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.

Muffin Tops / Bottomless enjoyment

June 5th, 2017 General Interest

What makes muffin tops so much better than the stumps? And more importantly, if you know you’re only going to want the top anyway, how can you bake muffin tops without the bottoms? Modern kitchen technology comes to the rescue.

Mantle Convection / Currents under the earth’s crust

June 2nd, 2017 General Interest

The mantle, the layer of rock beneath the crust of the earth, is under such pressure that it behaves almost like a liquid. And, like liquid, it’s subject to convection currents that keep it slowly in motion.

The Discovery of Radium / Marie Curie’s miracle cure

May 31st, 2017 General Interest, History

The miracle element that can both cure and cause cancer was once used in toothpaste and face creams. It may also have contributed to the death of its discoverer, Nobel prize winner Marie Curie.

Crème Brûlée / Why every kitchen needs a blowtorch

May 29th, 2017 General Interest

Take a simple pudding-like dessert, sprinkle some sugar on top, and grab the nearest blowtorch to caramelize it. The custard with the crispy crust you’ve just created is a crème brûlée.

Starlite / The mystery miracle heatproof plastic

May 26th, 2017 General Interest

A seemingly miraculous plastic invented in the late 1980s appears to be completely fireproof and a nearly perfect insulator, able to withstand 10,000°C without breaking a sweat. So why is it still not for sale?

Pie Funnels / A piecrust’s best friend

May 24th, 2017 General Interest

A pie funnel won’t help you to pour your pie into a bottle. This small ceramic doohickey helps to vent steam while your pie bakes, keeping the crust intact and preventing the filling from boiling over.

Complaints Choirs / Setting the world’s problems to music

May 22nd, 2017 General Interest

Around the world, choral ensembles have formed for the express purpose of singing litanies of complaints. The result is surprisingly satisfying to listen to.

Snow Crusts / A few words about the surface of snow

May 19th, 2017 General Interest

Are there really dozens of Eskimo words for snow? Maybe or maybe not, depending on how you look at it. But there are definitely at least eight English terms for “snow crust.”

A Perfect Baguette / Daily bread as it was intended to be

May 17th, 2017 General Interest

The best place to buy a fresh, perfectly made baguette is Paris. And of the many fine bakeries in Paris, one with a particularly fine reputation is La Flûte Gana.

Helioseismology / Listening to the inside of the Sun

May 15th, 2017 General Interest

By using a technique somewhat reminiscent of a sonogram, astronomers can study not only the currents of plasma on the surface of the sun, but its interior structure as well.

Eye-to-Eye Video / Solving the eye contact problem

May 12th, 2017 General Interest

Most videoconferencing designs, which put the camera above or to the side of the screen, prevent you from making eye contact with the other participants. Research is underway to give participants true eye-to-eye communication.