10 Magnificent European Museums

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We previously looked at beautiful libraries from across the globe, but if you’re looking to expand your travels to educational locales with beautiful architecture, you may also consider traveling to these lovely museums, starting with those in Europe.

It’s important to note that not only is this not an exhaustive list, but these museums were not selected based on their contents. There are plenty of mediocre-looking museums with fantastic collections, just as there are stunning museums with mediocre collections.

1. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry, is one of the most world-renowned contemporary museum buildings in the world. In fact, Architect Philip Johnson boldly described it as "the greatest building of our time."

The 256,000 square foot museum is still pretty new—it opened in 1997—but it's already well-respected thanks to its impressive permanent collection—featuring works by Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, and more—and attracts fantastic traveling exhibits courtesy of its namesake, the famous Guggenheim Foundation. In fact, when it was opened, the museum had more space than the New York and Venice Guggenheim museums combined.

2. Louvre, France

It should come as no surprise that the most popular museum in the world is also one of the most beautiful. The Louvre also happens to be one of the world’s largest, stretching over 650,000 square feet. The grounds themselves have held an important place in French history since the late 12th century, when Philip II built a fortress on the site. After that time, the building continued to evolve into a grand palace that held the royal family (until Sun King Louis XIV decided to move his home to the Palace of Versailles in 1682). After that time, the building served as a place to display the royal collection, including a massive collection of Greek and Roman sculpture, along with the museum’s most famous item, the Mona Lisa.

During the French Revolution, the National Assembly declared the building should be used as a museum. When Louis XVI was imprisoned in 1792, the royal collection in the Louvre was deemed public property and the museum officially opened the next year. The collection has continued to increase throughout the years, and these days, the Louvre houses almost 380,000 objects dating from prehistory to modern times. The classic building's iconic modern element—the controversial glass pyramid, designed by American architect Ieoh Ming Pei—was finished in 1989 and serves as the entrance to the museum.

3. The Musee d’Orsay, France

While the Musee d’Orsay only opened in 1986, the impressive building that hosts the museum was completed back in 1900, when it was a train station. After being decommissioned, it was eventually scheduled to be demolished, but the country’s Minister for Cultural Affairs vetoed a plan to build a new hotel in its spot. By 1978, the building was declared a historical monument, and plans were developed to turn the space into a museum that would bridge the gap between the older artwork shown at the Louvre and the newer works displayed at the National Museum of Modern Art.

These days, the museum features a variety of French artwork dating from the mid-1800s to pre-WWI. It's the third most popular museum in France and the tenth most popular in the world—not bad for a train station that was nearly demolished.

4. The Museum of Natural History and The Museum of Art History of Vienna, Austria

These twin buildings were constructed across a large square from one another, both opening to the public in 1889. The museums were commissioned by the Emperor in order to offer a suitable shelter for the impressive art collection of the royal Habsburg family. The rectangular buildings are each topped with a nearly 200-foot tall dome. Inside, the museums are adorned with marble, gold leaf, paintings and stucco ornamentations.

While both museums are impressive, and the artwork at the Museum of Art History is world class, the Museum of Natural History remains one of the most important of such museums and houses around 30 million artifacts—part of a collection that began over 250 years ago. The museum has so many specimens that it even has a staff of 60 full-time scientists.

5. British Museum, England

The creation of the British Museum can largely be attributed to one man: physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane, who gathered an impressive collection of around 71,000 antiquities, artifacts, and artworks during his lifetime. Not wanting to see his collection broken up after his death, he left it to King George II. In 1753, King George and Parliament created the British Museum with the collection from Sloane and two library collections, including one assembled by Sir Robert Cotton that dated back to Elizabethan times, and the Royal Library.

The museum originally opened in Montagu House, a previous manor of a wealthy family, in 1759, but by the 1800s, the building had become dilapidated and the museum needed more space. The Montagu House was demolished and a new Greek Revival structure, designed by Sir Robert Smirke, was built in its place. The new building was officially opened to the public in 1857, but additions, such as the famous Round Reading Room, continued to be added over the next century. When the book collections were moved to the British Library in 1998, the vacant space in the court was redeveloped into the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, which is now the largest covered square in Europe.

While the museum no longer holds books or natural history items, the collection continues to grow, now numbering around 13 million works documenting the story of human culture from prehistoric times to today, although only 1 percent of the collection is on display at any given time. These days, it is the most visited museum in England and the third most visited museum in the world.

6. The Vatican Museum, Vatican City

The Roman Catholic Church has collected quite an array of art and antiquities throughout the centuries, so it should be no surprise that they have a pretty impressive museum collection. The museum is now over 500 years old; it officially opened to the public when Pope Julius II put a sculpture of Laocoon and his Sons on display in 1506.

Since then, the Vatican has had building after building added to house their impressive collection. The two most famous works in the collection are the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo and the Stanze della Segnatura by Raphael. Aside from the world-famous artwork, the museum also houses many important Etruscan and Egyptian artifacts uncovered in archeological excavations sponsored by the Vatican.

7. The State Hermitage Museum, Russia

Catherine the Great founded this massive Saint Petersburg museum in 1764, with the opening of the Small Hermitage building. Since then, five other main structures have been added, along with parts of two other massive buildings. The Winter Palace is the most famous of the additional structures; it was once the main residence of Russian czars.

The collection of the museum includes over three million items and makes up the largest collection of paintings in the world, ranging from Raphael and Rembrandt to Matisse and Picasso. Today, the museum is the most popular in Russia and the thirteenth most visited art museum in the world.

8. State Historical Museum, Russia

Chances are you’ve seen pictures of the State Historical Museum—it stands just outside of the world famous Red Square in Moscow. The stunning neo-Russian building was completed in 1881 to document the history of Russia dating from prehistoric tribes to modern times. When the building was first completed, it was adorned in the Russian Revival style by artists such as Viktor Vasnetsove, Henrik Semiradsky, and Ivan Aivazvosky, but during the Soviet period of rule, the murals were determined to be too gaudy and were plastered over. Fortunately, the amazing paintings were artfully restored after the fall of the USSR.

The museum is home to over four million artifacts, most notably a longboat excavated from the Volga River, gold artifacts of the Scythians and scrolls of Novgorod.

9. Rijksmuseum, Netherlands

This Netherlands landmark was originally founded in The Hague in 1800, but soon moved to Amsterdam in 1808. The current building featuring both gothic and renaissance elements was designed by Pierre Cuypers and opened to the public in 1885. Both the inside and outside were adorned with pieces by B. van Hove J.F. Vermeylen, G. Sturm and W.F. Dixon, all of which featured references to Dutch art history.

While many museums have had to change locations and expand over and over throughout the years, the main building of the Rijksmuseum still looks practically the same as it did in this image from 1895. Of course, other structures have been added to hold the collection of over one million objects, and the main building has had to go through a lot of renovations over the last decade, only recently reopening after a ten year restoration phase. At any given time, the museum has around 8000 items from their total collection on display, including world-famous works by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen.

10. Museum Island, Germany

To be fair, this island is actually home to five different museums—and it's so important to Berlin that it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.

The five museums located on the island are the Altes Museum (completed in 1830), the Neues Museum (destroyed in WWII and re-opened in 2009), the Alte Nationalgalerie (opened in 1876), The Bode Museum (completed in 1904), and The Pergamon Museum (constructed in 1930). The Altes Museum features Greek and Roman art as well as traveling exhibitions; the Neues Museum displays archaeological objects and ancient Egyptian and Etruscan sculptures, including the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti. The Alte Nationalgalerie features artwork from the 19th century, and the Bode Museum displays paintings from the Late Byzantine period to the 1800s. Lastly, the Pergamon includes reconstructions of historically significant buildings, including the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.

As I said, this list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add your favorite lovely museums in Europe. Plus, since we’re planning to cover beautiful museums from around the globe, go ahead and nominate lovely museums outside of Europe as well. Maybe you’ll see them on an upcoming list in the near future.

19 Every Day Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

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Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Science has enabled humans to complete some pretty incredible feats, like land on the moon, for example. But when it comes to common things like laughter or hiccups, scientists still can’t quite figure out the reason behind them. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we look at everyday things that are still a mystery.

1. It's still not understood why we cry.

A woman crying.
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Crying is still a scientific mystery. Physiologically, it’s clear what’s happening when someone cries. But, it has been more difficult to figure out the evolutionary reason for tears. We know that babies cry to communicate and get attention. So, some experts believe that adults might also cry for social reasons, like to bond or to warn others that something is amiss.

2. The reason we laugh is still unknown.

A woman talking on the phone laughing.
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Like crying, we also don’t know why people evolved the ability to laugh, but experts guess it has something to do with communication—and not just that we find something funny. One researcher found that only 20 percent of laughs he looked at were preceded by anything deemed in any way humorous.

It's possible we laugh to let other people know that we’re okay or to bond with each other. A study published in 2016 gave evidence for the latter. Researchers found that an outside observer could distinguish whether laughter was produced between a pair of strangers or a pair of friends.

3. Scientists haven't figured out why we blush.

A woman blushing at work.
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Blushing is often telling others things we don’t want them to know, like the fact that we’ve done something wrong or embarrassing. Some experts believe that we may have evolved blushing to show submission to group leaders. Others think it may have something to do with the fact that blushing people have been shown to be considered more likable, so it helps peers look past the bad things we’ve done.

4. It's still unclear why anesthesia makes us pass out.

Doctors putting a patient under anesthesia.
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General anesthesia has been in use in the United States since 1846, but there are still some uncertainties about why the chemicals in anesthetics cause people to pass out. A recent study showed that the drugs affect proteins in the brain and the reason we go unconscious has to do with altering neural activity, but more research is needed.

5. We aren't exactly sure what consciousness is.

A man looking out the window.
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Consciousness is frequently defined as how we feel present and alive in the world. But the question is: Why and how do we feel conscious? It’s of interest in both philosophy and science. Scientists would like to know which part of the brain is responsible for consciousness, but it’s still a mystery.

6. It's unclear exactly how medications like Tylenol work.

A woman taking a painkiller.
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We don’t 100 percent understand how pain relievers containing acetaminophen give us pain relief. We do know that acetaminophens aren’t totally consistent; they’re more effective in some types of cells than in others. So for now, scientists believe the drugs might be a specific type of enzyme inhibitor.

7. We aren't sure why we get hiccups or how to stop them.

A mother burping a baby.
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Scientists don’t know what causes hiccups, what purpose they serve, or how to cure them. A lot of people have favorite techniques, from gargling water to pulling hard on the tongue, but there’s no scientifically-proven way to get rid of them.

In 2002, one researcher tried to get to the bottom of the problem by looking at how 54 hospital patients had been treated for hiccups. They tried multiple treatments, like holding their breath and medication, but none were proven effective.

8. Scientists haven't figured out why tornadoes start.

A tornado in a field.
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We don’t know why only some thunderstorms create tornadoes and others don’t. Generally, it’s understood that tornadoes come to be when cold, dry air interacts with warm, humid air. But the thunderstorms that result from those air conditions only sometimes cause tornadoes.

9. Scientists also haven't figured out why tornadoes end.

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It’s also unclear why tornadoes die—though experts believe that at least sometimes it has to do with the tornado’s interaction with cold temperatures.

10. It's still uncertain why we need to sleep.

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There are theories as to why we need sleep, but no one knows for sure. It's possible our ancestors slept because it kept them out of danger during the night. Or it could be an energy conserving function. What we do know is that sleep helps us recover from the day, and there’s evidence it changes the connections in our brains.

11. The reason we dream is still unclear.

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Similarly, there are no clear answers as to why we dream. Some sleep experts think dreaming doesn’t have a purpose at all. Others have theories, like that we’re playing out threatening situations, like being chased, so that we’re better equipped to handle danger while awake.

12. We still aren't sure why we have the urge to scratch.

A man scratching an itch.
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We often understand why we itch. But, we don’t completely understand why we have the urge to scratch. The body has receptors just for itches that are almost identical to those that convey pain, and it’s thought that scratching might interfere with these signals. But at the same time, it might cause the skin to get more irritated, which causes even more itching.

13. Science still hasn't figured out the cure for aging.

An older person and a younger person.
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Scientists know some things about why we age, but no one has fully figured it out. There’s little evidence for popular hypotheses having to do with things like free radicals and telomeres. Aging is probably the result of a complex group of poorly understood processes, meaning a cure isn’t happening any time soon.

14. Ornithologists still don't know why only some birds migrate.

Birds flying in a v-shape.
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It’s also unclear why some birds migrate while others don’t. The ones that do migrate might do it to conserve energy, which might be kind of confusing, since they’re flying great distances and therefore expending a lot of energy to get to their destination. But it’s likely worth it since they’re probably traveling somewhere with abundant energy sources—a.k.a., plenty of available food. Luckily, thanks to technology like tracking devices, scientists are able to track birds more easily and are now learning much more about migration.

15. Scientists haven't figured out the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

A family sitting at a table.
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The question of nature versus nurture hasn’t been settled yet. Technically, we know that our genes interact with our environment to foster characteristics—but science isn’t sure to what extent. A complicating factor is that it varies by trait and individual person. How much your genes are influencing your IQ, for instance, may be different from someone else.

16. We still aren't sure why the placebo effect happens.

Dark pills with one white pill in a pile.
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The placebo effect is pretty mysterious. It has been proven again and again that sugar pills and other fake treatments can actually make someone feel better. And it’s not just a feeling as scans have shown that placebos affect the area of the brain associated with pain. We still don’t know why. It’s believed that placebos somehow help release endorphins, but experts need more information.

17. It's still unclear why bicycles are able to stay up on their own.

Bikes in a row.
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Have you ever given a bike with no one on it a push and noticed that it stays up on its own? It doesn’t fall over for much longer than you expect, and we don’t know how it manages to balance itself while moving.

18. How skates work on ice is still unknown.

A woman putting on ice skates.
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And another mystery of physics: How do skates work on ice? There is a popular theory. We know that ice has a very thin layer of liquid on it. So, a skate moving quickly on top of ice might make more liquid because the friction causes melting. The skate is actually changing the ice itself, creating a path on which to glide.

19. There still isn't a cure for the common cold.

A woman with a cold.
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We get colds from seven separate families of viruses and those families have sub-viruses. So, to cure the “cold,” there would need to be a cure that acts as a catch-all for about 200 sub-viruses.

6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

Nintendo
Nintendo

by Ryan Lambie

Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins. The 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system, and the franchise was catapulted into further fame when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch in March 2020. Here are a few things you may not know about the video game.

1. Animal Crossing’s inspiration came from an unlikely place.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. Animal Crossing was originally developed for the N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume this is where the series began—the game actually originally appeared on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and it was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. Translating Animal Crossing for an international audience was a difficult task.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, this version of the game included characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience proved to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing, they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. Slider is based on Animal Crossing’s composer.

K.K. Slider with his guitar
K.K. Slider appearing in promotional artwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
2020 Nintendo

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. One Animal Crossing character has been known to make players cry.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.” Iwata agreed, saying, “It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti was designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. Animal Crossing is still evolving.

A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises. Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and five main games (or six if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android—it was a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. And in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon was released on Switch, selling a whopping 1.88 million physical copies during its first three days on the market.

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