Quantifying Despair and Depression / Keep swimming

July 21st, 2017 General Interest

You may feel more happy or more depressed from one day to the next, but how might one go about measuring a person’s level of despair or depression? Several clinical tools attempt to address this tricky question.

The Equation of Time / When what you mean is not apparent

July 19th, 2017 General Interest, History

Everyone knows that a day has 24 hours, but if you base your measurement on the position of the sun, that figure could vary by as much as 16 minutes over a year. The equation of time compensates for this irregularity.

Scruples and Stones / A pebble for your thoughts

July 17th, 2017 General Interest

The words scruple and stone can both refer to units of measurement, and their metaphorical meanings intersect with those concrete meanings in interesting ways.

Decimal Time / Solutions for people who need 100 hours in a day

July 14th, 2017 General Interest, History

The division of days into 24 hours and hours into 60 minutes is arbitrary and makes calculation awkward. Why not use a system based on units of 10 and 100? Some people have tried, with lackluster results.

Furlongs Per Fortnight / Mix-and-match units

July 12th, 2017 General Interest

Engineers with a sense of humor use the expression “furlongs per fortnight” when the correct unit of measurement is unclear. But there may be a practical use for this odd unit of measurement, too.

Body-Based Units of Measurement / Size matters in more ways than one

July 10th, 2017 General Interest, History

Many units of measurement (both historical and modern) derive from the typical size of body parts such as hands, feet, and arms.

Measuring the Speed of Light / Fun with mirrors and math

July 7th, 2017 General Interest

In the mid-1800s, long before lasers, digital computers, or atomic clocks, a French scientist devised a brilliant method for measuring the speed of light using rotating mirrors, some clever geometry, and a bit of math.

Arcosanti / Building a rural city

July 5th, 2017 General Interest

Architect and artist Paolo Soleri has been building a city called Arcosanti in the Arizona desert as an experiment in urban living. With only a tiny fraction built after more than 30 years, the experimental results in some ways speak for themselves.

Missile Silo Homes / Hole is where the heart is

July 3rd, 2017 General Interest

All over the United States, enterprising (or paranoid) individuals are turning abandoned missile silos into underground homes. Quiet, safe, and well-insulated, what’s not to like?

The Hearst Estate at San Simeon / Xanadu in California

June 30th, 2017 General Interest

William Hearst built a magnificent estate, sometimes called Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, California. Now a tourist attraction, it gives a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous.

Herrenchiemsee Castle / King Ludwig II’s island retreat

June 28th, 2017 General Interest, History

Yet another of the ambitious (and never-finished) castles built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria is on and island in the Chiemsee lake in Germany. More lavish than Neuschwanstein, it features a dining room with a table that descends into the kitchen below.

Winchester Mystery House / The building project of a lifetime

June 26th, 2017 General Interest

Something drove Sarah Winchester to keep adding to and remodeling a large house in San Jose, California, keeping it continuously under construction for 38 years. The result is mysterious indeed.

Neuschwanstein Castle / King Ludwig II’s tribute to Wagner

June 23rd, 2017 General Interest, History

Of the several castles built by the eccentric king Ludwig II of Bavaria, none is more recognizable than Neuschwanstein, which inspired Cinderella’s Castle at the Disney theme parks.

One-Log House / Northern California’s famous redwood attraction

June 21st, 2017 General Interest

Highway 101 in northern California features many wacky roadside attractions, including a house carved out of a single, huge redwood log. But it’s famous mostly just for claiming to be famous.

Fasting / There’s more to not eating than you think

June 19th, 2017 General Interest

Voluntarily going without food, for a few days or a few weeks, can have surprising effects (beyond the sensation of hunger). Under the right circumstances, it can be good for your mental and physical health.

Benedictine Oblates / Becoming a modern monk

June 16th, 2017 General Interest

Some monastic communities, including the Benedictines, also have lay members called oblates, who live in the world as ordinary citizens but still dedicate themselves to the contemplative life of a monk.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan / The meditative martial art

June 14th, 2017 General Interest

Is it a gentle exercise program for senior citizens, the ultimate martial art, or both? Unlike karate or judo, t’ai chi is an internal martial art that emphasizes the movement of energy within the body.

The Charles Atlas Dynamic-Tension Fitness Course / Isometric blast from the past

June 12th, 2017 General Interest

Do bullies kick sand in your face at the beach and ridicule you because you’re skinny? It’s not too late to sign up for Charles Atlas’s no-equipment-required body-building course from the 1930s and get the physique you always wanted.

Rise of the Bagel / The hole truth

June 9th, 2017 General Interest, History

There’s more to a bagel than a piece of dough with a hole in the center. Bagel connoisseurs know the history of this food and the best way to bake (or buy) and eat bagels.

The Story of Phineas Gage / Brain damage and personality

June 7th, 2017 General Interest, History

An accidental explosion in 1848 drove a 3-foot iron rod through the brain of railroad worker Phineas Gage. Miraculously, he survived, and the personality changes he underwent provided important information about how the brain works.