• Furlongs Per Fortnight / Mix-and-match units MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! The official Interesting Thing of the Day style guide stipulates that within reason, all measurements expressed in American or British units (pounds, gallons, miles, etc.) should also be given in S.I. (metric) units. We do this partly because many of our readers are located in other parts of the world, and partly because metric...

    02.04.2013

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    02.04.2013

  • Body-Based Units of Measurement / Size matters in more ways than one MP3

    Like most guys, I love tools, especially if they’re expensive and so specialized I’ll only use them on rare occasions. Bonus points if they require electricity. My wife, knowing this about me, bought me a groovy little ultrasonic digital laser-guided measuring device as a gift. It even came with a holster. Now I can measure the size of any room (even its area and volume, if I need to) in just seconds. M...

    01.04.2013

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    01.04.2013

  • Arcosanti / Building a rural city MP3

    While on a business trip in Scottsdale, Arizona in the early 1990s, I took a walk down the road from the hotel one afternoon and ran into a peculiar-looking place called Cosanti. This compound, an official Arizona Historical Site, is a collection of oddly shaped concrete structures, including large domes and apses made from earthen molds. The first thing a visitor notices is the multitude of handmade bronze and ceram...

    26.03.2013

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    26.03.2013

  • Missile Silo Homes / Hole is where the heart is MP3

    As much as I enjoy urban life, there are times when it gets to me. The noise, traffic, crime, and cost of living occasionally make me long for a quiet, affordable home out in the middle of nowhere. At times like these, I like to browse the real estate listings on eBay. I don’t have the means to purchase a rural getaway, but just looking at the ads and daydreaming about them for an hour or two usually puts me i...

    24.03.2013

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    24.03.2013

  • The Hearst Estate at San Simeon / Xanadu in California MP3

    For reasons that have never been entirely clear to me, I went through much of my life completely oblivious of certain very important icons of American culture. For example, if you were to ask 100 Americans at random to name the best movie of all time, it’s a safe bet that a sizable percentage would say, “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles’s 1941 masterpiece. Even those who don’t consider it ...

    21.03.2013

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    21.03.2013

  • Herrenchiemsee Castle / King Ludwig II's island retreat MP3

    King Ludwig II of Bavaria is one of the most colorful characters in German history. Widely regarded as insane, he was certainly a troubled individual and not well suited to the demands of a monarch’s life. Although as a ruler he was neither effective nor well-liked, he is remembered fondly today primarily because of his contributions to the future economy of Germany: his castles, which attract huge numbers of...

    19.03.2013

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    19.03.2013

  • Winchester Mystery House / The building project of a lifetime MP3

    San Jose, California—about an hour’s drive south of San Francisco—is the unofficial center of Silicon Valley. Lots of high-tech companies are based in or near San Jose, and of the dozens of times I’ve been there, all but one or two were for a technology-related conference of one sort or another. It’s an attractive small city with some excellent museums, parks, and restaurants. But ...

    17.03.2013

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    17.03.2013

  • Neuschwanstein Castle / King Ludwig II's tribute to Wagner MP3

    Before visiting Germany a few years ago, I didn’t know very much about German history or culture, and didn’t really care to. I had always had a warm place in my heart for France, and felt my Gallic tastes were fundamentally at odds with what little I had grasped of life in Germany. As I saw things, the French language was smoother and more mellifluous than German; the French favored wine (as I do) wher...

    14.03.2013

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    14.03.2013

  • One-Log House / Northern California's famous redwood attraction MP3

    I’ve always wondered about the expression “famous for being famous.” It seems to denote someone or something with no intrinsic appeal but with a high level of self-replicating buzz or hype. I can think of examples of famous people and things that seemingly don’t deserve to be famous, but what has always puzzled me is how that buzz about nothing gets started. In other words, how could I beco...

    12.03.2013

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    12.03.2013

  • Fasting / There's more to not eating than you think MP3

    Because of my abiding interests in food, cooking, and unusual stories, I was excited to discover the books of Margaret Visser. Visser achieved literary fame for her books on the culture of eating: Much Depends on Dinner and The Rituals of Dinner. But the first book of hers I read was The Way We Are, a collection of short essays on all sorts of interesting things, from the unexpected origins of words to the stories be...

    10.03.2013

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    10.03.2013

  • Benedictine Oblates / Becoming a modern monk MP3

    Guest Article by Sheri Hostetler Thanks to Kathleen Norris, being a Benedictine oblate is almost hip these days. Norris is the author of the critically received books Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk. Both tell the story of a literary New Yorker who moved to the Great Plains and found a spiritual life at—of all places—a Benedictine monastery. More than any other person since Thomas Me...

    07.03.2013

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    07.03.2013

  • T'ai Chi Ch'uan / The meditative martial art MP3

    There’s nothing like a good action film, especially if it involves martial arts. Explosions and chases are all well and good, but I like kung fu better. I’ll eagerly watch Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, or even Keanu Reeves give the bad guys a whomping using no weapons other than physical skill and a sharp mind. In the real world, though, I find the best kung fu not in the flashy, Hollywood-friendly jumps ...

    05.03.2013

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    05.03.2013

  • The Charles Atlas Dynamic-Tension Fitness Course / Isometric blast from the past MP3

    I’m not what you’d call a “fitness freak.” I’ve spent enough time in gyms to know how the machines work and experience the sensation of building up a sweat, and I like to do t’ai chi. I also live on a San Francisco hill, so I get an aerobic jolt just walking home from the subway. But working out for its own sake is not really my idea of a good time. My disenfranchisement with e...

    03.03.2013

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    03.03.2013

  • Public Enrichment Project / Fun and common sense for a better world MP3

    When I began working on Interesting Thing of the Day, it was not with the idea that it would make tons of money. I was, and still am, optimistic that eventually the revenue generated by this project will be enough to make it worth the time spent working on it. But when you get right down to it, I do this because I feel it needs to be done. I like to learn, teach, and have fun, and Interesting Thing of the Day accompl...

    28.02.2013

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    28.02.2013

  • Rise of the Bagel / The hole truth MP3

    I love Friday mornings. It used to be that I looked forward to Fridays simply because they were the last work day of the week. Then I began working for an employer with the wonderful tradition of providing free bagels and cream cheese for the entire company every Friday morning. They were good bagels, too. Not only was this a great incentive to get to work on time, it put me in a proper frame of mind to be productiv...

    26.02.2013

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    26.02.2013

  • The Story of Phineas Gage / Brain damage and personality MP3

    In September, 1848, the Rutland & Burlington Railroad was expanding its line across Vermont. In order to keep the tracks as straight as possible, construction workers first had to remove a great deal of stone. The foreman of one group of men undertaking this difficult task was Phineas P. Gage. Twenty-five-year-old Gage was intelligent, kind, and well-liked. He was also quite athletic and agile, and impressed his ...

    25.02.2013

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    25.02.2013

  • Muffin Tops / Bottomless enjoyment MP3

    It’s all about dedication. In the course of my research for Interesting Thing of the Day, I have sometimes gone to great lengths to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the articles I write. If that means drinking absinthe or eating doughnuts or trudging through Paris museums, well, these are the sacrifices a responsible journalist must make. I even enlisted my wife’s assistance to undertake a tediou...

    21.02.2013

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    21.02.2013

  • Mantle Convection / Currents under the earth's crust MP3

    Many years ago I read an article in which the author jokingly referred to something called the “International Stop Continental Drift Society.” Believe it or not, ISCDS was an actual organization in the early 1980s that produced a tongue-in-cheek newsletter for geologists. If it were still around, I’d join in a second: stopping continental drift, like any number of other futile and pointless endeavo...

    20.02.2013

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    20.02.2013

  • The Discovery of Radium / Marie Curie's miracle cure MP3

    by Morgen Jahnke One of the central paradoxes of scientific research and technological development is that while every new discovery brings previously unknown possibilities to light, these discoveries can also have negative effects that may not be readily apparent. For example, certain medicines may provide exciting new treatment options, but it’s only later that their side effects come to light. One of the mo...

    18.02.2013

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    18.02.2013

  • Crème Brûlée / Why every kitchen needs a blowtorch MP3

    The restaurants of America—especially those of the fast-food variety—have come under attack for, among other things, making portion sizes much too large. This, nutritionists say, is one of the main causes of obesity. But I think the biggest problem with large portions is that they make it that much harder for patrons to leave room for dessert. I believe deeply in dessert, and few things cause me as much...

    15.02.2013

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    15.02.2013

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