In the book "Arabian Nights," Prince Husain, the eldest son the Sultan, buys a magic carpet which comes with these instructions: Think of a far away place and "Whoever sitteth on this carpet ... will, in the twinkling of an eye ... be borne thither." We're updating that tale, with a real magic carpet — but this time with feathers.
It's been frustrating, this 100-year search by physicists all over the world for a Unified Theory of Everything, and Tim Blais, physics grad student, a capella singer, Queen fan, feels their collective pain in this — his Bohemian Rhapsody on String Theory. Don't miss the Albert Einstein hand puppet in a hail storm, crying his heart out.
Two short tales: One about bad guys in a fishing village in Pakistan, the other about good guys in Baghdad. And the question is posed: in the long arc of time, which side prevails, those with the impulse to take or those with the impulse to give?
What I'm going to say sounds ridiculous, but once upon a time it wasn't ridiculous at all. You could wake up one morning in North America and decide to walk to Morocco, have breakfast, and a few hours later, there you are — in Africa. No sweat. Or wander from Australia into Bangladesh. Not a problem. Let me show you how.
Suppose you wanted to slip into a space quietly, secretly. Would you wear a dazzling, many-colored ball gown? I think not. So how do we explain what the Dutch government is doing on Google Maps? Is this any way to keep a secret?
If you care about the environment, if you're a good person, you try (in many little ways) to cut back, do with less, live more simply. But when nobody's watching, when you're feeling naughty, you dream of "More-ing," which is both totally irresponsible and crazy fun.
If we had enough time, enough brain power, the right computers, the occasional genius, is there any limit to what we can know about the universe? Or is nature designed to keep its own secrets, no matter how hard we try to crack the code? What can we never know?
There was a spruce tree in Stanley's garden, and when September rolled around, a family of garden snakes used it to sunbathe. They'd squiggle out on a branch, flop down and warm themselves in the sunshine — sometimes dangling in braided pairs. Stanley, envious, decided to join in ... and here's what happened next.
Snails getting ready for winter are natural carpenters. They construct doors, or maybe you'd call them walls, inside their shells. They do this without hammers, nails or cement. Instead, they use their foot — and of course, their favorite material, mucus. Welcome to the ingenious world of snail construction.
Drones are for spying, right? Right. But if Jasper van Loenen's idea works, drones will also become private moving vans. Crows won't like this. Trees won't like this. I'm not sure I like this. But you've got to see Jasper's instant-drone deliver a bicycle wheel across campus ...
A New York design team has just produced an invisibility cloak for your cell phone. Pop it in and no government, no merchants, no friends, no one knows where your phone is. Another design team in Canada says they could do stuff like this — but they won't. Who's right?
What happens if you take a beach creature, a little worm, or an oyster, and move it to an aquarium far from the sea? Will it still imagine tides? Yes, it will. But whose tides will wake it up every day, get it moving? The tides back home? Or the tides — even if there aren't any — in its new time zone? A puzzle.
What surgeons see when they open us up and look inside is not pretty — unless you're a surgeon. But when designer Kelli Anderson opens us up, we are feathery, pipe filled, ivory-boned, wired, clean, elegant — just gorgeous. Plus, we are entirely made of colored paper. Check out this new transparent (and interactive!) human body — perfect for kids.
Runners often ask themselves, "Why am I doing this? Why do I want to make myself hurt so?" With help from the webcomic The Oatmeal, we might have an answer.
Why did it take cells so long to link together and form tissues, organs, you, me, turtles, daisies? There was a couple of billion year pause before cells became multicellular. How come? With brilliant designer Paolo Ceric, we consider this puzzle of life.
Think about the E.T. in "E.T." It was fetching, adorable and two and a half feet tall. Now think about the E.T.s we hope to find on Mars, Europa or Titan. They will probably be, if they are there at all, microscopic. I miss big aliens. Which is why I loved reading this science paper. Could big be back?
Spring comes, then summer, fall and winter and if you are off the planet with a camera looking down at Earth, the seasons seem like breaths. Speed up the imagery, and the planet seems to pulse, like a living thing. Take a look at what designer John Nelson has done. It's uncanny.
What happens when a vaguely bored bearded guy with nothing much to do, one day falls (or dives?) into his toilet bowl and goes down a sewer pipe? This comic is one of the most fantastic, coolest voyages on the Web.
You'd figure that mosquitoes, having been on our planet for the last 79 million years, would be really, really good at sucking blood. That's how they feed their young. Surprise! They're kind of bad at it. Today's feature: videos of mosquitoes missing veins and capillaries.
What happens when your brain plays a trick on you, and you can't not believe it? Our brains, it turns out, are not prisoners of the world we live in. We can, any time we like, create the impossible ... at least on paper.