That’s no rabbit hole, that’s the Krubera cave

Thursday, 10 April, 2014

How far down the rabbit hole do you dare go? The Krubera cave, located in Abkhazia, Georgia, runs thirteen kilometres in length, and decends to a depth of just over two kilometres. Rather than a rabbit hole though, its structure – going by the topographical map of the system – looks more like a meandering river.

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Building puzzling mazes, a step by step guide

Tuesday, 1 April, 2014

I’ve not had to design too many mazes in my time, but you never know when such a skill may one day come in handy… a guide then to creating the perfect maze:

Our objective here is to create a perfect maze, the simplest type of maze for a computer to generate and solve. A perfect maze is defined as a maze which has one and only one path from any point in the maze to any other point. This means that the maze has no inaccessible sections, no circular paths, no open areas.

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Pigeons, pigeons everywhere, but not a baby amongst them

Wednesday, 26 March, 2014

For all the, seemingly, hundreds of pigeons you appear to encounter around city centres, why is it their young off-spring are nowhere to be seen? Effectively young pigeons, known as squabs, do not leave their often well concealed homes until they are adults:

Rest assured, baby pigeons, or squabs, do exist – and there’s a good reason you’re not seeing them. It’s partially due to where the birds nest: Pigeons, also known as Rock Doves, build their nests in places that mimic the caves and cliffs that their ancestors used in the Mediterranean. “In New York City, they’re building their nests anywhere they can find, any opening on window sills, on roof tops, under bridges – preferably somewhat protected places,” says Charles Walcott, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University and former executive director of the Lab of Ornithology. “There are lots of nice artificial cliffs that people have erected in New York.”

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Retronyms: new names for old things that had to be renamed

Tuesday, 4 March, 2014

Non-electric guitars once used to be known simply as guitars*. It was only after electric guitars came along, did people start referring to them as “acoustic guitars”. That is an example of a retronym, a new word, or term, that gives a new name to the original version of an object, device, product, service, whatever.

Landline telephone instead of telephone, is another example, and plenty more retronyms are listed here.

*Anyone care to myth-bust that claim/assertion?

(Thanks Sarah)

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Historic events, worlds apart, but happening in conjunction

Friday, 28 February, 2014

There’ll likely be something for everyone in here… Reddit members have put together a list of historical events, that while unrelated, either occurred at the same time, or say something about the age of well known institutions relative to each other:

  • Pablo Picasso died the year Pink Floyd released “Dark Side of the Moon”
  • Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire
  • Nintendo formed the same year Van Gogh painted Starry Night

Some of the inclusions may be subject to qualification but that makes them no less fascinating.

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In case you’ve ever wondered, why does the mouse pointer… slant?

Monday, 24 February, 2014

Another of life’s unasked questions possibly, why does the mouse cursor point at an angle, or to eleven o’clock, if you see it that way, rather than straight up? Seemingly it comes down to the low resolution of the early monitors in use at the time the mouse was invented by US engineer Douglas Englebart:

The mouse, and therefore the mouse cursor, was invented by Douglas Englebart, and was initially an arrow pointing up. When the XEROX PARC machine was built, the cursor changed into a tilted arrow. It was found that, given the low resolution of the screens in those days, drawing a straight line and a line in the 45 degrees angle was easier to do and more recognizable than the straight cursor.

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Rocket science and other such notions explained in ten words or less

Friday, 14 February, 2014

Reddit members attempt to explain complicated scientific notions, such as rocket science, or orbital mechanics, in ten words or less. You never know, you just might find this useful.

Nuclear reactor: hot rock boil water, steam make power.

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It’s time for so-called Wes Anderson experts to walk the walk

Wednesday, 12 February, 2014

Wes Anderson’s new feature, The Grand Budapest Hotel, opens in Australia on 14 April. In the meantime you can test your knowledge of things Wes Anderson, by way of this Guardian quiz.

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Milking supermarket myths for all they are worth

Thursday, 6 February, 2014

On the subject of conspiracy theories, I thought it’d be a good idea to lift the lid on how supermarkets actually work… while there’s not really a whole lot of secret handshake stuff here though, one or two myths are nonetheless debunked:

That myth about milk being in the back of the store so you have to walk aisle to get to it? Not quite the real reason: It’s even simpler than tempting you with stuff on the way in, explains Weidauer. “Milk needs to be refrigerated right away; the trucks unload in the back, so the fridges are there so that we can fill the cases as quickly and easily as possible.”

Via Link Banana.

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Normal is fluid at the best of times, but let’s try to define it

Friday, 31 January, 2014

Ever wondered how normal, or – as the case may be – far from normal, you are compared to others, but were afraid to ask? Here then is a way to discretely learn how you match up.

By the way, normal in this instance refers to the mores and attitudes of about one thousand men living in the US.

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