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17 Web Toys for Your Procrastination Pleasure

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Sometimes you need to take a break from work and just veg out by doing something mindless and pleasant. TV or a game of solitaire is good for that, but both require a set time commitment. There are hundreds of alternatives on the internet in the form of web toys. These are sites that offer strange visuals, often interactive visuals, that require no real mental effort but might bring a smile to your face for a while.

1. Spider

Vector Park has some great toys and games, some of which are harder to figure out than others. Spider turns your cursor into a tiny spider, with which you can lead a fantasy animal around by his curiosity. 

2. Starfield

Ooh, cosmic! Starfield is just what it says on the tin. Pretend you are flying at warp speed through the galactic regions of the universe. Or something like that. Click your mouse button for extra effects. Take a turn and hold on!

3. Staggering Beauty

Staggering Beauty is a web page that comes with an epilepsy warning. The toy resembles the blown-air figures you see at used car lots to draw attention. But shake him vigorously and the page suddenly goes psychedelic!

4. Silk

Silk is an interactive drawing program (with music) in which you weave patterns of silky wisps of smoke across the screen to create horizontally-mirrored art. Whatever I draw, it ends up looking like a skull. Open the controls on the left to change color.

5. Many Lines

Sometimes you'd like to draw with many lines at the same time. That's what Many Lines is about. You have the options to turn off the colors and turn down the number of lines. Your "flair" depends on the speed of your cursor.

6. This is Sand

 

Have you ever made colored sand sculptures in a glass jar? You can do it online with no mess with This is Sand. Click and hold to drop sand, and press "c" to change colors. I didn't take the time to make anything particularly creative, but you might.

7. RGB

RGB is pretty simple. Just touch the letters. They will tell you what they are. A lovely way to annoy other people around you.

8. Cat Bounce

Cat Bounce shows you bouncing cats. If your cats stop bouncing, you can pick them up and drop them again. No cats were harmed in the making of this web toy.

9. Koalas to the Max

Koalas to the Max is a classic that you may have played before. All you need to do is mouseover, but you may have to reserve a bit of time because it's so hard to stop! If you are extremely busy and a bit compulsive, you might want to save this one for later. Here are some similar pictures, and instructions for making your own.

10. Chicken on a Raft

Chicken on a Raft is a classic that doesn't do anything but test your patience. Another page that's perfect for annoying your co-workers.

11. Touch Effects

Touch Effects is a cosmic drawing toy in which you can adjust the parameters for your own enjoyment. Turn the tethers off and on for a totally different experience.

12. Proyecto

I'm not even sure if Proyecto is the true name of this page. It's full of creepy crawlies that keep following you around. You can try to outrun them or outwit them, but they keep coming anyway.

13. Falling Dominos

Falling Dominos is an ad for Coca-Cola, but it's nice to watch at least once.

14. LOLZ

LOLZ from Drawball is a face that changes depending on what you do. Take a little time to experiment with your mouse. I just like to make his eyes roll around all googly.

15. Bring in the Cats!

Bring in the Cats! features of course, cats. They have to load first, but it's worth the wait. May be an epilepsy trigger at times. I bet you leave this on longer than you should.

16. Winning Solitaire

Winning Solitaire is a cheat sheet for getting the payoff in online solitaire without actually having to win. Just click, and click, and click and hope someone catches you celebrating your "win." It's from Mr. Doob, who has many other things you can play with, such as pixelated paper, balls, and fire

17. Voxels

Voxels, another toy from Mr. Doob, invites you to build with blocks. This one can be as artful or as aimless as you want it to be. Click on the grid to add blocks; click anywhere else to change your point of view.  
 

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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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13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
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On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

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New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

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The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

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Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

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Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

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Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

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