn't stop there. He also invented the "Penguincubator," a vending... READ ON
I saw Kurt Vonnegut speak in 1997 at Florida State University, along with Joseph Heller (who is mentioned in the talk below) and William Styron. Vonnegut was crotchety and slightly addled and either very wise or very flippant or both. As part of the event staff, I remember Vonnegut being very unhappy that he wasn't allowed to smoke in university buildings, so perhaps that accounted for his mood when I saw him. But still, Vonnegut was a huge reason I became a writer myself. Reading Breakfast of... READ ON
So let's say you want to teach a robot arm how to flip pancakes. Robots aren't known for their pancake-flipping abilities. In this video, researchers show how they taught one robot, using a pan duct-taped to the robot arm. Note that it's a "simulated" pancake being flipped; no real pancake could suffer this much testing. There's more technical detail at this page, but the gist of it seems to be: first, hold the robot's arm and teach it kinesthetically (much like you'd teach a chef); then refine the... READ ON
What do you do when you get to the top of a mountain? Take a good look around, congratulate your buddies, and...shoot a video. Here's a collection of summit videos from YouTube, so you can see for yourself what it's like on top of various super-tall mountains.
Climber Krishna Patil briefly removes her breathing apparatus to narrate a video at the top of Mount Everest, the tallest point in the world at 29,029 feet.
This is the first... READ ON
Sun dogs (aka parhelions) are surprising visual phenomena which look like halos around the sun, or in other cases "false suns" some distance from the real sun. Wikipedia has a photo gallery of sun dogs -- my favorite is this one, taken in Antarctica in 1979. Apparently sun dogs are common in Antarctica, as Shackleton's 1912 expedition reported them. Here's a snippet from Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance (emphasis... READ ON
Graboids are the fictional creatures featured in the movie Tremors (and its many sequels). In the movie, the graboid is apparently based on the cryptid Mongolian Death Worm, though the short film below proves that graboids are actually landsharks, another dangerous cryptid with mysterious abilities. Let's learn about their habits in the wild:
Monstrous Wildlife from Frank Robnik on Vimeo.
Of course, we all know the real landshark dates back to the... READ ON
Photographer Tom A. Warner managed to catch lightning strikes at 9,000 frames per second (that's 300x slower than realtime video). The capture is so insanely detailed that you can watch as one main band of lightning on the left strikes and stays in place while zillions of other strikes occur on the right; so much more is happening than the human eye could possible comprehend in realtime. The capture takes place in Rapid City, South Dakota, and the main strikes are hitting towers equipped with lightning... READ ON
Janis Joplin left $2,500 in her will for her friends to "have a ball after I’m gone."