Colin Patrick is an author and a comedian. In addition to mental_floss, he's written for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Splitsider, McSweeney's, and Cracked.
For some reason, one ofÂ the questions I'm asked mostÂ frequently in radio interviews is "So, your latest book claims the story about Catherine the Great dying while being a bit too intimate with a horse is actually a myth. So it's not really true?" And it's pretty funny becauseÂ most of themÂ seem disappointed to learn that it might beÂ myth.Â So I explain that no, it's not true, but that she most likelyÂ still died in a pretty embarrassing way - while on the toilet.
Then they ask about... READ ON
Â The Wired NextFest is coming up September 29th and the current issue has bits on some of the featured inventions. One of these inventions, the LifeStraw,Â gives us hope that it might actually be possible to significantly reduce the number of people suffering from waterborne illnesses like Typhoid, Cholera and Dysentery. This could be huge for the one billion people in the world who have no access to safe drinking water. According to the developers of the device, the LifeStraw kills 99.9% of the... READ ON
Scientists at Wicab Inc. have filed a patent application on an invention they think will help those suffering from brain damage to return to many of their previous activities such as walking or riding a bike. Using electrical pulses, this device will stimulate the tongue, which they say is helpful in re-training the brain:
A false palate with a square grid of 160 gold-plated electrodes is placed on the tongue and wirelessly connected to the output of a motion sensor and camera fitted on the... READ ON
mental_floss readers have done many things to express their loyalty over the years. We've seen great pictures of fans reading the magazine at the South Pole. A group of soldiers sent pictures after enjoying the mag in one of Saddam's former palaces. And there have been a few expressions that aren't fit for describing on a family-friendly blog. But this is the first floss-inspired tattoo I'm aware of (besides my mom's). Here's what our favorite person of the week had to say:
A heart? Too soft. A fairy? Not... READ ON
I just read a story over at LiveScience about polar bears experiencingÂ genital shrinkage because of industrial pollutants:
Polar bears from northernmost Norway, western Russia and east Greenland are among the most polluted animals in the Arctic, as they feast on ringed seals and bearded seals. The blubber of these seals accumulates high levels of organic pollutants loaded with halogens such as chlorine. These organohalogens can act like hormones.
The scientists... READ ON
I noticed yesterday on IMDB that Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman) turned 54 this pastÂ weekend.Â And then I realized it's been 20 years since "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" debuted on CBS. And althoughÂ both facts areÂ hard to believe, the more surprising fact is that Pee-Wee is scheduled to return in "Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Movie" in 2007.Â That'sÂ scary and funny.Â A few other surprising facts I learned on IMDB:
When Reubens signed to do "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" in 1986, CBS agreed to pay him... READ ON
Â ... READ ON
Although I doubt this will bring anÂ end to the debate on federal funding for stem cell research, scientists have now proven that it's possible to derive stem cells from an embryo without killing the embryo.
New Scientist reports on the promising development:
Last year, Bob Lanza and his team from Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Massachusetts, demonstrated that stem cells could be harvested from mouse embryos without killing them. Now they have done the same in human embryos left over from IVF... READ ON
Nothing makes good morning office chat like fiber talk. So the next time one of those great fiber-focused conversations comes up, here's somethingÂ to share.Â Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have released the results to anÂ interesting study on how fiber works in a rather paradoxical way. As they explain,Â fiber actuallyÂ does its job by first doing damage to our gastrointestinal tract. As the fiber passes through, it tears cellsÂ along the way. These cells produce mucus, which is... READ ON
Okay, that looks like a rasberry and theÂ last time I checked, rasberries are not sharp. But according to the American Institute of Physics, this is a field ion microscope image of a tungsten needle, the world's sharpest man-made object. So what are those little round ball-looking things? Those are individual atoms.
Link via The Cellar Image of the Day... READ ON
Curt is a Graduate Assistant for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the University of Alabama's MBA Program, a small business owner, and the devoted fiancee to a beautiful attorney in Birmingh
Mark Peters writes about euphemisms for Visual Thesau
Zachary Petit (@zacharypet
Jo Piazza is the author of Celebrity Inc.: How Famous People Make Money (http://www.amazon.com/Celebrity-Inc-Famous-P
Garin, a made-up name that according to her mom means "high priestess of the written word," is a freelance arts and culture writer.
A fresh graduate of Creighton University in Omaha, Rob Placek is a farm boy, travel junkie, and trivia fanatic.
It's no secret that the sports universe in America is pretty sheltered- we've got football, baseball, basketball and a bunch of other miscellaneous ones. Still, there are those few random games that capture our attention "“ poker had its day and people are even starting to pay attention to soccer now that Posh Spice's husband plays here. In the interest of expanding our culture's sports horizons, here's a look at five sports that ought to become more popular, along... READ ON
I have a bit of a problem with my speakers. Whenever they're on, I can faintly hear my campus radio station. Now don't get me wrong, I like WNUR, but I don't like hearing it when I'm working. Or napping. It's mostly the napping thing.
I visited the website for my speakers and found out that the radio interference problem is a common one. There's all kinds of radio signals in the air and any wire can become an antenna if its length is on the same wavelength as a signal.... READ ON
From Paul Byrd and Rick Ankiel to the upcoming Mitchell Report, accusations of HGH are flying around baseball. But Human Growth Hormone use is also on the rise outside of sports; plenty of people looking to get bigger are injecting themselves. So, let's say you want to bulk up, get taller, increase your focus or just feel younger. You've bought some HGH on the Internet or from a pharmacy (hint: stay away from BALCO). But, could it be fake? Here are some signs your HGH might be phony.
Your... READ ON
As is usually the case with bills in Congress, I had a lot of trouble believing that the 2007 Farm Bill was applicable to me. After all, the last time I even remember going to a farm was on a kindergarten field trip, when I got goat's milk squirted directly into my mouth and I almost threw up. So, when a friend told me the Farm Bill was really important for everyone, I laughed at him. That is, until he told me beer prices might go up. I... READ ON
It's pretty widely accepted than animals and humans are different, having evolved separately. But apparently some aren't sold on this whole Darwin thing and they're taking it to the courts. And this isn't just Scopes Monkey Trial 2.0. No, a group in Austria is legitimately trying to get an ape recognized as a person.
Last month, a judge in Austria tossed out the case, where the Association Against Animal Factories was trying get a chimp granted the rights of a person (but not a human). The group was... READ ON
The Tiebreaker Heard 'Round the... READ ON
We've all heard about the dangers of global warming and climate change. It's going to make the oceans rise, drown our cities, kill plants, cause hurricanes and ruin the Earth for our grandkids. But that's all secondary to the real effects of global warming; it's wreaking havoc on the sports world. Here's a look at seven ways climate change is messing up sports.
Marathon... READ ON
My days as a mental_floss intern are over. My adoring fans may have noticed that the "Intern" has been dropped from my byline and my workload has decreased to "occasional contributor" status. Unlike these guys, though, I left my internship on my own terms and Mangesh and Jason appreciated my work enough to let me stay on. Here's a look at four interns who didn't do as well during their employment.
The Employer: Roseanne... READ ON
I'm learning how to cook, which has been an adventure. The other night, after an encounter with some particularly spicy Italian sausage combined with even spicier barbecue sauce, my roommates and I found ourselves wondering if eating spicy foods could kill you. I mean, it can certainly cause intense pain and chest tightness; so can too much spicy food kill... READ ON
This whole Larry Craig sex sting story, followed by the one about federal prosecutor trying to have sex with a five-year-old got me to thinking about depravity in Washington. For better or for worse "“ well, really just for worse "“ our politicians seem to be a pretty obscene bunch. They drink like frat boys on spring break (and then sometimes drive), they cuss like they're in a Quentin Tarantino movie and fight like schoolyard enemies. All while running the... READ ON
Before having triplets in 2003, Amy went to graduate school, had a career, read voraciously, and traveled through three continents, but she doesn't remember any of it.
Sarah Prial fled her degree in Media Studies and Digital Culture to become a writer.
Kristy is a New York-based entertainment journalist whose work has appeared on Vanity Fair, Time Out New York, Vulture, Pajib
By day, Jordan Rabinowitz is the managing editor of college sports website/player database
Suzanne loves writing about music, history, Latin, and publishing.
A writer, blogger and avid TV watcher, Adam K. Raymond lives in Brooklyn with his wife Josie. He is an editor at Hemispheres and has written for Radar, NYMag.com and GOOD.
Lucas is the Associate Editor at mental_floss. A recent graduate of Lafayette College, he grew up in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, where he played a lot of piano and toiled as a chocolatier.
For some athletes, the Olympics aren’t just a competition: they’re a chance to escape oppression. Earlier this week, seven of Cameroon’s athletes disappeared from London’s Olympic Village. The week before, three runners from Sudan’s Olympic training squad filed for asylum in Britain. Here’s a look at some other Olympic defections.
1948 Summer Olympics: London
Marie Provaznikova, a Czech who was President of the International Gymnastics Federation, was the first person to defect from the... READ ON
The Oxford Dictionary Online is a warehouse of over 600,000 words. Despite this large arsenal, we continue to coin, clip, and blend new words into existence, and the Oxford folks pump some of these new words into their dictionaries. Here are some more recent additions with their official definitions.
1. Bling (n): Expensive, ostentatious clothing and jewelry.
2. Bromance (n): A close but non-sexual relationship between two men.
3. Chillax (v): Calm down and relax.
4. Crunk (adj): Very... READ ON
Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary John Nicolay believed that no photograph could capture Honest Abe’s essence: “There are many pictures of Lincoln,” he said, “[but] there is no portrait of him.” Over 130 photographs of Lincoln exist—here are a few you may not have come across.... READ ON
Ambrose Bierce was a celebrated journalist, storyteller and, above all, cynic. Bierce had a barbed wit, and he often used it to kick American culture square in the teeth. In 1911, he published The Devil’s Dictionary, a partial lexicon that sardonically redefines over 1000 words. Here are some of our... READ ON
Image credit: Comstock
Benjamin Franklin loved electricity. He also loved the turkey. One day, he put the two together.
It all started as a party trick. Franklin had been dabbling with electricity for years, and he wanted to show off his newest electrical toys. On April 29, 1749, Franklin told scientist Peter Collinson about his dream to host the world’s first electric barbeque:
“A turkey,” Franklin wrote, “is to be killed for our dinners by the electrical shock; and roasted by the... READ ON
Last year, Americans spent $10.7 trillion shopping. With that much dough, you could buy over 2000 aircraft carriers, 300 private islands, and still have money left over for a latte. Here’s a taste of the things we bought—and how much we spent on... READ ON
1. Fort... READ ON
Bob Ross said he made over 30,000 paintings in his lifetime. If he didn’t sell them, where did his army of happy clouds go? We’ll let Bob explain:“One of the questions that I hear over and over and over is, ‘What do we do with all these paintings we do on television?’ Most of these paintings are donated to PBS stations across the country. They auction them off, and they make a happy buck with ‘em. So if you’d like to have one, get in touch with your PBS station, cause…we give them to... READ ON
In 1793, the French Revolution was in full swing. Royal sympathizers—nobles, military officers, clergy, and other aristocrats—were guaranteed a sharp kiss from the guillotine. Frightened, thousands of aristocrats fled to neighboring countries like Austria and Prussia. A small handful of nobles, however, escaped to a place so obscure that they were able to start their own refugee colony, the only one of its kind. Their location? A meadowed hamlet in the Pennsylvanian backwoods.
There, a 4000-mile... READ ON
It was the spring of 1971, and the public library in Troy, Mich., was finally getting a permanent home. As the grand opening neared, Marguerite Hart—the children’s librarian—dreamed up a way to inspire Troy’s youngsters to come to the new library: she wrote dozens of letters to actors, politicians, and authors from across the globe. Hart asked them to address the children of Troy and speak about the importance of libraries, books, and reading. By the time the library opened, 97 letters had graced... READ ON
Joni Rendon and Shannon McKenna Schmidt are the authors of
Alisa works in New York as the Director of Communications for
Filmmaker, photo hound, author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Ransom was a daily contributor to mentalfloss.com for many, many years.
2011 marks the first year -- since I've been alive, at least -- that you can't buy a new car with a factory-installed cassette tape player. The last model to be sold with one was a 2010 Lexus. That they are something of an anachronism was brought into stark relief for me when I posted this video of a road trip I took with friends in 1998, and many of the tween-aged commenters remarked upon the sheer novelty that, as we drove across Texas and New Mexico, our tunes came from my cassette deck. It's the end... READ ON
"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." - Internet pioneer John... READ ON
My grandmother thought Victor Borge was just about the funniest person alive. He used to have his own specials on PBS, and whenever they came on, she'd shush everyone in the room and proceed to laugh like a maniac. (To be fair, I thought he was funny, too -- and still do.) He was a Danish comedian, conductor, and pianist -- a triple-threat of immense talent and wit who passed away in 2000. After WWII, in which he escaped from Nazi-occupied Denmark to America, he quickly taught himself English and began... READ ON
OK, I'll admit right off the bat, they're not *my* reasons, they're Hank Green's. But Hank's video, which is itself rather awesome, just got tweeted about and major up-thumbsed (I just made up that term but will hereafter use it as often as possible) by NASA itself! Plus, it's my birthday, so cut me some freaking slack here. (Smiley face!) (I write smiley faces in emails once in a while but I've never done it in a blog. It just seems too informal. But apparently I am not above writing out the word... READ ON
Yesterday I wrote about an American breakfast cereal magnate who was a prominent eugenicist around the turn of the last century. After I posted it, I wanted to know more about the eugenics movement, and what I found was really disturbing. It seems that there's quite a bit of evidence that the Nazis got their ideas about the "science" of racial purity from the American eugenics movement. Much of this can be found in a horrifying little tome called War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to... READ ON
Did you know that Facebook is going to start using your posts as advertisements, to show up on your friends' sidebars? I know this seems off-topic given this article's title, but a friend of mine pointed this out on Facebook the other day, then wrote, "so take a moment to really give a positive opinion about a product you endorse, so that your message appears under the product. I'll start: I LIKE KELLOGG'S CORN FLAKES, because they were developed by a eugenicist who mutilated children's genitals." And I... READ ON
It wasn't so many years ago, you'll remember, that the Internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore's eye. Soon after its birth came Compuserv, local-area dial-up bulletin board systems, AOL -- and a slew of TV segments and how-to videos designed to address the question that seemed to be on just about everyone's mind in the early 90s: just what is the Internet? (And to a lesser degree: what do I do with it?) Witness this gem from a 1994 edition of the Today show:
More prevalent were videos like this,... READ ON
It's like an acronym, except the words are chosen to fit the letters rather than the other way around. The term was coined in 1983, part of a monthly neologism contest held by the Washington Post. (I'm not sure if we can call a word that's been around for thirty years a "neo"-logism anymore -- what's the statute of limitations on that?) A quick and probably needless refresher: acronyms are words created using letters from an already-existing phrase. For instance, "Radio Detection and Ranging" was the... READ ON
Doogie Horner has a way with flowcharts. He's the author of the highly-entertaining Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (a few of which we excerpted here a couple of months ago), and now, inspired by the State of the Union a few days ago, he's turned his flowcharting skills to a concept that's been on everyone's minds lately: the American Dream. He writes:
Is it a unifying, nationalistic force that motivates U.S. citizens to work hard, even without receiving immediate compensation? Is it... READ ON
I earn some of my living on the internet -- I'm doing it right now! -- but I'm not a techie, as it were, and when it comes to wrapping my head around all the ones and zeroes that ultimately become Bookface or Gweegle I get a little confused. One thing I do know is that net neutrality, or the proposed lack thereof by various big telecom companies and some folks in government, has been getting a lot of press lately (though, according to some, not nearly enough) and I keep hearing things about how "the... READ ON
Barry Manilow did not write his hit "I Write the Songs."