Sultry witches. World-devouring cephalopods. Adorable teddy bears. Smithsonian Magazine takes a look at the fantastical mission patches of the National Reconnaissance Office (via)
Nothing to do tomorrow (Sept. 27th, 2014)? Well, it's Museum Day Live, and you can score free admission for two at over 1,500 museums in the United States by registering at Smithsonian.com. (Search here to determine if there are any participating museums in your area.)
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]
"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]
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]
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.
Intersections are basically death traps, where right-turning drivers threaten collisions at any moment. [SLSmithsonian]
President Obama is now the first president to be 3D scanned and printed. The...creation will be housed at the National Portrait Gallery.
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]
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]
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
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]
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]
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]
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.
2013 Science Journalism Award winners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
- Large Newspaper: Deep Trouble, about invasive Asian Carp, sewage, the Chicago River and Lake Michigan
- Small Newspaper: Warning: Quake in 60 Seconds, about why California doesn't have a decent early warning system for earthquakes
- Magazine: Attack of the Mutant Pupfish, about genetic integrity vs. genetic restoration in the fight to preserve endangered species
- Television (20 minutes or less): NOVA's profile of computer scientist Adrien Treuille and Foldit, a crowd-sourced protein-folding game
- Television (more than 20 minutes): Smithsonian Channel: Killer in the Caves, about bats and the deadly white-nose fungus
- Radio: NPR and The Center for Public Integrity - As Mine Protections Fail, Black Lung Cases Surge and Black-Lung Rule Loopholes Leave Miners Vulnerable
- Online: An environmental scandal that’s happening right underneath your feet, about the hidden cost of natural gas leaks in pipelines underneath cities
- Children's Science News: Cold Water Corals: Paradise on the Seabed [pdf]
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]
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.
“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)
"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.
What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us?
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris deconstructs the most famous 26 seconds in film history.
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]
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]
"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]
"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]
The history of baseball stadium nachos.
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.
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.”
The Smithsonian Magazine breaks down the history of the Fisher Space Pen, including the old myth about how the Russians just used pencils instead.
“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]
The unexpectedly fascinating story of pantyhose in wartime, via Smithsonian Magazine (part 1, part 2).
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]
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]
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)
The secret history of deodorant: How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad
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]
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]
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]
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.'
“Kipper und Wipper”: Rogue Traders, Rogue Princes, Rogue Bishops and the German Financial Meltdown of 1621-23
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).
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.
“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)
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.
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.