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is global collapse imminent?

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse [more inside]
posted by flex on Sep 4, 2014 - 61 comments

Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the Planet for Wildlife?

Wilson recently calculated that the only way humanity could stave off a mass extinction crisis, as devastating as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, would be to set aside half the planet as permanently protected areas for the ten million other species. “Half Earth,” in other words, as I began calling it—half for us, half for them. [more inside]
posted by viggorlijah on Aug 31, 2014 - 41 comments

“Osteobiography” : the “biography of the bones”

"There’s a wonderful term used by anthropologists: “osteobiography,” the “biography of the bones.” Kennewick Man’s osteobiography tells a tale of an eventful life, which a newer radiocarbon analysis puts at having taken place 8,900 to 9,000 years ago. He was a stocky, muscular man about 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds. He was right-handed. His age at death was around 40." After years of legal wrangling and scientific arguments, Smithsonian Magazine takes on the history of the Kennewick Man and the long-awaited publication of studies co-edited by physical anthropologist Douglas Owsley (of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History's Anthropology department.) [more inside]
posted by jetlagaddict on Aug 26, 2014 - 14 comments

A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center presents an experiment in cultural democracy – the first crowdsourced photo gallery of the Asian Pacific American experience around the world as lived on one day: May 10, 2014. [more inside]
posted by sarahnade on Jul 25, 2014 - 7 comments

Japanese design magazine, circa 1902

Shin-Bijutsukai, The new monthly magazine of various designs by the famous artists of to-day, 1902. View gallery of selected pages; download full PDF.
posted by not_the_water on Jul 15, 2014 - 6 comments

Intersection Protection

Intersections are basically death traps, where right-turning drivers threaten collisions at any moment. [SLSmithsonian]
posted by jojomnky on Jun 22, 2014 - 148 comments

Gilbert Stuart it ain't.

President Obama is now the first president to be 3D scanned and printed. The...creation will be housed at the National Portrait Gallery.
posted by MoonOrb on Jun 18, 2014 - 43 comments

Blooooop bleeee blooop blop! These are the sounds of enrichment.

A bunch of otters jam on a Casio. An orangutan plays a xylophone with a banana. A sloth bear toots some harmonica. These are all a part of the National Zoo's environmental enrichment efforts, not unlike getting your cat some food balls and cat shelves. [more inside]
posted by ignignokt on May 30, 2014 - 31 comments

we know a lot, but not everything

Inside the Science of an Amazing New Surgery Called Deep Brain Stimulation
posted by Potomac Avenue on May 22, 2014 - 40 comments

How close do you live to a nuclear power plant? And other maps.

See how close you live to a nuclear power plant on this interactive map featured in Smithsonian. It's created by ESRI, home to all kinds of other maps, like the Battle of the Big Boxes, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the location of uninsured Americans, a Timeline of the UK's Tallest Buildings, and more. [more inside]
posted by MoonOrb on Mar 14, 2014 - 38 comments

What Really Happened to Michael Rockefeller

A journey to the heart of New Guinea’s Asmat tribal homeland sheds new light on the mystery of the heir’s disappearance there in 1961: What Really Happened to Michael Rockefeller
posted by Joe in Australia on Feb 22, 2014 - 12 comments

American Cities: Before and After

Smithsonian Magazine's interactive map series on American cities. [more inside]
posted by MoonOrb on Jan 31, 2014 - 4 comments

The Frozen Methane Bubbles of Lake Abraham

Methane bubbles trapped in icy Lake Abraham, Canada make for spectacular photography. [more inside]
posted by MoonOrb on Jan 30, 2014 - 14 comments

All the colors of the-- Eames chair?

The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum's collections, now searchable in color. Colors? They got colors. All kinds of colors. My god, it's just full of colors. But wait, there's even more inside... [more inside]
posted by jetlagaddict on Dec 27, 2013 - 3 comments

Remember, if approached by a librarian, keep still. Do not run away.

Welcome to a tumblr of wonders. Special Collections, archives, and libraries have many wonderful items, but getting to them all can be a bit like trying to walk into Mordor, unless you have unlimited time and grants. But now, thanks to Tumblr, you too can explore collections around the world, and one of the best comes to us from the University of Iowa. Want a Hamlet quote on a miniature book that unfolds into a tiny Globe Theatre? Of course you do. Actual flying squirrels? Adventure with Alice! Get close to illuminations? Catch a glimpse of hipster frames circa 1504? More awesome librar* tumblrs inside. [more inside]
posted by jetlagaddict on Dec 26, 2013 - 13 comments

Pandamonium!

A scientist radio-tracking pandas in the Chinese wilderness frolics with an inquisitive cub who was left in his care by its mother: Dajun and the wild baby panda. [more inside]
posted by Westringia F. on Dec 23, 2013 - 8 comments

Print out the Wright Flyer

On Wednesday, The Smithsonian launched a new 3D viewer on its website featuring a selection of its digitised collection, some of which are also available for 3D printing.
posted by MartinWisse on Nov 14, 2013 - 10 comments

Science Journalism Award winners

2013 Science Journalism Award winners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science: [via Romenesko] [more inside]
posted by mediareport on Nov 6, 2013 - 4 comments

In the basement by the Gift Shop

Boldly sitting next to the gift shop in the basement of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum one finds NCC one seven O one. No bloody A, B, C, or D. WAMU's Metro Connection provides a story about curating the the original model of the iconic star ship, Enterprise. [more inside]
posted by humanfont on Nov 2, 2013 - 20 comments

Creepy things in a museum? Never!

Including the wind-up friar automaton repeatedly claiming his faults and not one but two creeping baby dolls, the Smithsonian lists the 11 collection objects giving them the creeps this Halloween.
posted by Katemonkey on Oct 31, 2013 - 10 comments

Let's All Go To The Lobby!

“Movie theaters wanted nothing to do with popcorn,” Smith says, “because they were trying to duplicate what was done in real theaters. They had beautiful carpets and rugs and didn’t want popcorn being ground into it.” Movie theaters were trying to appeal to a highbrow clientele, and didn’t want to deal with the distracting trash of concessions–or the distracting noise that snacking during a film would create. - So Why Do We Eat Popcorn At The Movies Anyway? (Smithsonian Mag)
posted by The Whelk on Oct 4, 2013 - 134 comments

"It’s almost like history is a kind of snake swallowing its tail."

"In trying to understand conspiracy theorists, I used to think that what conspiracy theorists were really doing on some level was grieving, their fantasies a form of displaced love for JFK, but I’ve come to think the love involved is mostly self-love, their self-congratulatory assertion of superiority over mere facts."

What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us?
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris deconstructs the most famous 26 seconds in film history.
posted by Atom Eyes on Sep 27, 2013 - 151 comments

Masters of Global Music at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries have quietly been posting full-length, downloadable concerts by some of the world's master musicians since 2005. [more inside]
posted by ryanshepard on Sep 13, 2013 - 11 comments

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the olinguito!

Via the Smithsonian: For the first time in 35 years, a new carnivorous mammal species has been discovered in the American Continents. Native to the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, the olinguito is the newest member of the raccoon family. [more inside]
posted by flyingsquirrel on Aug 15, 2013 - 26 comments

Before there was a [US] national museum, we had a nation of savers

"In the early 1800s, a hammer was kept near Plymouth Rock for the pilgrim who had forgotten to bring one. By the end of the 19th century, what was left of the rock was fenced off within a memorial." "The United States, it turns out, was a nation of casual plunderers from the start. Visitors to Mount Vernon snapped splinters from the moldings; beachgoers in Massachusetts chiseled off chunks of Plymouth Rock; tourists snipped fabric from the White House curtains. By the early 19th century, newspapers were referring to illicit souvenir hunting as a “national mania.” " [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jun 12, 2013 - 49 comments

Sear Your Tastebuds on this FPP

"The chili pepper does not want to be your friend. It wants to hurt you so badly you turn it loose," writes Mary Roach. [more inside]
posted by MoonOrb on Jun 4, 2013 - 27 comments

Researchers have not yet uncovered any potential wine pairings.

Skeleton of teenage girl confirms cannibalism at Jamestown colony. [more inside]
posted by elizardbits on May 24, 2013 - 64 comments

According to FDA standards, the sauce is technically not “cheese"

The history of baseball stadium nachos.
posted by Chrysostom on May 13, 2013 - 58 comments

Public's Knowledge of Science and Technology

Pew Research and Smithsonian Magazine recently performed a survey, looking at the American public's knowledge of science.
Pew: The public underestimates how well American high school students perform on standardized science tests compared with students in other developed nations. A plurality (44%) believes that 15-year-olds in other developed nations outrank U.S. students in knowledge of science; according to an international student assessment, U.S. 15-year-olds are in the middle ranks of developed nations in science knowledge.
An examination of the results from Smithsonian Magazine.
posted by frimble on Apr 24, 2013 - 57 comments

The Lost Tribes of the Amazon

Franco believes that governments must increase efforts to preserve indigenous cultures. “The Indians represent a special culture, and resistance to the world,” argues the historian, who has spent three decades researching isolated tribes in Colombia. Martínez says that the Indians have a unique view of the cosmos, stressing “the unity of human beings with nature, the interconnectedness of all things.” It is a philosophy that makes them natural environmentalists, since damage to the forest or to members of one tribe, the Indians believe, can reverberate across society and history with lasting consequences. “They are protecting the jungle by chasing off gold miners and whoever else goes in there,” Franco says. He adds: “We must respect their decision not to be our friends—even to hate us.”
posted by jason's_planet on Apr 13, 2013 - 21 comments

Elahi, Elahi, lema shabaqtani?

Saving a Dying Language
posted by empath on Feb 3, 2013 - 34 comments

Writes upside down!

The Smithsonian Magazine breaks down the history of the Fisher Space Pen, including the old myth about how the Russians just used pencils instead.
posted by mathowie on Jan 17, 2013 - 37 comments

“a board sign which announced in fading paint but one word: STORE. Just in case the traveler might be in some doubt.”

Harrods, in the bustling heart of London, is in a good location for a shop. So is the Macy’s in Herald Square, which boasts of serving 350,000 New Yorkers every day at Christmas time. Whereas down at the Mulka Store, in the furthermost reaches of South Australia, George and Mabel Aiston used to think themselves lucky if they pulled in a customer a week.
The Loneliest Shop In The World [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 5, 2012 - 23 comments

Pantyhose during WWII

The unexpectedly fascinating story of pantyhose in wartime, via Smithsonian Magazine (part 1, part 2).
posted by mudpuppie on Sep 19, 2012 - 4 comments

The Up-and-Down Design Hurdles of Pogo

For a few people, fascination with pogo sticks didn't end in childhood. The Smithsonian takes a look at the design challenges, and the sport, of modern pogo. They also provide a short video demonstrating these advances. [more inside]
posted by gilrain on Sep 11, 2012 - 20 comments

Bill Moggridge, 1943-2012.

Bill Moggridge, 1943-2012 "I think it's always wise to remember to use the dirtiest method you possibly can at the time. Use the quickest thing and the simplest thing for the stage you're at." Bill Moggridge, designer, co-founder of IDEO and director of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, died after a battle with cancer on September 8 2012. [more inside]
posted by running order squabble fest on Sep 9, 2012 - 12 comments

Build your own Gossamer Condor

The first human-powered aircraft to achieve sustained and controlled flight, the Gossamer Condor (6.3 MB PDF), now belongs to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2.2 MB JPG). So you'll need to build your own. (previously)
posted by Egg Shen on Aug 31, 2012 - 10 comments

The Secret History of Deodorant

The secret history of deodorant: How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad
posted by apricot on Aug 9, 2012 - 173 comments

City of London

As you turn eyes to London to watch this year's Olympics, you might be surprised to find out that the City of London has a population of about 11,000 and is only one square mile. [more inside]
posted by eye of newt on Jul 26, 2012 - 65 comments

A Load of Old Tosh

Quite Likely The Worst Job Ever: 'The men who made it their living by forcing entry into London’s sewers at low tide and wandering through them, sometimes for miles, searching out and collecting the miscellaneous scraps washed down from the streets above' [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jul 18, 2012 - 26 comments

Who Killed the Family Moore, why and what's the reason for?

The Ax Murderer Who Got Away - Shortly after midnight on June 10, 1912—one hundred years ago this week—a stranger hefting an ax lifted the latch on the back door of a two-story timber house in the little Iowa town of Villisca. [more inside]
posted by IvoShandor on Jun 11, 2012 - 14 comments

Not the Wilhelm Scream

What Did The Rebel Yell Sound Like? (video): 'From the early 1900's through the 1940's, Civil War veterans were filmed, recorded and interviewed at reunions, parades, and other patriotic events where, as the century advanced, they came increasingly to seem like ambulatory trophies from some distant age of heroes.'
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 27, 2012 - 50 comments

“The time of giving short measure in weighing”

“Kipper und Wipper”: Rogue Traders, Rogue Princes, Rogue Bishops and the German Financial Meltdown of 1621-23
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 1, 2012 - 5 comments

Doug Aitkin's Song 1 at the Hirshhorn

Artist Doug Aiken's projection installation, Song 1 on the façade of the donut-shaped Hirshhorn Museum in DC opened last night. The work is a looped video installation of many people singing "I Only Have Eyes for You." It's very atmospheric and finally brings some art that enlivens the somewhat strange shape of the museum's exterior. I heard him speak and then got to see the installation. It's beautiful. If you're in DC definitely come down to the National Mall after dusk (projection runs nightly until midnight).
posted by Taken Outtacontext on Mar 23, 2012 - 6 comments

Panoramic Virtual Tour of Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Take a Panoramic Virtual Tour of Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Available as a full-screen virtual tour starting entry rotunda and navigating from there, or jump to individual rooms.
posted by filthy light thief on Dec 14, 2011 - 7 comments

“We shall have a man in the White House who will feel as responsible for American civilization as he does for American power and prosperity.”

"It was no accident that arts funding was once again brought to national attention with the exhibit Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. Since the 80s, the enemies of the NEA have not been those with differences of opinion about what art should be supported or how. Instead they oppose any support at all for art of any kind." Hide/Seek, Culture Wars and the History of the NEA (NSFW, art)
posted by The Whelk on Nov 1, 2011 - 115 comments

Stinson Reliant and the Mail Pick-Up Service

From May 12, 1939 to June 30, 1949, a fleet of Stinson Reliants were used for a unique form of mail pick-up and delivery: skyhooking. Similar in notion to the mail-on-the-fly and mail cranes used along rail lines, the Reliants would fly low, deposit one load of mail and pick up the next, without stopping, providing mail service to rural communities. The Smithsonian National Postal Museum has a 39 minute documentary presentation on YouTube, but it's a guy talking over powerpoint slides, which is pretty dry. Instead, here is a modern news report with interviews of a skyhook pilot and old newsreel footage.
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 19, 2011 - 24 comments

American Sabor

American Sabor: Latinos in US Popular Music is a currently traveling Smithsonian exhibition exploring the wide range of Latino artists and influences which have shaped American pop music genres since WWII, from Alice Bag to Flaco Jimenez to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to Joan Baez. The website is rich with maps, interviews, videos, and music samples.
posted by Miko on Sep 28, 2011 - 11 comments

Sounds and Sights of Science

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is working to make many of their digital archives accessible online: These include everything from the distress call of a young howler monkey to courting poison dart frogs, to the sound of morning amongst the mangroves - not to mention more than 40,000 photographs and 1500 documents all related to STRI's work in Panama and across the tropics.
posted by ChuraChura on Aug 30, 2011 - 3 comments

Minter's Ring

Smithsonian Magazine's new blog Past Imperfect has already told some interesting stories in its first weeks, but none more compelling than that of Lt. Commander Minter Dial's Annapolis class ring.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Aug 2, 2011 - 10 comments

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