Diversions Archive

Tips for a restful night's sleep in a tree

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 29, 2016

Arborist Andrew Joslin has been sleeping in trees for 10 years. He shares what gear is needed, which tree species are best and how to test a tree's suitability.

Human activity threatens the Grand Canyon

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 26, 2016

The natural beauty that draws countless tourists to the Grand Canyon each year could be harmed by expanding tourist developments, leaks from old uranium mines and increased air traffic. This article chronicles the journey of two men thru-hiking the canyon to better understand its majesty and the forces that threaten it.

The Howard Johnson's empire is down to one restaurant

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 25, 2016

Only one Howard Johnson's will be left after Sept. 6, continuing a slide from more than 800 locations. Grub Street documents the history of the brand, which was a pioneer of franchising before entering a creative and financial decline.

What it takes to win a baseball mascot race

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 24, 2016

When Josh Voorhees learned he would be running in the Minnesota Twins' in-game mascot race, he made sure to research his competition and find the best costume for running. He dashed around the field dressed as Wanda the Walleye, defeating Louie the Loon, Babe the Blue Ox and other characters.

We're getting closer to having microscopic helpers inside our bodies

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 23, 2016

Neural dust sensors created by a University of California team have been tested in rats, with the hope of one day being used in humans for years or decades. The devices could be used to monitor tumor growth in cancer patients and report on organ functions.

Calif. fire creates tornado-like fire whirls

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 22, 2016

One distinct feature of California's ongoing Blue Cut fire has been unpredictable tornado-like columns of fire, wind and smoke. Large fire whirls have been known to damage property, pull up trees and travel separately from the main fire.

The forces of nature, explained

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 19, 2016

Physicists say they might have discovered a particle that could be known as the fifth force of nature. The four existing forces are electromagnetism, gravity, and weak and strong nuclear forces.

How psychological testing has evolved

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 18, 2016

The 20th century is when psychological tests took off, many of which have been discredited. Still, the simple Rorschach Test, which uses abstract inkblots, remains in use nearly a century after its creation.

Rotisserie chickens are popular, but a bargain?

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 17, 2016

About 1 billion rotisserie chickens are sold in the US each year, writes Karin Klein. Their popularity might be surprising, as they tend to cost about the same as refrigerated varieties while weighing less.

Temporary tattoos could become mini computers

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 16, 2016

The experimental technology DuoSkin allows easy creation of wearable, temporary gold leaf circuits that respond to touch. The technology, created by MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research, can connect to smartphones, change color and more.

The textile mill that's a snapshot of 1957

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 15, 2016

In western Maryland, the General Textile Mills plant still stands despite shutting down in 1957. The old machinery and signage sits inside, surrounded by personal items left behind after the factory's sudden closure.

Greenland sharks live hundreds of years, study finds

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 12, 2016

The Greenland shark grows up to 20 feet long and might live longer than 270 years and potentially beyond 500, according to a study published in Science that used eye lens radiocarbon dating to estimate the ages of 28 females. The sharks are dark brown or purple with small eyes and a powerful sense of smell, and they live in cold, deep water worldwide.

Civilization was made by people behaving badly

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 11, 2016

Robert Evans argues that many important achievements in human history were spurred by dark impulses. This infographic shows 10 advancements spurred by bad behaviors.

How China's state tabloid gained a global audience

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 10, 2016

The Global Times, a tabloid published by the Chinese Communist Party, also has editions in the US, South Africa and Europe. Editor-in-chief Hu Xijin says the paper's combative editorials convey the thoughts of state officials who aren't able to express their views publicly.

Particle accelerator used to reveal hidden Degas portrait

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 09, 2016

A second image hidden beneath the Edgar Degas painting "Portrait of a Woman" has been revealed by scientists using a particle accelerator, according to findings published in Scientific Reports. The process creates an X-ray beam that finely picks up different paint elements point by point, creating a black-and-white map of the image, and the researchers then created software to reconstruct the colors based on metal elements found in various paint colors of the time.

How birds sleep while flying

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 08, 2016

A study from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology shows that, as long suspected, birds can fly while sleeping. The study of frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands finds that they can fly with both eyes closed and experience REM sleep while in the air.

How climate change killed off remote Arctic woolly mammoths

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 05, 2016

Giant woolly mammoths lingered on St. Paul Island, Alaska, several thousand years after they disappeared from mainland North America and Asia. A report may have unlocked the mystery of their demise: While these mammoths never met humans, they ran out of fresh water due to climate change -- a problem that exists today.

How to survive skydiving without a parachute

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 04, 2016

The physics that explain how Luke Aikins survived his historic skydive -- without a parachute -- are remarkably simple, Rhett Allain writes. The goal is to simply change the diver's acceleration from 150 miles per hour to zero. "Stopping a human is all about acceleration," he writes.

How a 17th-century bishop tried to explain the world with 40 categories

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 03, 2016

In 1688, Anglican bishop John Wilkins published a tome that strove to develop a language that distilled the human experience into 40 conceptual buckets of ideas. While his effort failed, David Doochin writes, "Wilkins' language resonates all around us -- library classification systems, Linnaeus' taxonomy of living things, and Roget's thesaurus all borrow ideas from his work."

Researchers try to identify deep-sea disco ball

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 02, 2016

Scientists have discovered a mysterious purple blob -- some describe it as a disco ball, an unhatched Pokemon or a sparkly Christmas ornament -- in a canyon thousands of feet below the ocean's surface. The unidentified globe might be a sea slug, researchers say.

Do other animals have a "theory of mind"?

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 01, 2016

Two psychologists examining the question of the "theory of mind" -- whether animals understand that others have internal mental states, too -- say that monkeys and apes can't imagine the world being different from the way it is. "We might be the only species that can think about things that aren't facts we have about the world, about other possible worlds, about states in the past or future, about counterfactuals," says Laurie Santos of Yale University.

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