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Back To/From the Brink

Fascinating interview with Danfung Dennis, a news photographer-turned-documentary-maker whose Hell and Back Again, which follows a U.S. Iraq war soldier back home, won a top award at the Sundance Film Festival (video and transcript):

Making Scents

A few interesting facts about the art of perfumery. For example, did you know that demand for secretions from a gland of the Siberian musk deer ~ despite the manufacture of a synthetic smell-alike ~ has driven that animal onto the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' "vulnerable" list? (slideshow):

Man As Mouse

Humantenna and SoundWave ~ two technologies whose goal is to make the need for a mouse or touch screen obsolete by turning the human body into a kind of remote control:

America in Ruins

Port Richmond, PA Yves Marchand/Romain Meffre
Abandoned buildings have a certain dignity and beauty all their own, even when, like these in the United States, they're relatively new (slideshow):

No Strain

Although it's not yet perfected, a novel way of cleaning water contains no filters, no moving parts, and could possibly be adapted to clean a large amount of water quickly (video):

Stairway to Heaven

Scientists have found a kind of bridge made up of galaxies that connects two galaxy clusters. When these two, along with a third cluster, smash together in several billion years, they will form one of the largest galaxy superclusters in the universe:

His Hirsuteness

Ram Singh Chauhan Guinness World Records
The man who is in the books as having the longest moustache in the world (14 feet long) shares his tips ~ plus more than you'd ever want to know about facial hair:

Bon Appétit It Ain't

The column is called "Eat Like a Man," the article is titled "Cook for Yourself: The Post-College Guide," but these creative recipes aren't just for men, and they aren't just for college grads (though it would help if you were of the carnivoric persuasion):

What Will You Be Driving?

Popular Mechanics picks a dozen new cars worth waiting for:

The 2013 SRT Viper will be out in December and could be yours for about $100,000 ~ but just looking won't cost you a thing.

Our 'Tribalistic Tendencies'

"Humans originated by multilevel selection—individual selection interacting with group selection, or tribe competing against tribe," says sociobiologist E.O. Wilson (The Social Conquest of Earth) in an interview. He contends that this explains why we humans are rocked by conflicting emotions, such as selflessness vs. selfishness, and why "we never seem to be able to work things out satisfactorily, particularly internationally":

Underwater Wonder

From Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, images of the strange and beautiful creatures that can be found in our ocean:
The crimson anemone provides a safe home for candy stripe shrimp in an example of a type of relationship called commensalism.
David Hall

There Goes the Sun ~ May 20

An annular solar eclipse called a Ring of Fire will liven up the skies for those of us living on the terrestrial Ring of Fire on May 20:

Walk the Creativity Walk

There are some positions and actions that can encourage creative thinking more than others:

Tango for Three

Yes, three: the woman, the man, and the bandoneón ~ of which Hector del Curto is a master (video):

The Day That Got Away

Think Mother's Day is a "Hallmark Holiday"? Do you deride it as being meaningless and too commercial? Well, count yourself on the side of the poor, frustrated woman who created it in the first place. She spent the rest of her life trying to turn it back into what she had originally envisioned ~ and, in a final insult, died in a sanatorium whose bill was paid in part by a group of grateful florists:

Anna Jarvis
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Counting Carbon

NASA has moved one step closer to its scheduled 2014 launch of its OCO-2 instrument, which will study atmospheric carbon dioxide:

Picture Your Life on May 15

A reminder ~ Inspired by the 1955 exhibit "Family of Man" (and the book, the paperback version of which my parents kept around and which absolutely fascinated me as a child), Swedish book publisher and photographer Jeppe Wikström is organizing an international challenge. He is asking us to photograph our lives on May 15 and upload the resulting pictures:

Mom, Mamá, Mamusia, はは, Maman, Mthama

In Save the Children's current State of the World's Mothers Report, Niger has replaced Afghanistan as the worst place to be a mother. The website includes a petition to sign asking world leaders to do more to prevent childhood death:

Leading Lady

In time for Mother's Day, stills from five movies starring real-life mother-daughter duos, from Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli to Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer:

The Making of a Man

A portrait of the president as a young man emerges from the pages of a journal kept by an old girlfriend:

On Her Way Up

Erich Schlegel for The New York Times
Ashima Shiraishi, 11, is climbing rock walls even adults three times her age find daunting (story and video):

CycloFemme ~ May 13

In praise of bikes and bicycling and to encourage more women to experience the joy of two wheels, this nascent movement would have us take to the streets:

The Creative City

"Cities force us to interact with strangers and with the strange. They pry the mind open," says Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, in this interview:

Grow Around It

Trees have the most miraculous way of not letting anything stand in their way. There's a lesson in it for all of us:

Riding a Rogue

supsurfdotnet via YouTube
Garrett McNamara surfs a 78-foot (or larger) wave ~ and lives to tell about it. Cowabunga indeed (story and video):

Writing on the Wall

W Saturno/D Stewart
Paintings and incisions on the walls of a structure unearthed in Guatemala are part of the oldest Mayan calendar yet found:

A Stranger Among His People

The Prophet was published in 1923. It's been translated into more than 50 languages and has inspired everyone from songwriters to politicians. But who, exactly, was its author, Kahlil Gibran?:

Not So Elementary

A project to illustrate all the elements of the periodic table with short, artistic films is taking submissions. Four elements already have films attached (N.B., although creative and well-made, they are raw and can be unsettling):

Worth a Thousand Words?

The Descriptive Camera prints out a written description of the picture you take, in three to six minutes. One question: Why?:

Bound for Home

Colombian artist Miler Lagos's Home, built of books:

Life Lesson

ABC photo
Meet Gac Filipaj, who fled war-torn Yugoslavia, got a job as a custodian at Columbia University, and now, 20 years later, is graduating from same with a bachelor's in Classics ~ with department honors, no less:

Mind Your Qs

Success in life is not so much about the IQ as it is the EQ, MQ, and BQ, according to an article in Forbes:

More Equal Than Others

TIME magazine's picks for the 100 most influential people of the year includes Tim Tebow, Samira Ibrahim, Anonymous, and Ron Paul:,28804,2111975_2111976,00.html

D) None of the Above

A list of some of the rules ~ tacit and otherwise ~ passed on to students that have nothing to do with success in real life:

The Finish Line

A woman who was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2007 horseback-riding accident finished the London marathon with the help of a bionic suit and lots and lots of determination:

See Spot Stun

A gigantic sunspot grouping just rotated into view. It's so big that it can be seen with a regular backyard solar telescope. (You know you have to have a special filter to look at the sun, don't you?):

Second Sight

Surgeons in London have partially restored the sight of two men with retinitis pigmentosa (story and videos):

The Audacity of Udacity

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a professor of Computer Science and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University, Sebastian Thrun, offered to teach a free online course called Introduction to Artificial Intelligence. Approximately 160,000 students signed up. And so began Udacity, an organization offering free courses, complete with exams:

Bernie's Backstory

"It's not as bad as people say it is. He only shot her four times, not five." Skip Hollandsworth, on whose 1998 magazine article the movie Bernie is based, talks about how he didn't have to invent any of the best lines in this unbelievable-but-true story because they came straight from his reporter's notes (transcript and audio):

Dogs Can Dance

ITV photo
Sixteen-year-old Ashleigh Butler and her Pudsey got a well-deserved standing ovation on Britain's Got Talent (and thanks to Jeni, for passing this along!) (video):

Good News, Bad News

Continued studies of Greenland's glaciers suggest that their melting may not cause the oceans' levels to rise as much as some have predicted. Still ... :

Navigating the Minefields

The use of landmines is the highest it's been since 2004, according to Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, and one of the countries with the most is Afghanistan (with an estimated 10 million-plus). Now, Massoud Hassani, who left the country with his family in 1993, used a childhood toy as inspiration for a simple but effective wind-powered mine-clearance device:
An iron ball at the center of the Mine Kafon contains a GPS device. The rest consists of bamboo and biodegradable plastic.                                                        Copyright: Massoud Hassani

Some of Us Are Snooker Loopy

Snooker (n.) ~ a variety of pool played with 15 red balls and 6 balls of colors other than red, in which a player must shoot one of the red balls, each with a point value of 1, into a pocket before shooting at one of the other balls, with point values of from 2 to 7. This from 
The 2012 final game is being played quite seriously right now at the World Snooker Championship ("the oldest, richest and most prestigious tournament in snooker," according to the official website):
 And just in case you feel the need to know, the story behind Chas & Dave's ever-popular song "Snooker Loopy" (video):

pa pa pa PAAAA pah!

Nick McKaig performs the Star Wars main title theme. By himself. All a capella. The final performance is the result of more than 300 hours of work and more than 90 tracks. Credit where it's due ~ thanks, Caroline! (video):

Five for Free ~ May 20

From noon to 5 p.m., five museums ~ the Gamble House, Heritage Square Museum, Los Angeles Police Museum, Lummis Home and Garden, and the Pasadena Museum of History ~ are taking part in Museums of the Arroyo Day, which means admission is free. There will be tours of the Gamble House and a "parlour party" at Heritage Square:

National Star Wars Day

You knew there had to be one, and now you know when it is ~ May 4:

Polly Want To Go Home

A lost parakeet in Japan was returned to its owner after it recited its address, as it did again later at a press conference (story and video):