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Sorting it Out

A robot that can go through mountains of trash and pick out the recyclables (audio):

If I Could Turn Back Time

Cher might be dismayed by the preliminary conclusions drawn from a (comparatively) nano-scale re-creation of the birth of the universe. It's complicated, but it seems that they found that, since plasmons seem to follow the second law of thermodynamics, they can't trace an organized enough route to travel back over their own path. Of course, this is all complete conjecture and is already being challenged.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Radios

OK, this is so cool, it has to have its very own entry: On Thursday, May 5, from 7 to 10 p.m., the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (downtown) is holding In Your Car, two sound installations featuring you, NPR, and your car radio in melodious conjunction with other drivers and their car radios. Intriguing? You bet.

Things to Do ~ April 28 & Beyond

April 29, Duke Ellington Birthday Celebration, Fowler Museum, UCLA:

April 29, "Opera Tales," Manhattan Beach Library:

April 29, Wings of Freedom Tour, Long Beach Airport:

April 29, May 6, 13, 20, 27, Shark Lagoon Nights (free), Aquarium of the Pacific: 

April 30, Spring Open House, California Wildlife Center, Malibu:

April 30, The inimitable Doo Dah Parade (and unofficial after parties)!, Pasadena:

April 30, "Where Art Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture From the Hindu-Buddhist World" (Spotlight Talk), Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena:

April 30, "In Love With Shakespeare" (recommended for ages 11 and up), Citrus College, Glendora:

April 30-May 1, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, University of Southern California:

April 30-May 1, Wild West Days, Los Angeles County Arboretum, Arcadia:

April 30-May 1, Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo, San Diego State Historic Park:

April 30-May 1, Romance of the Ranchos Festival, Homestead Museum, City of Industry:

Celebrate the Trees

April 29 is Arbor Day!

Happy 85th, Harper Lee

Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926. Her charming, moving, and deeply meaningful To Kill a Mockingbird is a uniquely American masterpiece ~ and her only book. It also happens to be one of very, very few absolutely successful book-to-screen adaptations. Perhaps even the best.

Have a Butcher's at This

(Translation: Take a Look at This) In one of very few nods (if not the only nod) this blog will give to the Royal Wedding (is that supposed to be capitalized?), a slide show with audio of the Scots and Welsh Guards getting ready for the main event:
Only because it's a fairly interesting thing.

Ashes to Ashes

Short video (1:05) of things disintegrating:

Orbicular Art

Nerd Toy Alert: The Eggbot draws whatever you program into it on anything round (thank you, Evil Mad Scientists, and Charlie, our math/science teacher who brought it in for the kids!):

Extreme DIY

Don't say I didn't give you enough notice: It's the fourth annual MAKER FAIRE! May 21 and 22! ~ unfortunately for Angelenos (or not, depending on one's free time and transportation situation), up in the Bay Area, but totally worth the drive. It's all about inventions and innovation and endless possibilities (videos on website):

You're So Transparent

Macropinna microstoma (MBARI photo)

A deep-sea fish with a transparent head? It's on the Monterey Bay Aquarium site, so it must be for real (video):
For more information:

Happy Birthday?

The real Panchen Lama turned 22 on Monday, April 25. He has spent over two-thirds of his life in detention, since the day he was kidnapped by Chinese police. No one has heard from him since.,-held-hostage-for-16-21388.html

Big Bunny

A team of scientists has found the fossils of a rabbit that lived on Minorca about three million to five million years ago. It had short ears and didn't hop, but those aren't the main characteristics distinguishing it from its modern heirs (heirs/hares ~ get it?). Apparently, these bunnies weighed about 26 pounds!

And on a Slightly Different Note ...

Just HAD to pass this along (to all those of my generation or thereabouts): Embarrassing or hilarious? You decide. Jagger and Bowie dancing in the street (video):

Michelangelo, Cubed

Oh, the unending creativity of the open mind! Eleven "interesting" individuals, 108,810 pixels (9 fewer would have made a lovely palindrome!), 400 hours, and 12,090 Rubik's Cubes have resulted in a re-creation of The Creation, specifically, The Hand of God portion of the Sistine Chapel. But it won't end there ~ oh, no, it won't!:

Classical Breakdance

Oh, the unending creativity of the open mind, redux! Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and street dancer Lil Buck collaborate on Saint-Saëns' "The Swan" (and if that isn't enough for you, the whole thing was filmed by Spike Jonze) (video, obviously):

For Rent: 500+ Bdrm, 500+ Ba, Xtra Ppl No Charge

Vaduz Castle, Liechtenstein (from
Like it? This castle ~ and the country surrounding it ~ can be yours for $70,000/night, BUT there's a catch (isn't there always?): a two-night minimum.

And if that doesn't do it for you, try the airbub website for, as it boasts, anything from a couch (a futon in a studio apartment in Frederiksberg, Denmark) to a country (the aforementioned Principality of Liechtenstein). In between, you'll find an awesome little tree house in Vermont (continental breakfast included):

Vertical Green

Pictures of "living walls":

Dig it

What would you find if you went digging around in your backyard? A man in Austria found "more than 200 rings, brooches, ornate belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates and other pieces or fragments, many encrusted with pearls, fossilized coral and other ornaments." All are about 650 years old, according to an AP story.

A Basketful of Trivia

File this under Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know. Hares and rabbits are separate species in the Leporidae family, why is Easter Island named after Easter?, the Easter bunny came from Germany, and what does it all have to do with Coney Island?|utmccn=%28referral%29|utmcmd=referral|utmcct=/&__utmv=-&__utmk=97429535

Olivia and the Birds

Olivia Bouler's almost 12 now, but she was 10 when the BP oil spill devastated the waters and wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico and she started painting cards to save the birds of the area. Since then, she's raised more than $200,000 to help the Audubon Society with its work in the Gulf and has come out with a book (video):

The Young Girl and the Sea

The blog of Laura Dekker, a 15-year-old who is on her way to becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo: . She was born on a boat off New Zealand and holds Dutch, German, and New Zealand citizenship.

Illuminating Art

Kumi Yamashita works in many different media, including shadow and light. In the installation below, note the shadow profiles cast by the squares of paper:
"Origami," by Kumi Yamashita. Photo by John Bentham
In "Shadow Dialogue," lighted rotating paper profiles cast a shadow of two talking heads: . For more, go to her website:

Good to Know ~ BRICS

What is/are BRICS? No, it has nothing to do with Lego:

in Just

(one of my faves, by e.e. cummings)

in Just-
spring       when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman 

whistles       far       and wee 

and eddyandbill come 
running from marbles and 
piracies and it's 

when the world is puddle-wonderful 

the queer 
old baloonman whistles 
far       and       wee 
and bettyandisbel come dancing 

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and 


baloonMan       whistles 

Family Photographs

This is the blog of Steve McCurry, he of the National-Geographic-Afghan-Girl-With-the-Amazing-Eyes photograph. His shots are magnificent, fascinating, evocative, and his generosity in sharing them with us is great. (If you're particularly sensitive or are viewing this with a child, you might want to skip over the sections titled "Stalemate in Afghanistan" and "War's Children"):

Pass the M&Ms; I Feel a Cough Coming On

Soooo, we've known this since 2004 (date article was written) and no one's told me??? According to New Scientist, chocolate may be a more effective cure for a cough than traditional cough medicine ~ and, no side effects (well, what's a pound or two to get over a cough?):

In Space, No One Can Cure Your Headache

Pity the astronauts. Apparently, medicines that work for us here on Earth are less efficacious in space:


Experts in their fields tell New Scientist which ideas/innovations will change the face of science forever: . Unfortunately (but understandably), to read the whole thing, you'll have to subscribe. Fortunately, you can do so for just that one issue, if you're interested enough.

You Might Want to Bring a Couple (Hundred) Paper Towels ...

It's the Grilled Cheese Invitational! It's the 2nd 8th Annual! Really (at least that's what it says)! April 23 at the Los Angeles Center Studios, and there's still time to register to compete (there are four categories)!:

Earth Day Events (That Are Actually on or Near the Day)

Anytime: Pledge an Act of Green, online: (as of 5:55 p.m. April 19, they have 100, 498,139 pledges and counting!)

April 21, "Why Do We Love Trees?," Getty Center:

April 22, Malibu Earth Day, Legacy Park:

April 22, Bring in a travel cup, get a free coffee or tea, participating Starbuckses:

April 22, Car-Free Day, Wilshire Center:
April 22-24, 12th Annual Topanga Earth Day Festival:

April 23, Earth Day Celebration, Ocean Institute, Dana Point:

April 23, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Earth Day Fair, San Pedro

April 23, Sixth Annual EarthFest Concert in the Park, Kenneth Hahn Park, Los Angeles:

April 25, Clean-up at Kenneth Hahn Park:

A New Hand

The first hand transplant in California was a success, and now the recipient, a 26-year-old mom, shows off her new appendage (video):

It Tastes the Way it Smells

Taste buds aren't for tongues only. In fact, says neurobiologist Thomas Finger, "in terms of total number of cells, there are more [taste cells] outside the mouth than inside the mouth.” Weird? You'd better believe it!:

Fruit of the Womb

A new study finds a link between maternal diet and actual changes in a fetus's DNA:

It Takes a Website

OK, so it's from Craigslist. It can still be a good idea, no? Last week, the Craigslist Foundation introduced Likeminded, a website whose purpose is to help get the word out. It will do so by collecting stories of good deeds, meaningful changes, etc., on the local level, so that others can learn of them and either help in some way or be inspired to start something of the same ilk in their own community:

A Time and Place

Captain Robert Falcon Scott commanded two expeditions to Antarctica, the first one in 1901-1904. He left for his second in 1910 with the goal of reaching and studying the South Pole. When he and what remained of his team got there in January 1912, they learned that they had been beaten there by about one month, by Roald Amundsen.

The Scott expedition never made it back to England. Scott's last diary entry reads, "Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. . . . We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more."

Their hut has sat practically untouched all these years, still housing the men's unused supplies (slideshow):

The Pre-Pre-Test

You know it had to happen. The question is, Where will it end? Presumably on the assumption that practice makes perfect, last fall, The College Board came out with ReadiStep, an exam along the lines of the PSAT and SAT, for eighth graders:

Don't Sugarcoat it, Kid

Some candy's red,
and I am so blue ~
'cause though sugar is sweet,
it just might kill you
(and we're not talking only obesity and diabetes):

P.S., For those who don't recognize it, the title of this post is a line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!

The Origin of Language

Possibly answering a question that has flummoxed linguists for generations, a New Zealand biologist used mathematical theory to investigate where and how human language originated. A linguist at the University of Pennsylvania says that, if accurate, "... it’s one of the most interesting articles in historical linguistics that I’ve seen in a decade.”

Maturity Value

Highlights of the Third Annual Office Chair Racing Championships in Bad (←part of the name, not the English adjective) Koenig, Germany (video):

Berlin's Unterwelten

Narrow, dark, and cold. After much renovation work, Berlin has opened up its World War II network of bunkers ~ rail lines and bomb shelters that housed tens of thousands, especially during the torrential bombardment of the city toward the end of the war. A group called Berlin Underworlds Association takes visitors on a tour (video):

Things to Do ~ April 14 & Beyond

April 15-16, Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival, Paramount Ranch, Agoura Hills:

April 16, Family Day: Princes, Paupers, and Portraits, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena:

April 16, 14th Annual Festival Latino, UCLA:!__home-page/festival-latino

April 16, Earth Day Celebration, Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge:

April 16-17, 13th Annual Chumash Day Powwow and Inter-Tribal Gathering, Malibu: (scroll to bottom of page to download flyer)

April 16-17, 20th Annual California Poppy Festival, Lancaster:

April 16-17, 14th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, Monterey Park:

April 16-17, Aquarium Earth Month Celebration,  Santa Monica Pier Aquarium:

April 17, Hands Across California, to benefit the state's community colleges:

April 17, Living History Day (celebrating the 1870s), Los Encinos State Historic Park, San Fernando Valley:

April 17, Earth Day Whale Fest, Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu:

April 17, World City: Sakai Flamenco & Vagabond Opera, Music Center, downtown:

April 17, The Rendezvous Hike, Temescal Canyon Gateway Park:

April 17, Kids in the Courtyard: Vévé, Fowler Museum, UCLA:

April 17, WOMP (Westwood Organized Projects), Westwood:

April 17-May 1 (except Tuesdays and April 24), "Repair, Restore, Rebuild," Getty Villa, Malibu:

April 19, Maya Soetoro-Ng will read her book Ladder to the Moon, L.A. Central Library, downtown:

April 19, "6,656 Acres of Family History," Temescal Gateway Park:

April 21, "Why Do We Love Trees?," Getty Center:

April 21, Westwood LIVE, Westwood:

April 22 is Earth Day!

April 22, Bring in a travel cup, get a free coffee or tea, participating Starbuckses:

Land Ahoy!

From BBC Earth, a story and videos focusing on our friends the amphibians and the many adaptations water-living creatures had to make in order to be able to live on land:

The Art of Repression

On April 3, Chinese authorities detained artist Ai Weiwei, an outspoken critic of the regime best known internationally for his Bird's Nest stadium used during the 2008 Olympics. His studio was searched, and he has not been heard from since. The New York Times focuses on this issue in its "Room for Debate" section:

If you'd like to add your voice to the protest of this action, you can sign the petition at

From the Source

It all began in an Information and Communications Technologies for Social Enterprise course at UC Berkeley two years ago: NextDrop, a way of providing city residents of countries in South Asia, Africa, and other areas who need it with reliable, up-to-the-minute information about their water delivery:
The group's website:

Pool School

How to build your very own natural swimming hole (video):

United in Nature

Photos by Mikhail Galustov (left), Ian Shive (right)
What would a typical Afghan citizen picture when thinking of the United States? Probably not Yellowstone or the Tetons or the Snake River. Photographer Ian Shive took portraits of Afghans holding his 2009 coffee-table book The National Parks: Our American Landscape open to various pages.
"The idea started by accident," he said. "I had a friend who was going to Dubai, and she took a couple of copies of my book as gifts. She sent me back pictures of people looking at the books—college students. They told her that they'd never realized America looked this way. They thought it was all New York and Hollywood." (from Sierra Club article referenced below)

Shive calls this "wilderness diplomacy."

Ice, Ice, Baby

Inside the Russian ice-breaker Yamal, which is apparently part of a new effort to cut the carbon footprint of transport ships (video):

Inventor Par Excellence

What a life story! Meet Peter Florjančič, inventor of the perfume atomizer, plastic ice skate blades, and plastic injection molding machine, almost-inventor of the car airbag and the plastic zipper, Olympic ski jumper, immigrant, and friend to stars and international royalty.
"Gold lies on the streets and you just need to dig it up with ideas. Ideas are like the shovel," he says. He turns 92 this year, and he's still going strong:

Virtual Vomit

Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection! How cool is that?:

Driven to Drink (Water)

The aerosol can, the Jeep, plastic bottles (even orange juice) ~ all products that have come to us, either directly or indirectly, via the battlefield. One new invention will allow soldiers, and maybe one day the rest of us (if we ever trust it enough!), to get drinking water from diesel fuel: (Ignore the redundancy in the next-to-last paragraph.)
This is actually something different companies have been working on for a while. (See,13319,78169,00.html, from 2005.)


An entry into the Seoul International Design Competition, the Bike Hanger stores bikes vertically in the narrow, unused spaces between buildings. First reaction: Wow! Clever! Sounds great! On second thought: One would have to be REALLY committed to actually use it:

"Weird Parallels"

On the sesquicentennial anniversary of the day the Civil War began (April 12, 1861), some historians are pointing to several similarities between the political atmosphere then and now. From an article on "The shutdown of the federal government, war in Libya, the furor over the new health care law and Guantanamo Bay—all have tentacles that reach back to the Civil War, historians say."

Breathe Free

Hilton Kelly, the winner of this year's Goldman Environmental Prize of North America, has worked for many years to clean up the air in his neighborhood in Port Arthur, Texas (and if the name of that town sounds familiar, it's because that was Janis Joplin's hometown ~ and you know how nice they were to her ... not):

I'm Gonna Live Forever!

Exhibit A: In a study sponsored by every mall in the world (just kidding), researchers found that seniors (in this case, Taiwanese individuals aged 65 and older who live independently) who shopped more frequently tended to live longer. Obviously, that's not a direct correlation, i.e., the "B" factor in "if A=B and B=C, A=C":,0,7487341.story
Exhibit B: Coffee isn't bad for you (as if those of us who enjoy it ever thought it was)!:,0,7175647.story

Going to the Dogs (and Cats and Bunnies ...)

The ASPCA has a good idea: If you're planning on throwing away old towels, blankets, leashes, etc., call your local shelter first, as they might be able to use them.


Does this count as Interesting or simply Extremely Amusing? You be the judge ~ because it's like that and that's the way it is (and a большой thank-you to me bro for sharing):

Mother Nature, You're Fired!

Who needs nature when you have LEDs? In a scene that could be straight out of Dune, scientists in The Netherlands are raising crops without sunshine, fresh air, or rain. This, they say, is the future of farming ~ indeed, the future of the planet:


Kids have great ideas, so it should come as no surprise that they also invent great things. Exactly what has been invented by kids over the years, however, may surprise you:

Sokkusu ("socks" in Japanese)

Will sending socks to Japan really help survivors of the recent tragedies over there? It seems that it is, despite much joking and cynical speculation to the contrary. A column in the UN Dispatch concludes, "Nothing about Socks for Japan meets my normal criteria for a good relief group. They’re small, they started in response to the current disaster, and they have no real experience in humanitarian response. But they’ve chosen a small niche, in a small geographic area, and they’re getting it right. They really seem to have it under control." (

Soooo, if you want to take part in the sock drive, here's where to start:

Birth of a Nation

The people have spoken, and South Sudan is its own country. Now comes the hard part: They just voted on a national anthem, but they still need an international dialing code, new birth certificates, passports ~ and, apparently (according to a story by Fareed Zakaria), the new layout for neighborhoods in the capital, Juba, will resemble, from the air, a rhinoceros and a giraffe.

Seeing Is Believing

Another entry in our occasional "how to" series (because it's good to know!):

New York, for Free

Planning a trip to New York sometime soon? Whether that's in your future (lucky you) or you live in or nearby ~ or even if you're not a city kind of person ~ you might want to check out this creative list of 40 really Interesting Things one can do there for free, from visiting (and sniffing) the Earth Room to surveying the Forbes Collection:

Le Burqa

As of Monday, April 11, the fine for wearing a burqa or niqab in public in France is the equivalent of $190 (cf., $159+ for texting while driving here) and/or public service. There were arrests at a protest on Sunday, and another protest is planned for Monday.

Violet ♡ Bobby

OK, what is it with webcams and birds these days? Not to be outdone by a pair of supercilious eagles, a red-tailed hawk couple has built a nest on a window ledge at NYU ~ that of the office of the president, no less. Their eggs are expected to hatch in mid- to late-April:
Alas, it seems there's no infrared light to brighten the night here, so we'll have to confine our gazing to daylight hours.

Star Sounds

Scientists are able to discover a lot about individual stars from the "music" they emit, including their size, distance from us, and inner structure:

How to Make a Rubber Band

Because you know you always wanted to know, a brief history of the rubber band and step-by-step instructions (warning: you'll need a plantation and some mandrels):

Quite the Yarn

To prove (as if we needed more proof) that it takes all kinds, a group called The Materialistics has put together knitted versions of artists' masterpieces, including works by Warhol and Van Gogh:

A video following the creation of an earlier project, "Coat for a Boat":

Big Boy

A rare giant turtle, thought to be more than 100 years old, was caught in his lake in Vietnam for medical treatment ~ and it wasn't easy (there's a reason he's lived this long!):

Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day ~ April 14

Set aside that wocket
(apologies to Dr. Seuss)
and put a poem in your pocket ~
it's smaller than a moose.

Farms in Compton?

Historic photographs accompany a short explanation of why there actually are farms in what we mostly consider to be a city of concrete and buildings, Compton:


and I missed it ~ DANG! If you did, too, and you want to see it, go to

To see all three chicks (night view with infrared light), check out Simply awesome (and congrats to mom and dad)!

* See post titled "Nest Eggs."

Comin' In to Los Angeleeeez

Footage from the cockpit of a plane landing at LAX at twilight:

Things to Do ~ April 8 & Beyond

April 9,  Science Day 2011, L.A. Central Library:

April 9, "Wonderful Weavings," Craft and Folk Art Museum, Mid-Wilshire:

 April 9, Exploring the Darkness, Franklin Canyon Park, Beverly Hills, & for information about more park events:

April 9-May22, Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Irwindale:

April 10-Sept. 5, Pavilion of Wings, Natural History Museum, Exposition Park:

April 10, Singers Anonymous (workshop for children 8-13), Hammer Museum, Westwood:

April 10, Children's Earth Day, Star Eco Station, Culver City:

April 10, The Mouse and His Child screening, Hammer Museum, Westwood:

April 10, U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus Concert, Huntington Beach High School:

 April 12, Garbage Dreams screening, Santa Monica Public Library, Fairview branch:

April 12, "If Your House Could Talk, What Story Would It Tell?," Long Beach Library:

 April 12, Family Nightlife Walk: "Owls Are Outstanding," El Dorado Nature Center, Long Beach:


April 12, Bag It screening, Calvary Christian School, Pacific Palisades:

April 13, Rice Field of Dreams screening, Art Theatre of Long Beach: and

April 13, Author Talk With Maryrose Wood, Children's Book World, West Los Angeles:

April 13, Bubbleology With Full Spectrum, Westchester-Loyola Village Library:

April 14, Third Annual Bike Night at the Hammer!, Hammer Museum, Westwood:

April 14, Tip-a-Cop fundraiser for Special Olympics, Claim Jumper  restaurant, Long Beach:

April 14, One-person play The Little Professor, Los Angeles Public Library, Westwood branch:

April 15-17, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

Through April 17, Redcat International Children's Film Festival,

April 17, Earth Day Whale Fest, Leo Carrillo State Park:

Terminal Green

Richard Branson (yes, again!) was at San Francisco Airport, unveiling his remake of the Virgin America terminal, which is now energy-efficient and may be the first airline terminal in the U.S. to get a LEED Gold certification from the Green Building Council:

Photohistory of the Earth

It's photographer Frans Lanting's world in this TED slide show talk, both beautiful and fascinating:

At it Again!

What goes up must come down, and obediently following that adage, (Sir) Richard Branson is planning to visit the depths of the Mariana Trench as soon as his new submersible is pronounced ready for lift-off:

The Autistic Brain

Scientists from the University of Montreal have culled 15 years of data on the autistic brain and found that, far from being as disorganized as many people had suggested, it is simply organized differently. The areas that process visual information are highly developed, which, they say, leaves other areas less so.

Things Fall Apart

Entropy, as explained by Professor Brian Cox on BBC Two's wonderful Wonders of the Universe:
And as accompaniment, the following, by Edna St. Vincent Millay ~
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

Coins of the Realm

Fifty thousand ~ FIFTY THOUSAND ~ Roman coins were found in a field in England last year. Many of them were minted under the rule of the Roman general who named himself emperor of Britain ... and later was assassinated by his treasurer. For the story and pictures, go to

Science Fair! ~ April 16!

Got this via email:
Come join a fun-filled, exciting day of FREE workshops, an exhibit hall filled with student research projects, and lots of hands-on, interactive science activities and Mobile Science Centers to explore, SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2011, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Pasadena Convention Center.
Come see the world-famous marine conservation artist Wyland as he invites students to paint a 45-foot mural with him. Wyland art to be auctioned off at the evening program, 5:00 PM in the Civic Auditorium.

You'll need to email for a registration form because I can't include it here. (Registration walk-ins will be accepted based on space availability).

How to Play, 101

The fine art of "doing nothing" (which was always, really, doing something, even if it was daydreaming) and "just playing" is a mystery to more and more of our kids.

"In decades past," writes David Bornstein in a New York Times Online commentary, "when neighborhoods were perceived to be safe, children had lots of time to play outdoors, and they naturally picked up the culture of play from older kids. Today, children are indoors more and 'personal use media' takes up six or seven hours of their time every day." I would add to that, that any "play" time children have these days, at least in the cities and suburbs, has become highly structured: dance class, soccer team, art class, swim team.

A New, 4.5-Billion-Year-Old Mineral

It's called Wassonite, it was discovered in a meteorite found in Antarctica, and "it possesses a unique crystal structure that has not been previously observed in nature," according to a NASA scientist:

Spring Cleaning

A veteran Sherpa guide is leading a team to climb Mt. Everest with a different goal in mind: to bring down 11,000 pounds of the trash that's accumulated there from all the climbers who dumped their garbage along their way before Nepal started requiring that they bring it down themselves:

Hey Diddle Diddle

Regina Mayer wanted a horse but got a cow. She didn't despair and, aiming for the moon, taught her cow (named Luna, by the way!) to jump hurdles instead:

A Wedding in Blockland

Hear ye, see ye! The royal wedding, as imagined in Legos:

Weather or Not

FWIW, in a poll conducted by, Fargo, North Dakota, won the title of America's Toughest Weather City, only barely inching out Bradford, Pennsylvania. The final score was Bradford, 25,575; Fargo, 29,837. The real surprise (as far as I'm concerned)? That so many people voted at all!

16 Gentlemen and a Little Lady

from "While You Weren't Listening ~ These Things Remind Me of You"

Look Inside!

The first journalist to be allowed inside the Virgin Galactic spaceship takes us with him:

MLK Jr. ~ April 4

 Monday, April 4, is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:;jsessionid=F6FD652E5FBF400F762DD0591992E62B

Super Story

Dr. Harry Coover, the inventor of Super Glue, passed away recently. His story, and the story of his ubiquitous adhesive, is once again that of a fortuitous accident: (The video at the end is good except that "spontaneous" is misspelled!)

Which Pic Do You Pick?

You can vote for your three favorite photos in the Defenders of Wildlife's 2011 contest:

(FWIW, I chose "Black Ant and Curve," "Morning Stretch," and "Tundra.")  :)

How to Build a Bomb Shelter

First macrame and feather earrings, now the bomb shelter! Apparently, it's making a comeback:

You knew it had to happen sooner or later.

Tangled Trees

In the makes-sense-but-I-wouldn't-have-thought-of-this-repercussion-myself category, floods drive spiders to higher ground, too, which in the case of an area of Pakistan, means trees. Said trees are now festooned (some would say swathed or, more likely, encased) in webs. See pix at

Planet Spud

The Earth as potato! Based on data collected by its GOCE (I'm too lazy to type the whole thing out) probe, the European Space Agency has released a video of our planet showing accurate measurements of its gravitational field. Apparently, gravity doesn't have the same force everywhere:

Does this mean I'm at my ideal weight SOMEwhere on this planet?!?

Bicuspid Castle

British children are being asked to donate their baby teeth to a combination art-and-science project called Palaces, in which the teeth will be used to decorate a magic castle. The sculpture will then go on exhibit to spotlight the ways in which even parts of our bodies can be reused and recycled, specifically, in this case, the dental pulp in baby teeth being a source of stem cells. I don't know whether they will accept teeth from other countries, but here's the link, in case you want to try(!) or just learn more about it:

World Autism Awareness Day ~ April 2

Today is the fourth annual World Autism Awareness Day. For more information, go to

Deciphering the Ivory Coast

So now it's the Ivory Coast. For those who want to keep up with this power struggle, BBC News has two good stories offering an overview. The first is a look at the main players:
The second is a Q&A explaining the background, what it's all about, and more:

Classic Mathmagic

Trust me, it's the best!:

One Fine April Fool's Day ...

From BBC News Magazine:
"In 1987, a young British broadcaster called Chris Morris let off helium into the BBC Bristol studio, causing the newsreader's stories to reach a higher and higher pitch. Chris lost his job. And started his career in satire."
And then, there's always:

Sakura: Bittersweet Blossoms

The cherry trees are blooming in Japan as here, but of course, this year, it's different. This year, the symbolism of these beautiful but delicate and transient flowers as reminders of the brevity of life is even more meaningful and poignant. Here are an article and a video about it:

And here is a great little history of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C., and of the friendship between the U.S. and Japan: