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Sorry, cheese lovers. Swiss cheese holes are disappearing. Even if you're not a turophile--yes, there's a word for cheese addiction--you probably still know Swiss cheese by its iconic holes. Those holes are shrinking because today's milk is too clean, thanks to the modernization of the cheese-making process. This news comes just as science finally figured out how the holes are formed. Most scientists thought the holes were caused by bacteria emitting carbon dioxide. But in fact, the famous marks are caused by tiny bits of hay being present in the milk. As the milk matures into cheese, the microscopic hay particles create the holes. But in the past 15 years, traditional milking methods have made way for a more industrial process. The old buckets of milk in the barn have been replaced by air-tight milking machines designed to keep out all foreign particles. So microscopic air-borne hay particles no longer can find their way into the milk; and neither can the holes. Of course, now that scientists have solved the mystery, they are are planning to recreate the holes by adding simulated hay dust to the milk. Gotta love "big agriculture."
Today's Lesson How to Make Mozzarella Cheese with Homestead Productions Sorry, cheese lovers. Swiss cheese holes are disappearing. Even if you're not a turophile--yes, there's a word for cheese addiction--you pro...
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Times Square is in trouble. Thanks to an arcane definition change in 2012, the intersection of 7th Avenue and Broadway is now defined as a highway. 2012 is when Congress passed a law designed to transform how the nation's roads are funded. As part of this act, they changed the definition of "highway" to include all "urban principal arterial routes." Which wouldn't be such a big deal except that the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 states billboards must be limited to 1200 square feet--to prevent distraction and preserve the beauty of our roads. Um, have these people been to Times Square lately? Energy-guzzling billboards take up virtually every square inch of Times Square, many of them ten stories high. While the billboards in Times Square are an accidental casualty of the new law, the federal government is now threatening to dock the state of New York 10% of its federal highway funds unless the billboards are made to comply with the Act. But city officials are putting up a big fight to keep the ads, as they bring in millions of dollars for the city each year. The biggest billboard in the square earns over $2.5 million per month! That’s the most expensive piece of outdoor ad real estate in the world, about to be taken down by an act of Congress? I don't think so. Somehow I have a feeling supply and demand will win out.
Today's Lesson The Basics of Flash Photography with Ken at EasyDSLR Times Square is in trouble. Thanks to an arcane definition change in 2012, the intersection of 7th Avenue and Broadway is now defined as a highw...
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I hope this doesn't come as a big surprise. Those claw games are rigged. The stuffed animal, toy or electronic gadget sitting at the bottom of the machine doesn't just seem impossible to win. It is virtually impossible; the odds are heavily stacked against you. It makes sense that the machines take precautions to make sure your fifty cents doesn't result in grabbing a $5 (or more) item every time. But how they do it is pretty clever. The machines can be programmed to control the strength of the claw and also how often it drops an item. In fact, the machine owner simply enters three variables: the price to charge the consumer, the average cost of the prizes, and the desired profit margin. For example, if the average prize is worth $7, it costs 50¢ to play, and the desired profit margin is 50%, then the claw will only function properly one out of 21 times. So it's basically like playing slots. In fact, starting in 1951 the machines were regulated the same as slot machines. But in the 1970's those regulations were relaxed, and now only the size of the prize is controlled (in most states it has to be under $10). But operators are free to rig the machine as much as they want. Only market forces keep them from making it impossible--apparently you need to let somebody win every once and a while so they will keep coming back. Ahh, capitalism! Click below for a great video explaining the details.
Today's Lesson How to Crochet an Owl with Crochet with Style I hope this doesn't come as a big surprise. Those claw games are rigged. The stuffed animal, toy or electronic gadget sitting at the bottom of the mach...
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Jet lag is a relatively new problem. Only since humans have been able to travel faster than clocks has it existed. And it can mess our bodies up: confusion, muscle pain, and stomach problems are medically recognized symptoms. Which, for frequent global travelers, can create real obstacles. Solutions are hard to come by--gradually adjusting bedtime, staying hydrated, and avoiding naps are only partial cures. So it's nice that a Finnish technology company is trying to solve the problem. They claim their newest gadget, the Human Charger, cures jet lag with an innovative solution. The device looks like an iPod with earbuds, but instead of emitting music, the ear pieces beam 12-minute doses of UV-free white light through your ears into your brain. The science behind the invention has to do with a protein in our brain called encephalopsin (OPN3). It is similar to photoreceptors found in our skin and eyes that detect light and then send signal to the brain. Except encephalopsin is already in the brain, and appears to detect transcranium light. As in light waves that travel through our skulls! Researchers first discovered this phenomenon of extra-retinal photoreceptors in mammals in the 1990's, and believe light detected in this fashion can affect our circadian rhythms. Which is what controls our feelings of sleepiness. Which brings us back to the light-emitting ear buds. Initial placebo-controlled tests of the Human Charger have shown it to work quite effectively. Priced at over $300 US, however, one reviewer called it "a very expensive flashlight for your ears." He was probably jet lagged when he wrote that. Random bonus fact: we humans also appear to have similar extra-retinal photoreceptors in the backs of our knees!
Lesson of the Day How to Make Balloon Airplanes with QT Entertainment Jet lag is a relatively new problem. Only since humans have been able to travel faster than clocks has it existed. And it can mess our bodies ...
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Over 10,000 people die each year from drunk drivers in the US alone. Not to mention the roughly $60 billion dollars in costs related to the accidents. Since 2008 the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been working on a technology it claims "could virtually eliminate drunk driving." Known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), the NHTSA's idea is getting close to reality. It's essentially a built-in breathalyzer that can analyze the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) passively, either through touch or breathing. If the driver's BAC is above 0.08, the legal limit in all 50 US states, the car simply won’t start. Engineers have had to deal with a variety of challenges in the past seven years of development. Like the fact that a driver's BAC may rise while they are driving--since BAC doesn't rise until about 20 minutes after a drink. Or that drivers could bypass the system--it supposedly has anti-tampering mechanisms, and can differentiate between passengers and drivers (so the passenger can't provide the breath). Or the fear that an otherwise-intoxicated driver may need to flee an assailant--they are also planning an emergency override system. Sounds complicated. Despite these challenges, the NHTSA believes it could be integrated into vehicles within the next five to eight years. But there still remains one formidable obstacle: the alcohol lobby, innocently named the American Beverage Institute. They claim it is unfair to "target" anybody except repeat drunk driving offenders. Interesting argument, American "Beverage" Institute! I'm guessing they are rooting for driverless cars instead, which would give everybody a permanent designated driver.
Today's Lesson How to Make Homemade Kahlua with How I Pinch A Penny Over 10,000 people die each year from drunk drivers in the US alone. Not to mention the roughly $60 billion dollars in costs related to the acci...
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The streak is alive! If you’re a sports fan or an athlete, you probably believe in "hot streaks." But scientists have pooh poohed this supposed phenomenon for many years. A hugely influential study done in 1985 with NBA and college basketball players concluded "hot streaks" were a myth. Scientists argued making one shot made no difference in the odds of making the next shot. So ever since that study, psychologists have chalked up athletes' belief in hot streaks as irrational--we have a natural tendency to see patterns in random data. But hold on! A new study released recently shows strong evidence in favor of the hot hand. Researchers looked at 29 years worth of data from the NBA three-point shooting contest. They found players who hit three or more shots in a row had a 6.3% higher chance of hitting the next one. A similar study showed that bowlers who completed a high-scoring game were more likely to roll strikes in the next game. The also found that the converse is true. Once someone performs poorly in a game like poker, they become progressively more likely to perform poorly again. I, for one, definitely believe in shooting streaks in my beloved game of basketball. And how else can you explain 766 Curios in a row?!
Today's Lesson The Blackjack Strategy Guide with Vegas Aces The streak is alive! If you’re a sports fan or an athlete, you probably believe in "hot streaks." But scientists have pooh poohed this supposed phenomen...
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Does silence make people relax? Possibly. But true silence would literally drive us crazy. The quietest place on earth is an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota. It’s so quiet that the longest anyone has been able to bear it is 45 minutes. It's so quiet the volume of the room is actually measured in negative decibels: -9.4 dBA. A typical quiet place, like a bedroom deep in the night, has an average noise level of about 30 decibels. Those low level decibels--caused by the rustling of sheets, the hum of a fan, and other white noise--are actually part of what we find soothing about silence. But since the world’s quietest room has a trampoline-like mesh floor, it has no sound reflecting off of it. Similarly, the walls are covered with meter-long pieces of soundproofing material protruding from the walls. This makes the chamber 99.9% sound absorbent, making it quiet to the point of disorientation. Many people cannot stand up in the room, and find it impossible to walk without audio queues from their feet and clothing. With no sounds from their surroundings, people in the room quickly shift their attention to the deafening sounds of their own bodies: hearts beating, stomachs gurgling and lungs expanding. The president of Orfield Laboratories challenges people to stay in the room as long as they can. He’s only lasted 30 minutes, and the record is 45 minutes. But the room isn’t just for torture purposes; it was created for companies to test the soundprint of their products, and for astronauts to adapt to the silence of space. Apple, Microsoft, and the U.S. military all have similar rooms. Check out a video simulation of the room below. Silence really can be deafening!
Today's Lesson DIY Custom In-Ear Headphone Molds with Kennis Russell Does silence make people relax? Possibly. But true silence would literally drive us crazy. The quietest place on earth is an anechoic chamber a...
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Nigel Richards is the best Scrabble player in the world. Only 48 years old, he has won three English World Scrabble Championships, five US Nationals, and six UK Opens--all with a per-game average of a stunning 450 points. But his career got even more impressive in July. That's when he won the French-language Scrabble World Championships. Except Richards doesn’t speak French. Actually, many great Scrabble players aren’t fluent in English, but rather think of the words as strings of letters. So the impressive part of Richards' victory isn't that he doesn’t speak French, but that he only decided to compete for the French title in May. That gave Richards only nine weeks to memorize the 400,000 words of the French Scrabble dictionary... in a language he didn't understand. Assuming no sleep, that was a new word every 14 seconds! So what's next for Richards? French was definitely harder than English, which has only 200,000 words. That leaves only three official Scrabble language with more words: Italian, Romanian, and Spanish. They all have over half a million words! Experts point out further complications because of point variations: Italian Scrabble has two valuable Zs instead of one, and in Romanian Scrabble there is no K, Q, W, or Y. Somehow, I think Richards should be able to handle it. Take that, Will Shortz!
Today's Lesson Formal Greetings with Learn French Now! Nigel Richards is the best Scrabble player in the world. Only 48 years old, he has won three English World Scrabble Championships, five US Nationals, and six...
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If you were raised in South Korea, you may believe electric fans are deadly. Known as paen samang or “fan death,” there is a widespread fear in South Korea that sleeping with an electric fan on in a closed room will kill you. So much so that most Korean fans are equipped with shut off timers. As recently as 2006, the Korea Consumer Protection Board (KCPB) warned that if the human body is exposed to electric fans for too long, it will case water loss, hypothermia and possible carbon dioxide saturation. Of course “fan death” is a myth, and many studies have been done to prove to Koreans that they won’t die. But somehow the belief persists. Korean historians disagree about how it became such a widely believed urban legend. Some speculate the belief started in the 1970s, as an effort by the South Korean government to curb energy use. But there is evidence of fan mania from as far back as 1927. Only a few years after the electric fan was invented, an article entitled "Strange Harm from Electric Fans" appeared in a national newspaper. It stated: "the rotating fan blades create a vacuum directly in front, and the intensity of the resulting air flow always results in an insufficient supply of oxygen to the lungs." I guess it's nice to know that the trend of base-less and source-less journalism isn't just a modern problem.
Lesson of the Day DIY Beaded Fan Earrings with JRPDesigns Beadwork If you were raised in South Korea, you may believe electric fans are deadly. Known as paen samang or “fan death,” there is a widespread fear in S...
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Great news, bacon lovers! The holy grail of vegetables has just been discovered. Researchers from Oregon State University have patented a new strain of red marine algae called dulse. It’s packed with vitamins and protein and grows extraordinarily quickly. But that's not the best part. That would be that, when cooked, it tastes just like bacon. Dulse naturally occurs along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It is harvested, dried, and sold as a nutritional supplement. But the OSU strain can be grown much faster, and farmed in tanks. This eliminates the risk of the seaweed being contaminated by ocean-borne toxins. The OSU researchers have actually grown dulse for 20 years, but they only realized last year it might have a special appeal for bacon-loving humans. The team hopes they have the next superfood on their hands; so they've partnered with the Food Innovation Center in Portland to develop foods with dulse as the main ingredient. So far the most promising are a rice cracker and a salad dressing. Several chefs in the Portland area are also serving dulse fresh on their menus. If it really tastes like bacon, the possibilities for pleasing my bacon-loving friends is almost endless. Chocolate-covered dulse. Dulse donuts. Dulse frappacinos. Or anything deep fried. But hold on. Since it's actually healthy, dulse won't qualify as a guilty pleasure. Which, I'm afraid, is the major reason bacon tastes SO GOOD. Just sayin'.
Today's Lesson Bacon & Green Onion Butter Recipe with Greedy Girl Cooks Great news, bacon lovers! The holy grail of vegetables has just been discovered. Researchers from Oregon State University have patented a ne...
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In case you are feeling too good about your accomplishments, meet Boyan Slat. He's a 20-year-young Dutchman who has decided to collect the world's ocean trash. Slat started a non profit, The Ocean Cleanup, that is attempting to be the first organization to deploy a passive ocean cleaner on a large scale. Ocean Cleanup's stated goal is to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also known as an ocean gyre). The Patch is an enormous collection of trash—estimated to contain hundreds of millions of pounds of mostly plastic--that has accumulated thanks to ocean currents. Now Ocean Cleanup wants to put those same currents to use cleaning up the mess. Existing ocean trash collection systems are active, meaning each piece of trash has to be picked up by a vessel or robot or human. Rather than actively pick up the garbage, Slat's system will use the ocean’s natural currents to steer the debris towards floating barriers that then collect and recycle the garbage. It will create a floating conveyor belt 7,900x faster and 30x cheaper than current methods. Plus, since it doesn't use nets or any pollution-belching vessels, it won't endanger marine life. Instead it is a series of barriers and passive receptacles that will reach over 60 miles in length when fully deployed. That would be the longest floating structure in the world and, according to Slat, should be able to pick up 25 tons of garbage per day. He hopes it will be able to remove half of the garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and then recycle all the collected plastic. Click below for a video segment on Slat and his bright idea.
Today's Lesson Tips for Clearing Clutter with Know It All With Arloa In case you are feeling too good about your accomplishments, meet Boyan Slat. He's a 20-year-young Dutchman who has decided to collect the worl...
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On July 26th, French cyclist Sebastien Chavenel crossed the finish line of the 2015 Tour de France to the roar of the crowd. But he didn't win the race. That honor belonged to Englishman Chris Froome, who'd won over four hours earlier. Instead Chavenel won another of the highest honors at the Tour de France, because he finished dead last. Known as the lanterne rouge, the nickname is given to the last finisher of the race and refers to the red lanterns that used to be hung on the cabooses of French trains. Traditionally, the lanterne rouge has to work a lot harder than the winner, because he isn't supported by a team of riders. And it's a badge of honor because it means he didn't quit, unlike dozens of others who withdraw well before the finish line every year. Historically, the lanterne rouge was a big deal because riders did not make much money from the race itself. Instead, the top finishers went on a profitable victory tour around Europe, riding in short races called criteria. The lanterne rouge was invited on that tour, meaning finishing last was much more valuable than finishing second to last, 100th, or even 10th. Stories abound of the lengths riders went to finish last; including stopping at the pub, sabotaging their own bikes, or taking long naps in the middle of the race. In 1904 the lanterne rouge finished over 100 hours behind the winner, so late that his name didn't make the newspapers for several weeks! Starting last year, the Tour officially embraced the lanterne rouge, after years of dismissing the competition as illegitimate. It created a new jersey--gray with a stylish red lantern on it--for the rider currently in last place. And the Tour now pays an official award of 8,000 EU to the last rider to cross the line. That's the same prize as winning one of the race's 21 stages. Maybe I could be a Tour de France "winner" after all!
Today's Lesson How to Safely Ride a Bike in Traffic with Art's Cyclery On July 26th, French cyclist Sebastien Chavenel crossed the finish line of the 2015 Tour de France to the roar of the crowd. But he didn't wi...
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