Sometimes we must turn to other languages to find the perfect word.... READ ON
Although some of these are sort of cringe-inducing in their original applications, they found new life—and commercial popularity—in unintended ways.... READ ON
From the plastic bird's birth to its modern perch atop the pyramid of campy Americana, here’s the quick-and-dirty on the hot pink queen of kitsch.... READ ON
Roughly 3,500 years ago—right about the time the Ancient Phoenicians were hitting their stride—a tiny cypress tree, no bigger than a fist, sprouted in the swamplands of Central Florida. 3,500 years later, on January 17 this year, that very same cypress burned to the... READ ON
Most of us think of international borders as invisible, but clear-cut, lines: stand on one side, and you’re in one country; stand on the other, you’re in another country. But here’s a list of five international borders that, for one reason or another, are not quite that simple.... READ ON
Christopher Columbus did a lot of naming in his day. As it turns out, he had a hand in naming four of the five island-nations with two names. Is that an obscure enough fact for you? Still, this is definitely the kind of fact that shows up on pub trivia night, and if you know it, you’re going to look like a genius.... READ ON
Anyone with even a fleeting relationship to political news these days has probably noticed that partisan bickering in the U.S. Congress has reached a bit of a crescendo of late. So we got to thinking: When do politicians just give up on the vitriolic rhetoric and throw a punch? The answer: more often than you’d think.
Here’s a list of our favorite instances—both historical and contemporary—when schoolyard tactics have made an appearance in the marbled halls of congresses, parliaments and... READ ON
Pretty much ever since humans discovered flight, we’ve been strapping animals into our new devices just to see what would happen.
Over the last 330 years or so, we’ve launched dogs, cats, chimps, monkeys, roosters, ducks, spiders, fruit flies, silk worms, ants, bees, moss, turtles, rabbits, jellyfish, amoebae, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, goldfish, and one Enlightenment-era sheep—into the air, into orbit, and into space. While it was difficult to choose which of these brave, history-making animals... READ ON
© Najlah Feanny/CORBIS SABA
It's been almost 16 years since Dolly the cloned sheep was born. As she fades from our cultural memory, here’s a look at 11 up-and-coming (and often controversial) genetically engineered animals that might start appearing in backyards and on dinner tables near you.
1. Remote Control Rats
Photo: CC bclinesmith
By attaching wires to rats’ brains, a group of scientists at SUNY found in 2002 that they could get the little guys to turn left and right by remote... READ ON
Work these into conversation.... READ ON
Here are some tragic, hilarious, and off-color examples of products that really exist—and don’t always mean what their manufacturers think.... READ ON
When traveling across the United States, it sometimes feels like the locals are speaking a whole different language.... READ ON
Blizzard image via Shutterstock
Forty years ago this week, the deadliest blizzard on record ripped through the lower Caucasus and into Iran, where it left 4,000 people dead. The Blizzard of 1972, as this hellish storm has come to be known, wasn’t your run of the mill squall; it wiped entire villages—200 villages, to be exact—off the... READ ON
Most of us have heard of the international NGOs Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders, and you might know about Reporters Without Borders. But what about Monks Without Borders? Or Clowns? Here's a list of borderless organizations you really should hear about.
1. Bikes Without... READ ON
Some of the world’s most famous, civilization-altering discoveries happened by accident. Take Penicillin, for example. The guy who discovered it, Sir Alexander Fleming, simply forgot to clean up his work station one night and returned to discover the world’s first antibiotic growing right there in his unwashed petri dish.
But that’s not what this particular list is about. All the inventions here were invented very much on purpose – they just didn’t end up being used in the way their... READ ON
© Rick Friedman/Corbis
After weathering several weeks of pressure from his Republican rivals, Mitt Romney released his tax returns early this morning, revealing that he made $45 million over 2010 and 2011, and he'll pay 14 or 15 percent of that in taxes.
That may seem like a lot—a $6.2 million dollar check to the IRS is enough to make the average American blush—until you look at Romney’s chief opponent, Newt Gingrich, who raked in $3.2 million in 2010, but clocked in at a 31.7 percent tax... READ ON
Unrelated image of Mitt Romney holding Dino Flintstone via Rick Friedman/Corbis
During the GOP debate last night in South Carolina, Mitt Romney was asked yet again if he intended to make his tax returns public. The former governor of Massachusetts first avoided the question, then hemmed and hawed, then gave a resounding…maybe?
It’s not the first time Romney, the former chief executive of Bain Capital, a successful private equity firm, has performed a verbal do-si-do on stage with regards to this... READ ON
Kristina Postnikova / Shutterstock.com
The largest country in Central Asia—it’s as big as all of Western Europe combined—turns 20 years old today, and to celebrate, here’s a list of ten random facts about everyone’s favorite Kazakh-speaking ‘Stan.
1. For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Borat, the fictional reporter invented by the English comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, hails from Kazakhstan. In Baron Cohen’s 2006 blockbuster movie, Borat describes his native land in less than... READ ON
Girl standing atop Soviet tank in Red Square during the Communist hard liners' coup attempt in August 1991. © David Turnley/CORBIS
Twenty years ago today, on December 8, 1991, a group of Soviet leaders got together in a house in snowy Belarus to declare the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The resulting treaty, the Belavezha Accords, split the former USSR into a series of independent states.
To mark the two-decade anniversary, here’s a collection of numbers that illustrate a very... READ ON
© Michael Maloney/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis
This Friday, 152 million people—that’s half the population of the United States—will flock to shopping malls, big box stores, online merchants and retailers across the country to shell out an estimated $465.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
Known as “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. While the name Black Friday is often explained as the day major retailers "get... READ ON
The existing 650-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border has been a hot political topic in the States for the last few years, and with the Republican primary campaign in full swing, it’s making headlines again.
Already, Michele Bachmann has promised to build a “double-walled fence” along the entire 2,000-mile border, while Herman Cain has said he would consider erecting a 20-foot-high electric fence (though he later claimed he was joking). Rick Perry said he’d install more fencing and a... READ ON
© Tim Brakemeier/dpa/Corbis
When Saparmurat Niyazov died in 2006, Turkmenistan lost its so-called “President for Life.” During his 16-year reign over this impoverished Central Asian country, Niyazov built a formidable cult of personality around himself, indulging in all manner of nutty dictatorial behavior, including renaming days of the week and months of the year after himself and his family, outlawing gold teeth, and erecting, in the center of the capital, an enormous, gold-plated statue of... READ ON
With the campaign for the Republican nomination in full swing, candidates are beginning to rally their bases, retool their talking points and (cue the intro music, please!) select their campaign songs—those upbeat little ditties that play at rallies, speeches and pretty much whenever a candidate walks on stage.
The Art of Choosing the Right Campaign Song is not as straightforward as it may seem. For hundreds of years now, U.S. presidential candidates, world leaders, and even a few dictators have... READ ON
With the New York Comic Con under way, we thought we’d remind you that these brilliant, geeky get-togethers can mean more than just costumes and coveted signatures on first-edition books. Here are a few of the scandals that rocked (or gently nudged) Comic Cons across the country this past year.
God Hates Geeks in Superhero... READ ON
Is Superman a Democrat? Is Batman a Republican? And more to the point, what’s up with spandex-clad superheroes dabbling in real-life politics?
The short answer is it’s nothing new. Ever since Superman and his keister-kicking ilk hit newsstands in the late ‘30s and ‘40s, comic book plotlines have reflected the wars and political struggles going on in the real... READ ON
Earlier this year, Bill DeMain introduced us to 15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent. Now that you've integrated those into your vocabulary, here are 14... READ ON
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, people all over the world stood shoulder-to-shoulder in mourning, solidarity, sympathy and friendship with the people of the United States. Here are a few of those international reactions, both organized and spontaneous, that occurred in the days following September 11, 2001. ... READ ON
Four out of twelve NASCAR drivers who were invited to meet President Obama at the White House this evening have declined to attend, citing scheduling conflicts—and sparking a nationwide gossip-fest. Refusing an invitation to visit the most powerful man in the world at his giant white mansion in the middle of the nation’s capital is, after all, not the same thing as, you know, missing your second cousin’s garden party. Saying “no” to the President is widely considered a major snub, a political... READ ON
Image credit: NorthJersey.com
As General Muammar Qaddafi continues to evade the Libyan rebels who chased him out of Tripoli last week, there has been some tongue-in-cheek speculation about the possibility of him fleeing all the way to his five-acre estate in—wait for it—Englewood, New Jersey.
Almost thirty years ago, in 1982, the Libyan government paid a million bucks for this three-story, 10,000 square foot, 25-bedroom mansion, which they inexplicably named “Thunder Rock,” on Palisade... READ ON
From Ashgabat to Atlanta, people all over the world subscribe to folk remedies and do-it-yourself cures for whatever it is that ails them. Here’s a short list of our favorites.
The Choo Choo... READ ON
Philip Levine, an American poet, was appointed this week to the poorly paid, less-than-powerful, yet somehow-still-lofty position of United States’ poet laureate, triggering a cacophony of questions from average American news consumers like me. These questions include the following: who’s this octogenarian dude in a t-shirt talking about the fine arts during primetime? And, what does a poet laureate do anyway? Here’s the quick and dirty.
Philip Levine, 83, doesn’t exactly fit the brooding,... READ ON
Kim Jong-Il, the villainous dictator of North Korea, has reportedly decreed that all waitresses working at prestigious restaurants must undergo eyelid surgery to make them appear more “Western.” We’ve come to expect such senseless edicts from a man who dresses like Dr. Evil, has a penchant for platform shoes, and starves his people for kicks. But what about other strange international plastic surgery trends?
While we couldn’t find another country—or restaurant chain, for that matter—that... READ ON
With the chaos in the streets of London this week, we've been reading up on other riots in history. One thing several had in common: in addition to wreaking general havoc, they've inspired hit singles, feature films and more.
1. The Zoot Suit... READ ON
An escaped peacock from New York’s Central Park Zoo found perching on Fifth Avenue window ledges drew attention—and international headlines—from news crews, bird watchers and well wishers last week.
The now-famous cerulean fowl, which eventually returned to the zoo on its own, got us thinking about a handful of other animals that have taken unexpected trips through the Big Apple’s urban wilderness over the years.
Photo credit: ANIMALNewYork
1. Wile E. Coyote’s Lesser-Known Second... READ ON
1. Bovine... READ ON
Next time you order a chai tea from your corner coffee shop, take a moment and appreciate your killer multilingual skills.... READ ON
Pack the jerky, a few friends, and maybe a few extra hundreds for those hefty gas prices. ‘Tis the season for summer road trips! In the spirit of all things cruise control, here are just a few of the world’s craziest roads to either try out or actively avoid for your next bus/car/bike/trike/motorcycle adventure. Happy trails!
1. North Yungas... READ ON
While the sensational fall of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is chronicled this week by media outlets everywhere, we thought we’d get to the bottom of a less sensational question: Why are gossipy newspapers called “tabloids”... READ ON
© Eddie Gerald / Demotix/Demotix/Corbis
Not to get all existential on you, but what does it mean to be a “real nation”? As it turns out, people have been trying to answer that question for the last 400 years.
In 1648, a bunch of super powerful men—the Holy Roman Emperor, the Habsburgs, King Louis XIV’s high-heeled diplomats, to name a few—got together and signed two treaties, which later became known as the Peace of Westphalia, creating an international system in which only sovereign... READ ON
On Saturday, South Sudan declared its independence, becoming the brand-spanking newest nation in the world. While peace and prosperity is still a good way off for this newborn, Texas-sized country—ethnic tensions are high, the economy is in shambles, and a half-dozen rebel groups have already vowed to take down the new government—the South Sudanese people have spent the weekend celebrating in the streets.
So with that, we thought we’d give you a list of eight wannabe countries that would, for... READ ON
With the media all in a tizzy this week over William and Kate’s 10-day jaunt through North America, let's take a look at the press carnivals that surrounded Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana’s first official visits to our royal-loving shores.
Falling in Love With Queen Elizabeth... READ ON
Greetings, earthling. People all over the world—from Albania to Zimbabwe, from Belarus to Vietnam—generally answer their phones using some variation on the standard “hello”: Hallo? Alo! Halo? A lô! Hola? Alio!
But as far as international salutations go, “hello” is a relative newcomer. It went global just in the last century or so, kit and caboodle with the spread of the telephone. It originally comes from either Old High German or French, according to the folks at the Oxford English... READ ON
1. The oldest documented bikinis—haute, bandeau-style little numbers—show up in a 1,700 year old Roman mosaic entitled Chamber of the Ten Maidens. A bevy of ancient, bikini-clad babes are depicted playing sports.
2. Earlier this year, Brooklyn-based designer Andrew Schneider invented the first solar powered bikini—the “iKini”—which produces enough electricity to power an iPod during a sunny day at the beach. Just remember to unplug it, the inventor says, before taking a dip.
3. The... READ ON
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court threw out a colossal class-action suit against Wal-Mart on behalf of about 1.5 million female workers, who claimed the retail behemoth had discriminated against them in both promotions and wages. The court didn’t say whether or not Wal-Mart had indeed discriminated against the ladies—only that the suit could not continue as a class-action suit.
The court’s decision has shined a spotlight on other large class-action cases, the future of anti-discrimination... READ ON
In Spring of 2010, Haley Sweetland Edwards took us on a tour of Yemen for the Spinning the Globe section of mental_floss magazine. Here's her explanation of the current situation, followed by an excerpt from last year's Yemen... READ ON