Monday, November 29, 2010

National Library's Secret Chamber

Sometimes an article is so awesome that I must quote it.

National Library [in the Indian city of Kolkata] has always been reputed to haunted. Now, here is a really eerie secret. A mysterious room has been discovered in the 250-year-old building a room that no one knew about and no one can enter because it seems to have no opening of kind, not even trapdoors.

The chamber has lain untouched for over two centuries. Wonder what secrets it holds. The archaeologists who discovered it have no clue either, their theories range from a torture chamber, or a sealed tomb for an unfortunate soul or the most favoured of all a treasure room. Some say they wouldn't be surprised if both skeletons and jewels tumble out of the secret room.

Read the rest here!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Can a Food Be So Gross That It's CRUEL to Serve It?

American readers should be familiar with the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments."

When I think of the Eighth Amendment, I usually imagine torture techniques like drawing and quartering or being burnt at the stake. But there are some folks who believe there's a certain food that's so disgusting that feeding it to imprisoned criminals constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It's not a toxic or rotten food. It's healthy and wholesome. Just unbelievably disgusting.

It's called Nutraloaf. According to this fascinating article, it's often served to prisoners who misuse food or bodily waste.

Want the recipe? (I'm talking to you, Remy.) Well here it is! Bon Appetit!

(I'm pretty sure my mother used to make this.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Notice Anything Strange About This Subway Sign?

No? Click here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

You Could Be Famous, Too!

Meet Remy Mumby, ten-year-old star of the web series Food Oddities. The kid will eat anything. Dung beetles. Pickled pig lips. Scorpions. Anything. (Except pets. Gotta draw the line somewhere, I guess.)

But I have a little challenge for Remy. It's coming up in the very next post. (UPDATE: The post AFTER the next post.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Never Taking a Shower Again

Scientists at MIT have developed a camera that can shoot pictures around corners. (Shown above.) According to Professor Ramesh Raskar, "It's like having x-ray vision without the x-rays. But we're going around the problem rather than going through it."

In honor of this great scientific development, I shall remain fully clothed for the rest of my life.

More here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Little Red Riding Hood

Slagsmålsklubben - Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

The music kinda drives me nuts, but otherwise this is pretty darn cool.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Even Kiki Strike needs heroes. Meet Mamika. She's 91 years old. She survived WWII (and saved 10 people from the Nazis), communism, and the 1980s.

Now she fights the forces of evil with her grandson, French photographer Sacha Goldberger.

Find out more about Mamika (and see more photos) here!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Someday I'll Write About . . .

Fredericka "Marm" Mandelbaum
. One of the most notorious criminals in 19th century New York was a portly Prussian woman. She worked out of a store at 79 Clinton St. in Manhattan (the building still exists today). Marm made a living fencing stolen goods. She also planned and financed some of the most impressive capers in New York history. But Marm was no "common" criminal. She threw swanky dinner parties for the city's finest citizens. And she was said to be a stickler for good manners.

But what interests me most about good old Marm is the school she started. The Grand Street School was Manhattan's elite academy for young criminals. There were classes in pocket-picking, safe-cracking, blackmail, and confidence games. Children under the age of ten were welcome to apply and those who graduated at the top of their class were hired by Marm herself. Hmmm. Sounds like a Dickens novel, doesn't it?

Here's Marm's obituary from the New York Times. She led an interesting life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Amp Up Your Test Scores

A while back, I came across an article that listed a few study habits that are guaranteed to help a student improve her grades. For instance . . .

Don't study in the same place all the time. Get up and move around. It will help you absorb more information.

Don't focus on a single subject each time you sit down to study. Try to switch between a few related subjects. (Like math and physics. Or vocabulary and literature.)

A few short study sessions scheduled over the course of a week will help you learn much more than a single super-long study session.

Zapping your brain with electric current will work wonders on your math skills.

(Oh right. I found that last fact here. Do I need to say don't try it at home?)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Check the Band for Inscriptions!

More here. (Why do all the pictures available of this ring have someone's eye in the background?)

Let the Debate Begin!

According to a recent study conducted in Britain, children without brothers or sisters tend to be happier children. In fact, the more siblings a kid has, the more miserable he/she is.

Does this sound right to you? There were plenty of times in my youth when I wished I was an only child. But I was still pretty darn happy. And these days, I couldn't be more thrilled that I have a brother and sister. But who knows? Maybe I would have been SUPER happy if I had been the only kid in the family.

So what do you think? Does having siblings make a kid HAPPIER or MISERABLE?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guerilla Gardening

(Photos: Daniel Phillips)

Someday soon, you might just stumble upon one of the unusual vending machines shown above. But I wouldn't recommend chewing on the contents. Instead of gumballs, these machines dispense seed bombs. Pop in a quarter, and you'll receive a ball made of of clay, compost, and seeds. Toss it into any crack, crevice, or abandoned lot, and soon tiny plants will begin to sprout. Each seed bomb is guaranteed to make the world a little bit greener.

Interested? You can find vending machine sites here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Claudia!

Remember: You're never too old to be dangerous!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Visit a Secret Subway Stop!

The City Hall subway station has been closed for 65 years. And for 65 years, New Yorkers have broken every rule trying to get a glimpse of one of the city's lost treasures. Why? Because City Hall may be the most beautiful subway station in Manhattan, with arched ceilings, chandeliers, and fabulous skylights.

Until recently, one of the only ways to see the station (aside from infrequent tours) was to sneak onto a downtown #6 subway at the last stop on the line (Brooklyn Bridge). The #6 trains use the City Hall stop to turn back uptown, but passengers haven't been allowed to go along for the ride.

But now they've decided to stop kicking people off the trains! Just stay on the downtown #6 after the last official stop, and you can ride through City Hall station without getting in trouble. And no one wants to get in trouble. Right?

(Thanks Nathaniel and Paige!)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Test Your Detective Skills

Can you spot a fake smile? Most people can't. There's a great test on the BBC website that will let you see if you've got what it takes. For the record, I scored 17 out of 20. Yeah, I'm bragging. See if you can beat me. Click here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Wondering how to improve your SAT scores? One New York high school student recently uncovered a few helpful tricks. So what does this say about SAT scores? Hmmmm.

The Strangest Beach in the World

See the beautiful little beach in the photo above? It's nowhere near the shore. Gulpiyuri Beach is completely inland. Yet it has sand, waves, even seaweed.

How is this possible? Read more here.

The Greatest Job in the World

(Above: A New York City street in 1893.)

Robin Nagle has my dream job. She's an anthropologist who works with the New York City Department of Sanitation. What does that mean? It means she gets to study the relationship between people and their trash.

I've long been fascinated by sewers, garbage collection, plumbing, and all of the things that make modern life relatively sanitary. It wasn't long ago that the world was a filthy, disgusting place. And New York City may have been one of the nastiest cities on earth.

Here's Ms. Nagle describing the average New York City neighborhood in the late 19th century:

Imagine, on your own block, that you can’t cross the street, even at the corner, without paying a street kid with a broom to clear a path for you, because the streets were layered in this sludge of manure, rotting vegetables, ash, broken up furniture, debris of all kind. It was called “corporation pudding” after the city government. And it was deep -- in some cases knee-deep.

Wow. The rest of Ms. Nagle's interview with onearth can be found here!