World’s Strangest

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Kryptos: The CIA Cipher Hiding in Plain Sight

Kryptos photo via Wikimedia Commons Kryptos is an encrypted sculpture installed at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It’s a set of huge copper plates with enciphered text carved into them — for example, one segment reads TWTQSJQSSEKZZWATJKLUDIAWINFBNYP, though it looks a lot nicer in context. Although the sculpture was installed in 1990, it took until 1999 [...]

The Actual Girl From Ipanema

Everyone knows that, tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking. But did you know the actual Girl from Ipanema that inspired the Bossa [...]

NOVA: The Fabric of the Cosmos

NOVA’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos” premieres tonight, November 2, at 9pm ET/PT on most PBS stations. Recommended for: families who aren’t quite sure what relativity is, but want to find out. Starting tonight, enjoy the four-hour series The Fabric of the Cosmos, based on physicist Brian Greene’s breakthrough book. I’ve previewed the [...]

Tonight on NOVA: “Japan’s Killer Quake”

Tonight on NOVA, an in-depth scientific examination of Japan’s recent earthquake, the subsequent tsunami, and the continuing nuclear incident. Entitled (perhaps indelicately) Japan’s Killer Quake, the program shows plenty of footage that was new to me — including a particularly surreal clip apparently shot on a mobile phone, showing a crack in the concrete opening [...]

What is “Awesome?” IBM’s Watson vs. Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter

IBM has a history of pitting man versus machine in PR stunts that capture headlines — and yeah, it’s happening again, tonight. In 1989, IBM took on chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov using its Deep Thought machine…and lost. In 1996, IBM returned with Deep Blue…and lost. But in 1997, a reengineered version of Deep Blue narrowly [...]

Hamster Ball Space Suit

NOVA has a fantastic feature about historic space suits by Susan K. Lewis, featuring space suits from Project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo as well as those that didn’t make it out of the prototype/design stages. This one above is probably the best one of the bunch: Perhaps the oddest-looking proposal for lunar exploration was the “gerbil-in-a-ball” [...]

SUNDAY – “Great Migrations,” the Latest Mega Nature Documentary

Premiering Sunday, November 7, on the National Geographic Channel: Great Migrations. Set your DVRs — the seven-part series is set to air at 7pm Eastern and 8pm Pacific. We live in a wonderful era for nature documentaries. In recent years we’ve seen mega documentaries like Planet Earth and Life capture headlines, and with good reason — [...]

Mollie Woodworth: Neuroscientist and Cheerleader

Mollie Woodworth is currently featured on NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers website. The site profiles scientists and engineers — who also have secret lives outside of their day jobs. Woodworth’s secret is that when she’s not working in the neuroscience lab, she’s an MIT cheerleader. (Yes, MIT has sports and cheerleaders.) The MIT [...]

Your Weirdest Celebrity Sightings & Favorite College Class

Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else’s reply, whatever you want. Very casual. On to this week’s topics of discussion… 1. Of all the paragraphs in all the emails I’ve received so far this year, this one’s my favorite: “Did [...]