Chewbacca Actor Joonas Suotamo Talks Solo

Joonas Suotamo is a former basketball player from Finland. He took over the role of Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies from Peter Mayhew, who made the Wookiee what he is. Suotamo is very cognizant of Mayhew's creation, and takes pains to continue his legacy seamlessly, knowing that Mayhew has his eye on him.   

But with time and creativity, Suotamo has mastered the character’s every move, adding layers to an already beloved and familiar face, particularly in The Last Jedi and Solo. It’s almost jarring to watch one film after the other, taking in the heartbreak in Chewbacca’s eyes when Luke Skywalker asks, “Where’s Han?” and then rewinding to the very day that the iconic duo first met.

For Suotamo, who has played the character opposite the original Han Solo, Harrison Ford, and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, following that narrative has been an interesting experience. “In this movie, Chewbacca doesn’t really know Han; he’s just getting to know him,” said Suotamo. “So it was interesting to play him in a way that sort of places Chewbacca in this space where he has to decide what he’s going to do with his life...whether this reckless scoundrel is the partner for him.”

Suotamo talks about that temporal shift, plus what it's really like to wear the big hairy suit, the cool special effects in Solo, and the thrill of piloting the Millennium Falcon in an interview at Den of Geek.  


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Relocating Bighorn Sheep

(YouTube link)

I watched this video and thought about the people who say they've been abducted by aliens. You know these sheep are going to tell tales like that the rest of their lives, and none of the other sheep will believe them. This relocation project helped to bring the population of North American bighorn sheep from 100 to 600 in recent years. It's one of 5 Heartwarming Stories That Are Also Totally Hilarious at Cracked. In fact, the bighorn sheep were just a small part of the story about how helicopters are the funniest way to transport animals.


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Alexa Recorded Conversation Unbidden, Shared It

An Amazon Alexa home assistant recorded a conversation taking place in the room and then sent it to a third party. There were no orders for it to do so. Danielle, in Portland, says she received a call from one of her husband's employees in Seattle, who told her that their Alexa device had been hacked.

"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"

Danielle listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn't believe someone 176 miles away heard it too.

"I felt invaded," she said. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"

An Amazon technician confirmed that Alexa had done exactly what they suspected, but it hadn't been hacked. The company later responded with an explanation.

In a statement Thursday, Amazon confirmed the woman’s private conversation had been inadvertently recorded and sent. The company said the device interpreted a word in the background conversation as “Alexa” — a command that makes it wake up — and then it interpreted the conversation as a “send message” request.

“At which point, Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’” the statement said. “At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list.

Amazon called it an “unlikely” string of events, but if a device can activate by and interpret (or misinterpret) background conversation as commands, the sky is the limit as to what it may do. -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: Flickr user methodshop .com)


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Maru Vaulting Boxes

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Can you stack boxes too high for Maru to climb into? Maybe the real question is, how can you get that many boxes all the same size? Well, I can imagine if you're mugumogu, people just give you boxes all the time. Maru eventually meets his match, and we get to hear him meow more than we've ever heard before. -via Everlasting Blort

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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The ‘Saurian Monster’ That Terrorized 1880s New Zealand

In October of 1886, slaughterhouse workers near Hamilton, New Zealand arrived at work to find that one of the sheep carcasses had been eaten. To be precise, something had climbed up and removed the sheep from its hook and left nothing but bones ...and footprints. The witnesses has never seen footprints like that before.

These, New Zealand’s Daily Telegraph reported, were the “undoubted traces of a saurian monster.” The word “saurian” means lizard-like—other papers concluded that this monster must be an alligator or crocodile, despite New Zealand’s smattering of living reptiles being, without exception, only a few inches long.

For two months, throughout October and November, the people of the Waikato region kept up a near-constant watch for their worrying new neighbor. Farmboys reported seeing it in the river, with its head poking up from the creek; indigenous Maori told settlers that they had known of it for some time and called it a taniwha. “Stories are extant among them of a very large animal, like an eel, which has come out of the water at times and chased them, even seizing their legs in its teeth,” reported the New Zealand Herald. A year earlier, a Maori girl had allegedly been found dead in the same river, with the flesh stripped from her arm.

Talk of the monster grew so that no one knew which stories were real and which were exaggerations or pure hogwash. But they eventually found the monster. Read that story at Atlas Obscura.

Oh yeah, the animals pictured were already quite extinct.  


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Camel Eats a Cactus

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When you live in the desert, you evolve to eat what's there. Watch this hardcore dromedary munch down on a prickly pear cactus with 6-inch spines! And you thought Captain Crunch made your mouth sore. Apparently, camels have protrusions inside their mouths containing keratin that are tough and flexible like plastic that enables them to deal with just about any food source they come across. They are also ruminants, so everything gets chewed up more than once. -via Boing Boing


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Seventy-Five Years Ago, Women Baseball Players Took the Field

On May 30, 1943, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League debuted to fill a shortage of baseball players due to World War II. Like the women who filled factory jobs during the war, they stepped up to the plate and proved that women can do what was normally seen as men's work at the time. Betsy Jochum (pictured) was the star batter for the South Bend Blue Sox. Her uniform is now enshrined in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, but Jochum, now 97, says no one today would know about the league at all if it weren't for the movie A League of Their Own.    

The ballplayers were for the most part factory-town women happy to have the paycheck until the men got home, observes Kelly Candaele, a filmmaker whose PBS documentary about his ball-playing mother was the inspiration for Marshall’s film. “Most of them didn’t approach this thing academically, like, oh, they were pioneers and proto-feminists,” he says. It was decades before they grasped how much they meant to the workplace, how much credibility they conferred on their gender with sheer physical competency, similar to the more than 475,000 Rosie the Riveters who worked in the U.S. munitions industry. If Jochum’s uniform is emblematic of what a little opportunity can do, it’s also threaded with stigma and represents the halting one-step-forward, two-steps-back progress that women faced. When Jochum asked for a raise, her disapproving club owner traded her to Peoria. “If you didn’t do what they told you, you know how that goes,” she says. Instead of accepting the trade she retired in 1948, got her college degree at Illinois State and became a middle school physical education teacher in the South Bend schools.

Read about Jochum and the short-lived All-American Girls Professional Baseball League at Smithsonian.  

(Image credit: The History Museum)


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That Time It Rained for Two Million Years

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The Carnian Pluvial Event was a time of major change for the earth and its supercontinent Pangaea. Namely, lots and lots of rain, and all the changes it brings. That was when the forests grew and dinosaurs began to rise to dominance, about 230 million years ago. From the images in this video from PBS Eons, that episode appears to be the line between the familiar (dinosaurs and forests) and the weird, weird, life forms that populated earth before that.  -via Digg


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One Kid's Trumpet

Jacques Ruffin found a letter sent to his mother in 2009, when she was struggling to keep up the rent on his musical instrument for school. He played the trumpet for the rest of his time in school. Allegro Music is still in business, and redditors who know the store vouch for the authenticity of such a gesture from the owner. The discussion thread is full of stories about special people who helped out when they were children, and calls to donate money or musical instruments so that more students can participate in school band who would otherwise not be able to. Every school band director knows students who could really use the help.  


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A Fire Pole to the Moon

Randall Munroe received a question from a 5-year-old and tackled it in excruciating detail on his site What If?

My son (5y) asked me today: If there were a kind of a fireman's pole from the Moon down to the Earth, how long would it take to slide all the way from the Moon to the Earth?

We can picture what the child was thinking, but to be quite accurate, Munroe first had to go through the reasons we can't install a fire pole between the earth and the moon. Then he discarded those reasons in order to answer the question about a fire pole that existed anyway. The first problem is that if you are standing on the moon, you have to go up the fire pole first.

If you climb up the pole far enough, Earth's gravity will take over and start pulling you down. When you're hanging onto the pole, there are three forces pulling on you: The Earth's gravity pulling you toward Earth, the Moon's gravity pulling you away from Earth, and centrifugal force[6] from the swinging pole pulling you away from Earth.[7] At first, the combination of the Moon's gravity and centrifugal force are stronger, pulling you toward the Moon, but as you get closer to the Earth, Earth's gravity takes over. The Earth is pretty big, so you reach this point—which is known as the L1 Lagrange point—while you're still pretty close to the Moon.

Unfortunately for you, space is big, so "pretty close" is still a long way. Even if you climb at better-than-world-record speed, it will still take you several years to get to the L1 crossover point.

But that's when the fun starts! As you let gravity take you down to earth, you have to deal with increasing speed, friction, weather, and the movement of the earth. I hope you brought your parachute. Munroe's highly-detailed answer probably won't be a lot of fun for a 5-year-old dreaming of space travel, but for we nerds who enjoy his xkcd comics, it's a pretty cool story. -via Metafilter


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An Honest Trailer for the Star Wars Spinoffs

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There were several Star Wars feature-length productions that are completely ignored in the Star Wars canon. They are Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, Ewoks: The Battle of Endor, and The Star Wars Holiday Special. Fans would just as soon forget all of them. Screen Junkies produced an Honest Trailer for all three in one video, and it's about as honest as everyone else has been about the quality of these spinoffs. If you've never seen any of them, just watch the trailer, and be satisfied that these clips will be all you need to know that you're missing nothing of importance.


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How Succulents Took Over Instagram—and Then the World

You may have noticed the trend of succulent gardening over the last few years. The drought-resistant plants are big on Instagram and sell like hotcakes. They are found in apartments, dorm rooms, bouquets, wreaths, and even jewelry, as well as expansive yards in places that can't support a traditional English garden.  

Throughout history, succulents have been used as herbal medicines, torture devices, food, dye sources, hallucinogens, and fixtures in religious ceremonies. But their captivating silhouettes, ability to endure long treks, and portability have carried them into the 21st century as the ideal collector’s item. The plants have graduated from filler greenery, to water-wise landscaping fixtures, to Instagrammable pioneers of the burgeoning online plant economy. In a society whose purchasing habits are driven by relentless trend cycles, they are the only plant resilient, varied, and multipurpose enough to keep up with frequent seasonal restylings of the retail sector. They have become the living ornaments of today’s idealized homes, gardens, and workspaces and, subsequently, the central characters in a new gardening movement that values ease over effort.

It wasn't always that way. For most of the 20th century, succulents were an afterthought for professional nurseries, and not all that profitable. Read how that changed, and how a few early fans became power players in the succulent business at The Ringer. -via Digg

(Image credit: Agata Wierzbicka)


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Tips for Cooking for One

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This video from College Humor contains a little NSFW language. When you find yourself living alone, it is tempting to just eat your favorite food all the time. That gets old. Eventually you resort to sandwiches and cold cereal, and when you realize that cold cereal leads to dirty dishes, your diet become just sandwiches and chips. You might be tempted to whip up an entire meal fresh from scratch, but don't do it. Rationalize not doing it by telling yourself it's too time-consuming so that you don't have to think about how very alone you are. So very, utterly alone. -via Tastefully Offensive     


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Violence in the US Senate

It was on this day in history, May 22, 1856, that an assault took place on the floor of the US Senate. The spark, as you might have guessed, was the debate over slavery. Would the new state of Kansas be allowed to embrace slavery by a popular vote? Massachusetts senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner gave a speech opposing such a vote, in which he called out his Southern colleagues who had written the Kansas-Nebraska Act -and called them some rather unflattering names. The speech spilled into the next day, and anger among those legislators only grew afterward. When Sumner arrived on May 22, Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina went for him. A witness gave an account of what happened.   

    “I saw Colonel Brooks lean on and over the desk of Senator Sumner, and seemingly say something to him, and instantly, while Senator Sumner was in the act of rising, Colonel Brooks struck him over the head with a dark-colored walking cane, which blow he repeated twice or three times, and with rapidity. I think several blows had been inflicted before Senator Sumner was fully in possession of his locomotion, and extricated from his desk, which was thrown over or broken from its fastenings…

    As soon as Senator Sumner was free from the desk he moved down the narrow passage way under the impetuous drive of his adversary, with his hands up as though to ward off the blows which were rained on his head with as much quickness as was possible for any man to use a cane on another whom he was intent on chastising.”

Read the story of the caning of Senator Sumner and its aftermath at Atlas Obscura.


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Royal Wedding Outtakes

(YouTube link)

The other day I mentioned that something goes wrong in almost every wedding. When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, they used all of Charles' names and Diana repeated them back in the wrong order during her vows. That was nothing compared to the ceremonial screwups in this version of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding! The flawless (ahem) remix is from BlendTV. -via The Daily Dot


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Roxy, the Long Island Railroad Dog

In 1901, a young dog later named Roxy was taken in by a conductor for the Long Island Railroad. Roxy made friends easily, and was soon traveling by train anywhere he wanted to go. He had favorite conductors, favorite passengers, and favorite stops across Queens. On Thursdays, he would go to Montauk Point for a seafood dinner, then spend the night at the Jamaica station. Other nights, he'd be at the YMCA or in Garden City with another conductor. He knew every train and its schedule, and how to get where he wanted to go.

The conductor would say, “President Peter’s orders are that Roxy has the privilege to occupy a seat in any car at any time.”

Sometimes he’d sit with the passengers, while other days he preferred riding in the baggage car or with the fireman. He was known to spring from the open cab while the train was going 40 miles an hour. But he could also sit patiently still on the platform while waiting for just the right train to bring him back to Jamaica or Long Island City.

On several occasions, Roxy traveled in a private car with President Roosevelt to Oyster Bay. Sometimes he’d visit the president’s home there. The Roosevelt children reportedly loved him.

We also know that he spent the Easter holidays in Merrick in 1905. Whomever he stayed with put a blue ribbon on his collar that read, “I spent Easter at Merrick and had a daisy time.” Perhaps this was Miss Elsie Hess, a school teacher who lived across the street from the Merrick station. Miss Hess always gave Roxy a drumstick at Christmas, and he’d also go to her house for care whenever he was ill. She even had a wicker basket just for him in case he stayed the night.

Then the day came in 1911 that Roxy got on the wrong train -for the first time ever- and ended up in Philadelphia! That adventure made the papers. Read about the life and times of Roxy the Long Island Railroad dog at The Hatching Cat.

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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The Pits

(vimeo link)

A lonely avocado has an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. No, wait, he is empty because his stomach doesn't have a pit. He's searching for his other half. This sweet short film by David Bizzaro was selected for more than 30 film festivals so far. -via The Kid Should See This


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Han Solo was Almost in Revenge of the Sith

The new movie Solo: A Star Wars Story will give us a backstory for the character Han Solo and it is guaranteed to be somewhat more believable than the one George Lucas envisioned. Lucas wanted to include Han as a minor character in Revenge of the Sith. In that scenario, Han was raised by Wookiees on the planet Kashyyyk, specifically by Chewbacca. That concept would have given a weird vibe to their later relationship, which is presented in the original trilogy as two friends who are also business partners. Would Han really call his father figure "Fuzzball"?

In the original Revenge of the Sith script from George Lucas, a 10-year-old Han would have found a transmitter on a smashed droid during the Battle of Kashyyyk. He would have presented it to Yoda, and the Wookiees would have traced that back to its source to find General Grievous. So in a way, we would have had Han to thank for Obi-Wan’s victory over the droid general. This would have also been a convoluted way to show how whip-smart and resourceful Han was even at such a young age. But making him a young orphan on Kashyyyk wouldn’t have made much sense at all, and the whole thing sounds like pointless fan service. Which is probably why the scene was cut from the script and never filmed.

And we're glad for that. Not everyone in the Skywalker saga has to have a meta backstory that circles around to coincidental reappearances that strain credulity. It's a bigger universe than that. Chewbacca's existence in the prequels was bad enough. Read more about Lucas' plans for Han at Inverse.  -via Uproxx


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24 Wildly Inappropriate Official Movie Tie-In Products



Movie merchandising can be a gold mine if people like the movie. If it's a hit, you can bet that manufacturers will take every possible opportunity to milk that popularity. That can lead to some merchandising tie-ins that just don't make a lot of sense.



Some are overly adult, some are contrary to the idea of the film, and some are just plain stupid.



Although the title says they are, I have my doubts about whether all of these products were officially licensed. Check out 24 of the most inappropriate movie merchandising ideas at Cracked.


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The First Trailer for Mowgli

(YouTube link)

Although he's been kept busy appearing several blockbuster movies, Andy Serkis has been working on his movie Mowgli for the past five years. It is based on Rudyard Kipling's story of a feral child raised by wolves The Jungle Book, but is very different from either Disney version: it's closer to Kipling's original, there's no singing, and the story continues after Mowgli joins a community of people. Serkis also put his extensive motion-capture experience to work to film the animals in a new way.

We very carefully, in a long development period, designed the animals to fit the actor’s faces. So, the way we approached it was, if you take it on the left side, you’ve got an image of Christian Bale’s face, and then on the right hand side, you’ve got an image of a panther. We morphed Christian’s face over a series of images, backwards from the panther and towards Christian until we reached a sweet spot where somewhere along that spectrum you could actually see both. So, it was in the design of the animals. That was where the secret lies. And then, having the actors just play with Rohan Chand—this extraordinary young actor who plays Mowgli—to actually have them in the same space connecting with each other and emotionally finding the scenes together. So that really was something. that was the big difference. And I think when you see it, you won’t question whether these things feel alive.

You can read the rest of the interview with Serkis at io9. Mowgli, starring Serkis, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Cate Blanchett as various animals, opens October 19.


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The Five Stages of Watching A Star Wars Movie

(YouTube link)

Did you know there's a new Star Wars movie opening Friday? Yeah, sure it's a "Star Wars Story," but fans are looking forward to Solo while trying to reserve judgment before they see it. When you go to the theater, see how many of these five stages illustrated by How It Should Have Ended are really true. -via Tastefully Offensive


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Having Babies on Mars Is Going to Be a ‘Titanic Challenge’

Although travel to Mars is still years away, scientists are already contemplating the possibilities of colonizing the red planet. The main process of sustaining a civilization, reproduction, may be the most difficult part of the entire scheme. A new paper lists cosmic radiation, microgravity, and stress as the leading, but not the only, dangers in trying to have a baby on Mars. We might not have a choice. Lead author and cognitive scientist Konrad Szocik says, “Of course, we should remember that when people will be able to live on Mars and reproduce on it, perhaps living on Earth will not be possible any more.”

Szocik thinks that there is only one way that humans could potentially have healthy babies on Mars immediately: Genetic engineering—which bring with it its own set of challenges.

“We should do that now, on Earth, to improve our chances of survival in space,” Szocik proposed. “We did not evolve to live in space. We should do [our] best to modify humans before sending them to space.” Szocik realizes that genetically modifying humans for spaceflight and space life is a Herculean task, and one for which our technology isn’t quite yet there. The concept surely raises ethical questions, as well. “Perhaps we should just leave Earthly ethics on Earth,” he said.

So when you hear the meme that quotes the TV show Futurama, "I don’t want to live on this planet anymore," be aware that other planets are thought to be more of an escape hatch than an improvement. Read more about the challenges of reproduction on Mars at The Daily Beast. -via Digg  

(Image credit: Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast)
 


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Lucas the Spider is a Giant

(YouTube link)

Lucas the Spider, from animator Joshua Slice, is a tiny but adorable little arachnid. He has seen a few adventures in the great big world. But now he has an opportunity to be a giant spider when he finds a cute little miniature village! Lucas soon learns that being a giant isn't any easier than being tiny, especially when you are young and inexperienced. -via Laughing Squid


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The Guardians



Hey, isn't this a great group of cosplayers? They look just like the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy! But no, these aren't cosplayers. In fact, you've seen these people in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. They are stunt doubles. From left, Amy Lynn Tuttle as Nebula, Boni Yanagisawa as Mantis, Lee-Anne Telford as Gamora, Tony McFarr as Star-Lord, and at the bottom, Rob de Groot as Drax. The picture is from a collection of images of Avengers and other Marvel movie characters in costume with their stunt doubles that you can see at Bored Panda.


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The X-Men Movies You Never Saw

Deadpool 2 is ruling the box office this weekend. It is the 11th movie in the X-Men series. That's not quite as many as in the 19-movie Avengers series, but there could have been many more. Filmmakers have been trying to get X-Men projects to the screen for almost three decades now, but many of those ideas fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons.  

This isn't intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive listing of every unproduced X-Men screenplay. Instead, I've focused on a series of drafts that had the best chance of getting made. Not included are re-writes of existing X-Men films (like Joss Whedon's discarded overhaul of the first X-Men movie and other early drafts that essentially just became the first film) and only slightly different drafts of movies that got made with some changes (David Benioff and Skip Woods' Deadpool-less X-Men Origins: Wolverine for example).

Fans of the comic books will be dismayed at what might have been, but some of those projects could be resurrected still. Read about six X-Men films that never made it to the screen (and one that finally did) at Den of Geek.


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Brainstorm or Green Needle?

(YouTube link)

The question in the title sounds like we are going to name a new superhero. No, this is another audio illusion that might freak you out a bit. A toy says "brainstorm." Or maybe it says "green needle." You need to decide which one it is before you play the video. Then play it again, thinking about the other option. Keep your finger on the replay button (bottom left on the video), and you'll find that this toy says what you expect it to say, even if you change your mind between plays. Some people hear "green storm" or "brain needle," but that's because they chose to hear it. For some science behind the phenomena, and the actual answer to what this toy is saying, go to HuffPo. -via Geekologie


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Arthropoda Iconicus: Insects Inspired by Star Wars



Richard Wilkinson is working on a series of insect illustrations based on pop culture characters. Star Wars fans will recognize who inspired each of these insects, but non-Star Wars fans will be forgiven if they take them as real species.

The first book of the series, working title: “Arthropoda Iconicus Volume I: Insects From A Far Away Galaxy”, is a collection of insects that bear a subtle yet uncanny resemblance to characters and vehicles from the worlds favourite space opera.

It is pegged for release in the late summer of this year.



The series will eventually have 60 insect illustrations, of which some will be available as prints. See an overview of them at Wilkonson's website and even more at Instagram. If you find one that stumps you, check out the Instagram hashtags. -via Geeks Are Sexy


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The Open Floor Plan House

American architecture introduced the open floor plan home around the turn of the 20th century, and now it is pretty much expected in new homes, where one large room combines the functions a kitchen, living room, and dining room. First, the kitchen and dining room were combined. By mid-century, open floor plans became synonymous with modern home architecture, bringing families together, facilitating supervision, and besides, it was great for entertaining.

Prosperity rose during the 1960s. The housing industry became more powerful, and many families had enough money to trade up from their wartime houses—especially white, middle-class families who had been able to build wealth through home equity. They developed greater ambition and wanted more space. As the small, modernist middle-class home of the 1930s through 1950s gave way to larger designs of the late 1960s and onward, the great room emerged, often with a vaulted ceiling exposed to high windows or a second-floor gallery. And so, the total space and activity the open-plan homeowner had to manage from behind the kitchen increased ever further. The kitchen became like a ship’s bridge, but absent the personnel to run the vessel.

Openness and continuity might have been modernist aspirations for the spirit as much as the body, but just as the open-plan office created the oppression of constant oversight in the name of collaboration, so the open-plan home merged the duties of hostess, butler, cook, and childcare provider. And despite its promise of relaxation and conversation, open-plan living has actually combined leisure with labor. When the two fuse, work wins in the end, converting recreation back into obligation. The dinner party entails its preparation and cleanup; meal-prep also involves child oversight or homework help; television-viewing takes place during dishwasher-unloading. Overall, domestic life becomes an exercise in multitasking. And so, even when it expands freedom, the open kitchen constantly reminds its users of that freedom’s limits.

Do the benefits of an open floor plan outweigh the disadvantages? An entire family can be together in a great room without actually interacting with each other, but proximity does encourage interaction. Open floor plans are a great boon to those susceptible to claustrophobia. And it does make bringing food to the table easier. But it also enables dirt to spread through the house easier. Kitchen smells, heat, and grease are no longer confined to the kitchen. A sinkful of dirty dishes makes the entire living space look messy. You can't control which spaces are heated or cooled separately. And what busy cook wants to be reminded that every other family member is relaxing in front of the TV? Read about the rise of the open floor plan and the backlash against it at The Atlantic. -via Metafilter, where you'll find more links on the subject.

(Image credit: Flickr user Steve Bennett)

Do you prefer an open floor plan or separate rooms?






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The Real Reason Peppers are Spicy

(YouTube link)

Why did peppers develop their heat? Scientists once assumed that pepper plants produce capsaicin to deter animals from eating them. But that explanation doesn't quite hold up in nature. Birds aren't affected by capsaicin, which is why you should put pepper seeds in the birdseed to keep squirrels out of it. Hank Green tells us what we know so far about pepper evolution in this SciShow video. -via Digg


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Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe set the US on fire with her bestselling 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, as it described the horrors of slavery. For many people in the north, the book was their first encounter with the everyday lives of enslaved people. To proponents of slavery, Uncle Tom's Cabin was dangerous propaganda that had to be discredited. Where did Stowe get her information? She eventually named names, including that of Josiah Henson, who escaped slavery and settled in Ontario. In 1849, Henson had published The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. In a later edition of the memoir, Henson wrote:

“I was in the vicinity of Andover, Mass., in the year 1849, where Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe resided. She sent for me and my travelling companion, Mr. George Clark, a white gentleman, who had a fine voice for singing, and usually sang at my meetings to add to their interest. We went to Mrs. Stowe’s house, and she was deeply interested in the story of my life and misfortunes, and had me narrate its details to her. She said she was glad it had been published, and hoped it would be of great service, and would open the eyes of the people to the enormity of the crime of holding men in bondage. She manifested so much interest in me, that I told her about the peculiarities of many slaveholders, and the slaves in the region where I had lived for forty-two years. My experiences had been more varied than those of the majority of slaves...”

The fictional experiences of Uncle Tom were strikingly similar to the Henson's real-life experiences, although Henson gained his freedom and lived to the age of 93. Other characters in Stowe's novel were based on people Henson knew. Read a short version of the life of Josiah Henson, and the story of how Uncle Tom's Cabin influenced American history, at Smithsonian.


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