The Dvorak Keyboard Controversy / Chasing QWERTY

April 28th, 2017 General Interest

The QWERTY keyboard layout is weird and hard to learn. A competitor, the Dvorak layout, may be superior, but arguments on both sides are so full of hype and bias that it’s hard to determine who to believe.

Palais Idéal / The postman’s palace

April 26th, 2017 General Interest

For 33 years in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a postman in rural France worked to build an elaborate palace out of stones he collected during his daily rounds.

Planning Your Own Funeral / Having the last laugh first

April 24th, 2017 General Interest

Even if you’re not expecting to die any time soon, preparing your own funeral in advance can be a lot of fun. Plus, you can arrange to have your ashes sent to Atlantis, or outer space, or made into jewelry for your kids.

Cochineal / Insect-based color

April 21st, 2017 General Interest

That bright red color in your food, drink, or lipstick no longer comes from that scary old Red #2 dye, but very possibly from ground-up bugs. Seriously.

Tiki / The imaginary Polynesian culture

April 19th, 2017 General Interest

You’d probably recognize a Tiki bar if you walked into one, but what is Tiki exactly? This faux Polynesian culture (along with the fruity drinks) is a pure American invention.

Icewine / How a little frost can do wonders for wine

April 17th, 2017 General Interest

No, it’s not wine made from ice or wine on the rocks! This delicious dessert wine is made from the concentrated juice of grapes that freeze on the vine and are pressed while still frozen.

Paris Plages / Bringing the beach to Paris

April 14th, 2017 General Interest

For a month every summer, an artificial beach appears along the bank of the Seine in Paris. It has everything you’d expect from a real beach (crowds, noise, sunburn) without any of that irritating ocean view.

Absinthe / The tale of the Green Fairy

April 12th, 2017 General Interest, History

This legendary beverage has been praised for producing artistic insights and blamed for causing violence and insanity. After being banned in some countries for more than a century, it’s finally making a comeback.

Robots that Smell / Artificial noses and beyond

April 10th, 2017 General Interest

Robots that see and hear are nothing new, but researchers are now developing machines that can distinguish and identify odors. Applications include health care, public safety, and rescue work.

Hikaru Dorodango / Mud balls as art

April 8th, 2017 General Interest

Mud isn’t generally considered a very useful or beautiful substance, but one of the latest trends in art (especially popular among young Japanese children) is making elegant, shiny balls out of ordinary mud.

Cow Sharing / Getting the milk for free

April 5th, 2017 General Interest

If you’d like to drink fresh, unpasteurized milk, your options for doing so legally are limited because of health concerns. One clever workaround is becoming part-owner of a cow yourself.

Phenomenology / The science of experience

April 3rd, 2017 General Interest

What happens when you cross introspection with the scientific method? You get phenomenology, the philosophical science of experience.

The Tactile Dome / Getting the feel of the Exploratorium

March 31st, 2017 General Interest

San Francisco’s Exploratorium, has an exhibit that’s more than hands-on. The Tactile Dome is a full-body exploration of the sense of touch, in total darkness.

Silent Retreats / A different way of listening

March 29th, 2017 General Interest

If you like the idea of a quiet getaway to escape the chaos of modern life, you might consider taking it a step further. Give up speaking for a day or a week, and you could be surprised at what you hear.

Saturna Island / Less is more (interesting)

March 27th, 2017 General Interest

The least populous of British Columbia’s southern Gulf Islands, Saturna is a quiet and scenic getaway. What it lacks in people and businesses, it makes up for in character.

Saturna Island / Less is more (interesting)

March 27th, 2017 General Interest

The least populous of British Columbia’s southern Gulf Islands, Saturna is a quiet and scenic getaway. What it lacks in people and businesses, it makes up for in character.

Curling / Throwing stones for fun and profit

March 24th, 2017 General Interest

Don’t think of it as a boring and inscrutable Canadian sport. Curling is a subtle, sophisticated, team version of lawn bowling on ice. Bring your own broom.

Temperate Rain Forests / Trees of life

March 22nd, 2017 General Interest

Rain forests aren’t found only in the tropics. Temperate rain forests, located as far north as Alaska and Norway, have less diversity than their tropical relatives, but far more living matter.

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra / Grooves from the garden

March 20th, 2017 General Interest

That selection of fresh vegetables you just bought from the market could make a delicious soup or…a complete orchestra. In Vienna, a group of artists has combined food and music in a wacky and innovative way.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge / Vancouver from another point of view

March 17th, 2017 General Interest

The most popular attraction in the entire province of British Columbia is, of all things, a footbridge over a scenic canyon. But what a bridge!