In Praise of Shortened Attention Spans

Terry Teachout explains why brevity can be a virtue in art: The latest alleged trend to set the world in a tizzy is the Crisis of Shorter Attention Spans, a dire development that has been brought about by the rise of the Internet. Or texting. Or iTunes. Or Twitter. Or whatever. I find it hard [Read More…]

Do Astronauts Have Internet in Space?

Greg Johnson (pilot for the shuttle STS-134 mission) and Ron Garan (a former member of the International Space Station crew) explain what type of Internet access astronauts have in space: GREG JOHNSON: As shuttle guys, we really don’t partake in the Internet. We’ve got synchronizations with our emails. It kind of gives us a pseudo-email [Read More…]

Are Your Pants Lying to You?

Note to men: Your pants have been deceiving you for years: The pants manufacturers are trying to flatter us. And this flattery works: Alfani’s 36-inch “Garrett” pant was 38.5 inches, just like the Calvin Klein “Dylan” pants — which I loved and purchased. A 39-inch pair from Haggar (a brand name that out-testosterones even “Garrett”) [Read More…]

The Social Norm of Leaving the Toilet Seat Down: A Game Theoretic Analysis

The Social Norm of Leaving the Toilet Seat Down: A Game Theoretic Analysis: The issue of whether the toilet seat should be left up or down after use seemingly generates a lot of passion among the parties concerned, however, scientific inquiries into the matter are almost non-existent. Notable exceptions are Choi (2002) and Harter (2005). [Read More…]

In 2069, The Beatles’ Songs Will Be Children’s Nursery Rhymes

Psychology professor Daniel J. Levitin on the music of the Beatles: A hundred years from now, musicologists say, Beatles songs will be so well known that every child will learn them as nursery rhymes, and most people won’t know who wrote them. They will have become sufficiently entrenched in popular culture that it will seem [Read More…]

The Size of Our Books Was Determined By The Size of the Average Sheep in the Middle Ages

Books are as big as they are because medieval sheep were as big as they were: [M]edieval books are no bigger or smaller than modern books, generally speaking. Gutenberg and the other early printers didn’t invent a whole new format for books, they just copied what people were already using. The question then becomes, I [Read More…]

The Paradox of Lawn Care

From Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart: The average lawn is an interesting beast: people plant it, then douse it with artificial fertilizers and dangerous pesticides to make it grow and to keep it uniform — all so that they can hack and mow what they [Read More…]

Dead Human Skin Helps Clean the Air

Human beings are large ozone sinks: The dead cells that slough off your skin every day pile up in the dust that collects around your home. But this grimy-sounding stuff actually helps clean the air indoors, according to new research. Oil associated with dead skin cells removes the pollutant ozone, a molecule made up of [Read More…]

John Hodgman’s Advice to Writers

Author and former literary agent John Hodgman gives tips on how to make it as a writer. [Read more…]

The Chummy, Populist, Progressive Golden Age of Pirates

From Colin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Then Down: The Golden Age of Piracy lasted only ten years, from 1715 to 1725, and was conducted by a clique of twenty to thirty pirate commodores and a few thousand crewmen. Virtually [Read More…]