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4 Ways to Become a Diabolical Genius from the Comfort of Your Home

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If your name is Angus MacGyver, all you need to lay waste to life's obstacles—from hotwiring a moped to breaking out of a heavily guarded Soviet prison—is a tube sock, a jar of mayonnaise, and a roll of duct tape. If you're anyone else, you'll probably need this guide. But don't push your luck. Being a diabolical genius is not for the faint of heart. So unless you're willing to be maimed, arraigned, and shipped off to Gitmo, we suggest you don't try this at home.

1. Pick your teeth, pick a lock

If you consistently find yourself locked out of your house, and you're fanatical about dental hygiene, today is your lucky day. Meet the Oral-B Hummingbird. It flosses, it gyrates, it messages your gums. But most importantly, it can easily be converted into a remarkably effective, motorized lock-pick. With minimal effort, and a few dollars worth of supplies, a converted Hummingbird will pick just about any padlock in seconds.

First, you'll need to dissect the Hummingbird. Break open the casing and swap out the AAA battery for a beefy 9-volt by melting a small hole in the bottom of battery shell. Next, lace the wires to the battery terminals, cut the tip off of your store-bought lock pick, and superglue it to the Hummingbird. Easy as pie.

So next time your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, don't get a second opinion, just break into the office at night and swap out your dental records. Not only will you avoid painful, costly oral surgery, but after the medical malpractice lawsuit, you can just let your teeth rot and buy some shiny new dentures.

[Learn more at InventGeek.com]

2. Make free phone calls

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Tired of paying for long distance? No worries. Just buy a box of Cap'n Crunch.

Believe it or not, in the early 1970s, that would have been an acceptable answer. That's because, beginning in the mid-60s, Cap'n Crunch cereal came with a small plastic whistle that was easily modified to emit a tone at 2600 hertz—the exact frequency used by AT&T to indicate an available trunk line to route a new long distance phone call.

John Draper, a Vietnam War veteran, and lifetime "phreaker", discovered the secret of the toy whistle with longtime friend Joe Engressia in 1971. Phreaking—a portmanteau of the words "phone" and "freak"—was a relatively new field at the time, and Draper and Engressia were on the cutting edge. By blowing the whistle, Draper, who later came to be known in phreaking circles by the pseudonyms Captain Crunch and Crunchman, was able disconnect one end of the trunk, allowing the end that was still connected to enter operator mode, thus circumventing the automated billing system. Through further experimentation, Draper was able to build a blue box, a small electronic device capable of reproducing many other tones used by the phone company.

Before long, Draper became a household name. In 1971 an article in Esquire, "The Secrets of the Little Blue Box," detailed his phreaking exploits. The article also brought him to the attention of Steve Wozniak, who, along with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, did a little phreaking of their own under Draper's tutelage.

But all good things must come to an end. In 1972 Draper was arrested on toll fraud charges and sentenced to five years probation. Which just goes to show, if you play with little plastic whistles, eventually, you're gonna get burned.

[Learn more at JetCityOrange.com]

3. Blow up your kitchen

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If you're an aspiring chemist (or current pyromaniac) this one's for you. One would assume creating a volatile, highly flammable gas would, at very least, require a fully stocked laboratory and a PhD. In fact, it requires a bottle of Drano, some aluminum foil, and a glass bottle.

First, take a sheet of aluminum foil and stuff it into the bottom of a bottle. If you're really particular about your diabolical experiments, tear the aluminum foil into small pieces instead of crumpling it. This creates more surface area, which speeds up the reaction. Simply pour the Drano over the chards of foil, and voila, hydrogen gas will begin to form.

The chemical reaction at hand is actually quite simple. Drano acts as a reducing agent. It's primarily sodium hydroxide. Aluminum is the oxidizing agent. The protective aluminum oxide coating on the foil is dissolved by the sodium hydroxide forming a complex ion:

Al2O3 + 2NaOH + 3H2O "¡ 2Na+ + 2 [Al(OH)4]-

The exposed aluminum surface then reacts with water to form hydrogen:

2 Al + 6 H2O "¡ 2 Al(OH)3 + 3H2

You can capture the gas by sliding a balloon over the mouth of the bottle—think of it like a poor man's Hindenburg. Just remember, an enormous amount of heat is generated during the reaction, so you'll want to have a container of cool water on hand to neutralize the temperature (and probably an ambulance, too, just to be safe.)

[Learn more at ScienceDemonstrations.com; Image courtesy of Governing.com]

4. Hallucinate

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If you're bent on hallucinating this holiday season, but you can't bring yourself to approach smelly Phish fans, look no further than your local garden supply store. For just a few dollars you can pick up a packet of morning glory seeds, and learn why the term "flower power" isn't exclusive to hippies and anti-war protesters.

The morning glory flower, true to its name, blooms early in the morning, and dies quietly when the sun goes down. It's known for its colorful funnel-shaped flowers, heart-shaped leaves, and its tiny black seeds, which, when ingested, elicit a mild hallucinogenic experience. Scientifically, this comes as no surprise. The active ingredient in the morning glory is d-lysergic acid amide, known commonly as LSA. It's a chemical cousin of d-lysergic acid diethylamide, Sgt. Pepper's favorite—LSD. Scientists estimate LSA is roughly 5 to 10 percent as potent as LSD, so you'll probably need to scarf down a solid handful.

Aztec priests have used morning glory seeds for millennia in religious ceremonies to communicate with the gods, predict the future, and alleviate fear amongst the soon-to-be-sacrificed. It's a veritable wonder drug! If you're worried about jail time, well, you should be. The chemical ergine (contained in many species of morning glory) is illegal to posses in its purist form; however, the seeds are readily available in many gardening stores. So now you know why Martha Stewart is terminally happy.

[Learn more at Elephantos.com]

Evan Schiller is an occasional contributor to mental_floss, and the sole proprietor of Conventional Stupidity. His last article featured crazy Facebook groups.

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Animals
7 Fun Facts for Elephant Appreciation Day
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Happy Elephant Appreciation Day! Celebrate the occasion with some facts about everyone's favorite gentle giant. 

1. ELEPHANTS CAN RECOGNIZE OTHER ELEPHANT CARCASSES.

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The University of Sussex's Karen McComb told National Geographic that elephants "become excited and agitated if they come across a dead elephant," and, in particular, will investigate skulls and tusks. McComb teamed up with researchers at the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya to study the behavior, showing wild elephants a range of objects that included skulls. They found that the elephants examined skulls—and tusks in particular—of their own kind twice as long as other skulls, and examined tusks six times as long as they did pieces of wood. They were even able to recognize elephant skulls with the tusks removed, but didn't show preference for certain elephant skulls over others, which suggests they didn't know which skulls belonged to their own relatives. "Animals that are intensely social in life may be most likely to display an interest in their dead," McComb told National Geographic. "But what goes on in their minds while they are doing this is a total mystery."

2. THEY'RE SCARED OF BEES.

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Forget about mice scaring off elephants: When farmers need to keep elephants away from their crops, they should use bees. Researchers in Kenya discovered that even the recorded sound of buzzing bees was enough to make elephants retreat—and cause them to emit a low-frequency sound, inaudible to humans, that warns other elephants of the bees' presence.

"It's impossible to cover Africa in electric fences," Lucy King, author of the paper, told The Huffington Post. "The infrastructure doesn't exist in many places and it would restrict animals' movement." But something like a bee fence—hives strung on strong wires a certain distance apart that would move when elephants walked into them, disturbing the hives—"could be a better way to direct elephants away from farmers' crops," she said.

3. THEY MIGHT UNDERSTAND POINTING.

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Humans often use pointing as a way to nonverbally get a message across, though not many other animals grasp the concept. But according to a two-month study of 11 tame African elephants, these pachyderms might be able to: When presented with two identical buckets and pointed in the direction of the one containing food, elephants picked up on the cue fairly consistently: Elephants had a success rate of 67.5 percent (1-year-old humans have a success rate of 72.7 percent). But an earlier study of Asian elephants indicated that they don’t notice pointing gestures, which is a bit of a mystery.

4. ONE ELEPHANT CAN "TALK." 

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Koshik, an elephant in a South Korean zoo, developed the ability to imitate the sounds of five words he's heard from his trainer—annyeong (hello), anja (sit down), aniya (no), nuwo (lie down), and joa (good)—by sticking his trunk in his mouth. The scientists who first noticed Koshik’s ability speculate that he learned to “talk” because he was lonely.

5. THEY'RE DIGITIGRADES.

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It's Latin for "finger walking," and what it means is that elephants walk on their toes (there are five of them, as well a sixth false toe). According to the book Mammal Anatomy: An Illustrated Guidemost of the animals' weight "rests on a broad pad of elastic tissue behind the toes" which "acts as a shock absorber and prevents the skeleton from jolting too much when the animals walk. It also allows elephants to move surprisingly quietly despite their size."

6. AN ELEPHANT PREGNANCY LASTS ABOUT TWO YEARS.

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If you thought being pregnant for nine months was a long time, be glad you're not an elephant, which can be pregnant for up to 680 days, according to the BBC. All that time in the oven has a benefit, though: Elephant calves are born with highly-developed brains, capable of learning their herd's complex social structures and ready to put their trunks to use.

7. NINETY-SIX ELEPHANTS ARE KILLED IN AFRICA EVERY DAY.

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Unfortunately, elephant poaching remains a very big problem: An estimated 35,000 elephants are killed annually, their tusks sold illegally in the ivory market. Do the math, and that comes out to nearly 96 elephants every day. Find out what you can do to help elephants and stop poaching at 96Elephants.org.

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Animals
The Real Story Behind Frida, The Rescue Dog in Mexico Gaining Viral Fame

On Tuesday, September 19, a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the center of Mexico. Three days later, rescue workers are still searching for survivors, and among the humans digging through the rubble is a four-legged helper named Frida.

Frida the rescue dog, named after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, has offered a ray of positivity to people around the world following the devastating news that’s come out of Mexico this week. As a starring member of the Mexican Navy’s Canine Unit, it’s her job to sniff out people trapped by natural disasters, all while wearing goggles, booties, and a harness to keep her safe from debris. The 7-year-old lab has detected 52 people throughout her career, 12 of whom were found alive and successfully rescued, according the Los Angeles Times.

Since the Mexican Navy shared a collage of the rescue dog last week on Twitter, Frida has been declared a hero by the internet. She’s been featured on numerous websites and was the subject of one tweet that has received more than 50,000 likes. But while Frida is doing important, life-saving work that’s every bit worthy of praise, some of the information surrounding her is inaccurate.

Several outlets have misreported that the rescue dog has saved 52 lives following Mexico's earthquake, while in reality 52 is the total number of people she has located, dead or alive.

Fortunately the viral confusion doesn’t make her story any less inspiring. Frida is an invaluable member of her team, often crawling into spaces that humans can’t reach. Like the rest of the rescue workers responding to this week’s earthquake, Frida is a hero to the victims and their loved ones.

For a closer look at how she’s able to pull off such incredible work, check her out in the canine training video below.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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