Calling all curious minds—scientists, anthropologists, relentless tourists: Saturday, April 9th, is International Obscura Day, the day to "explore hidden treasures in your hometown," or so says Atlas Obscura, a website dedicated to public curiosities and esoterica. If you're the kind of person who appreciates public oddities every day of the year, tomorrow is icing on the cake. Celebrate Obscura Day in one of hundreds of locales—from Los Angeles to Sydney, from Berlin to Manila.
What's the next best thing to being an official scientist? Being a non-official one. A new website called Science for Citizens helps you find the science experiment of your dreams, hook up with the scientists involved, and actually take part in the experiment itself. Here are some examples of what you can do:
These magical beans can keep your coffee hot for hours. Not blazing hot, burn your tongue on the first sip, and not disappointingly lukewarm, but coffee fit for every baby bear—just right. Genius.
What would it be like to have a super-realistic humanoid modeled after you...and then come face-to-face with the moving, life-like version of yourself... Creepy? To say the least.
Can't remember when to water the plants? Wish they could just tell you when they need watering—just call you on the phone or something? Or maybe text you, "Help I'm desiccating!" Telecommunications researcher Kate Harman has come up with the device of an absent-minded plant owner's dreams—Botanicalls. It hooks up to your plant and sends you a short text message when the plant is too dry. Each kit costs $99 and includes metal sensors connected to a microcontroller. Insert the sensors into the ...
It's tough to figure out what a mummy would have looked like when he was alive; soft tissue of a human body decays, even in ice. But, Dutch brothers Adrie and Alfons Kennis took the challenge. Using techniques that belong to both science and art, they managed to reconstruct the face and body of Otzi the Iceman, a mummy who was found in the Italian Alps in 1991.
Enjoy rolling around at night in the sleek luster of silk? Also afraid of a mobster finding out you're rolling around with his cousin's wife? Solution: bullet-proof silk sheets. All you need is the strongest biomaterial ever found--Darwin's bark spider silk. So, grab a loom and start weaving.
Some of you have already seen the superbness of tonight's "super moon", but for those of you in the western half of the United States, there's still time to ready your cameras and enjoy March 19th's super full moon. It's the biggest full moon in almost 20 years, the last one appearing in March of 1993.
I always thought you looked kinda like a pickle with peanut butter. Anyway, so the saying goes—you are what you eat—which is supposed to make you feel guilty when downing that triple cheeseburger with a side of donuts and frogs legs. Although, what's so wrong with being a cheeseburger?
How far would you go to be resourceful? Early Britons used each others' skulls as drinking cups and bowls. Recently, researcher Silvia Bello found human skulls with the top cut off laying in Gough's Cave, England. Skillful cut marks make it look like fellow humans scraped off the dead skin to clean the bone, and chips around the rim of the skull cup make it look like the edges were evened out for a better drinking experience. Researchers have found other skull cups in France and Germany, but ...
Truly spectacular and one the most breathtaking DIY endeavors to grace the front page of WonderHowTo, a recreation of Pixar's UP house was launched to an altitude of 10,000 feet in a private airfield near Los Angeles this past week. The project was executed by a team of engineers, scientists and veteran balloon pilots—(meaning, please, Do Not Try This at Home).
Always wanted a fluorescent dog but didn’t want to commit? Well, here’s your solution. Researchers at Seoul National University developed fluorescent puppies that only glow when you want them to. Just inject the special pups with doxycycline and they’ll glow like a black light poster for a few weeks. Then, they return to dull, furry normal.
Does this man look vaguely familiar? A neighbor or former co-worker, perhaps? You might think you recognize him, but this individual is actually the face of 7 billion. Composited with endless photos taken from the world's massive population, he represents an analytically deduced median: a 28-year-old Han Chinese man. The Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing has drawn data for the past ten years to come up with this archetypal image, as well as the following stats:
Colored smoke bombs never get old. Add a glass laboratory bell jar and a simple rewind camera trick, and you have a beautiful "60 sec experiment with the color Indigo" by photographer and designer Paul Octavious. More explosive art:
Well, maybe not a real invisibility cloak—sorry Harry Potter fans—but a team of scientists at MIT's SMART Centre are on their way to producing materials that mimic actual invisibility.
Eric Jacqmain is one smart cookie. Borrowing from the same principles of Archimedes’ mythological death ray, the Indiana teenager used an ordinary fiberglass satellite dish and about 5,800 3/8" mirror tiles to create a solar weapon with the intensity of 5000x normal daylight. The powerful weapon can "melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant."
For some of you out there, today may be a looooong Friday. But have no fear, if you've yet to furtively accomplish shaving off a few extra minutes from the office clock, there is an alternative for getting through the day: computer pharmaceuticals. Relax, moms, we're not talking illicit drugs. Computer pharmaceuticals (AKA: optical and audio illusions) are completely natural, harmless highs that promise to alter your perception and consciousness- without the risk of drugs or alcohol.
A simple science experiment, yet totally satisfying. And the best part is you can go outside and try it right now (if conditions allow). You will need: freezing cold weather and a bottle of bubbles. Previously, HowTo: Make Instant Fog.
Incredible. There's a type of sand (found only on the small Okinawan island of Iriomote) in which each grain resembles a tiny star. And I never would have known, if it hadn't been for blogger Jason Kottke's pal Mouser. Mouser collects sand from all around the world, and then documents each sample with a macro lens:
The Leidenfrost Effect: “a phenomenon in which a liquid, in near contact with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point, produces an insulating vapor layer which keeps that liquid from boiling rapidly”. It looks pretty spectacular captured at 3000 frames-per-second (almost as spectacular as when the same principle is applied to the human hand). Previously, Hand Fully Submerged in Liquid Nitrogen (OUCH... right?)
Researchers at Northwestern University have hatched a robotic replica of the ghost knifefish, an amazing sea creature with a ribbon-like fin, capable of acrobatic agility in the water. The fish is distinctive in its ability to move forward, backward and vertically, but scientists didn't understand its vertical movement until the creation of its robot replica, GhostBot (shown below). They now know its vertical propulsion is caused by two waves moving in opposite directions, crashing into each ...
For someone who loves math as much as Vi Hart (a self-proclaimed "mathematical musician"), she doesn't pay an awful lot of attention to her math teacher. But that's ok. Cuz somehow her wonderfully whimsical doodling transforms into mini lessons on graph theory, mobius strips, binaries, fractals and more.
In other words, it looks totally awesome. The chemical reaction of burning phosphorus and gelatin makes for a mesmerizingly beautiful display of science slo-mo. Previously, What Happens When You Smash the Essence of Dynamite With a Hammer?
Staying in tonight? Here's something that could occupy you for days. Fimoculous has posted the mother of all "Best of 2010" lists: a collection of over 150 lists from across the web in 37 different categories. Sit back, crack out the champagne, and take in all the amazing things that happened in the past year.
Zero chance of your ride being jacked with this level of protection. You will need: a 100,000 volt tesla coil strapped to the roof of your vehicle. Created by tesla master, Peter Terren. Previously, Electrifying Transparent Tesla Coil (DIY!!)
Have an old-school tabula recta lying around? No? Then just print out the chart below. Nothing ensures better password security than this centuries-old cipher technique. Here's how it works, via Wikipedia:
A group of nano-scientists from the University of Glasgow have created the world's smallest Christmas card, measuring in at 200 micro-meters wide by 290 micro-meters tall. (BTW, a micro-metre is a millionth of a meter, and the width of a human hair is about 100 micro-meters.)
Why does the world work the way it does? Linda Dong takes basic scientific principles and translates them into beautifully simple, explanatory images.
Arvind Gupta is an Indian educator and inventor who makes whimsical, elegant toys from simple and inexpensive materials. His site has hundreds of free project tutorials, with simply outlined instructions in the categories of science, math, astronomy and more. Below, peruse the video gallery and images for a selection of Gupta's inspiring work.
Meet Vi Hart, our charming host. Vi is a self-labeled "mathematical musician", who burns paper instruments, cuts food into mathematical shapes, twists balloons into mathematical models, and makes mathematical music with candy buttons.
Does size matter? When it comes to optical illusions, it does. The size of a human brain's visual cortex determines how he or she sees the world, meaning not everybody observes optical illusions in the same way.
Some of these look like illustrations done by adolescent sci-fi/anime nerds. Totally unreal. A selection from National Geographic's best space pictures of 2010:
Despite all the recently transpired web hysteria regarding a mysterious NASA press release, the organization has NOT discovered new life on another planet. However, the latest information does indicate that scientists have discovered a new life form on planet Earth.
WonderHowTo favorite NurdRage once again triggers the inner mad scientist in all of us (well, all of us WonderHowTo-ians at least). Below, watch what happens when steel wool- found in every common household Brillo Pad- is lit on fire.
Yep, anything (on Earth). Below, BBC One's Bang Goes the Theory demonstrates how normal sunshine can become a lethal heat-ray of 3,500 degrees celsius (with the aid of a high-performance solar furnace). That's hot enough to melt rocks. More by Bang Goes The Theory:
Missions to Mars are far and few between because the fuel is so costly. Solution? A pair of scientists are proposing that elderly astronauts are sent on one-way missions to Mars, to boldly go... and not come back:
Here at WonderHowTo, we are often presented with morally questionable HowTo's. When it comes to stocking our library, we have to weigh in the community value of indexing tutorials with potentially negative repercussions. Where is the line when it comes to areas like weapons, sex, and drugs?
As Theo Gray of Gray Matter demonstrates below, contrary to what the ads may say, diamonds CAN expire. Especially when attacked with a blow torch and liquid nitrogen. Gray says:
Iron Man. What could be a more fitting song for 1,000,000 volts of electricity? It's the perfect Vegas act, so it's shocking to hear that ArcAttack is yet unsigned. With their high-tech, custom-made music equipment, homemade chain mail suits and... LIGHTNING!... they put on one electrifying performance!
And the magic is revealed ten seconds in! Disappointed? Me, too. Such a simple explanation. Those first 10 seconds were so convincing... Previously, Why Are Our Brains Fooled By Optical Illusions?