Everyday Things Podcasts SOI Blog

How One Man Ruined Fast Food French Fries

Back in the 90s I noticed that all the Fast Food chains started to change their french fries. They seemed to go to this new, tasteless, batter coated version of their former fries. Most noticeably to me, Burger King then Wendys. I could not understand the reason and suspected it had something to do with trying to make them healthier. Well, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his podcast, it all came about from one man’s misguided crusade. The worst thing about it, is now that some of the ideas behind the change have been debunked, no one seems to be in a rush to bring back the tastier version.

Revisionist History Podcast

Everyday Things Podcasts Science SOI Blog Technology

Driverless Cars Still Have a Ways to Go

I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to pay attention to driving my car and I’m all too ready to leave the driving to a computer. But, insiders in the engineering of this, caution that the tech still has a lot of ground still to cover. As one engineer in this latest podcast from Gimlet “Startup,” says that you hear a lot of people touting how safer we will be when we give up the control to a computer. In the US we lose over 30,000 lives to vehicle fatalities and most are attributed to driver error. What they don’t tell you, he points out, is that humans currently operate vehicles for 100 million miles for each fatality. That’s a pretty good record and he doesn’t think computers are even close to that yet.

Everyday Things History Podcasts SOI Blog

The 13 Month Calendar

I love the podcast 99% Invisible, I could probably post almost all of their episodes here on my blog of interesting things I learned. This one, though, really appealed to me. I really liked this idea of reforming the calendar to a 13 month schedule. Every month would have 28 days and each day of the month would correspond to the same number in each month, e.g. the second is always a Monday, the twenty first is always a Saturday. All holidays would be moved to Monday. (Although, I’m very fond of Thanksgiving, since it falls on a Thursday, most offices will take the rest of the week off.) Traditionalists would be appalled, especially the problem with what to do with July 4th holiday. Wikipedia has a page on it listing pros and cons of the calendar, where, I believe, most to the cons are weak (or should that be week). Alas, it’s only a thought experiment, I really don’t think it would ever catch on.


Everyday Things History SOI Blog

GTD with the Eisenhower Box

I’m always keen to learn better ways to “get things done” (GTD) and have come across a few ideas that seem appealing to me. And, at the moment I couldn’t tell you any of them since I rarely take to practicing them. This one, though, caters to my belief in the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, not to mention it has a great back story.
article by James Clear

Entertainment Everyday Things Media Science SOI Blog

The Vast Emptiness of Outerspace

While browsing to the page of the scale of the universe (previous post) I noticed a related Google search for that page was “if the moon was a pixel.” Of course I had to investigate and I was lead to this familiar interactive display of how empty space really is. This reminded me of a page I posted about a few years ago about the vast emptiness of inner space, that if we made a scale model of an atom where a neutron was only a pixel how far would we need to put the nucleus away from it. Originally the idea was that it would be a few miles away, but seems it wasn’t that easy to display, you can read the author, Dave Grossman’s full explanation here. It appears the Dave created a similar page about the solar system using the same concept, but I think Josh Worth’s work to be much nicer design and much more entertaining. Check it out!

note: even more amazing is the little button in the right hand corner that simulates the moving at the speed of light, it’s seems agonizingly slow!


Everyday Things Science SOI Blog

The Most Expensive Coffee is Made From Cat Scat

By Leendertz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Leendertz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
My son was watching an old Vsauce video and one thing in particular caught my attention. I’m currently fascinated with finding the perfect coffee (perfect meaning cost, ease of production, and of course taste) to make my morning latte. The video’s host, Michael, announced the most expensive coffee in the world is Kopi Luwak. According to the Wikipedia page this is “coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet.” Yes, you heard right, this is coffee derived from animal poop! Seems that when the Civets eat the coffee beans, something magical happens to them in their digestive system. The flavor is enhanced and made smoother, less bitter. Once the animals finish their “process,” the natives gather the deposits, wash away the non-coffee parts and then roast the resulting beans. Looks like the cost of a 12 ounce bag of this stuff runs about $250. Maybe I need to find one of these critters for a pet. Sounds sort of like the goose that laid…

Art Everyday Things SOI Blog Technology

Stairway to the Tree Canopy

canopystairI climbed a good number of trees in my youth. And with most of the larger ones, having to resort to either a ladder system or foothold boards nailed to the trunk to ascend. This new invention by a couple of young British designers is uniquely clever. I’d love to try this out!

Everyday Things SOI Blog Technology

Cool Solar Powered Lantern

solar lightHere’s a cool little LED lantern that charges with sunlight. Inflates to form a small cylindrical lantern and can be reduced to a small disc for storage. Really neat idea!

From the website:
Fully waterproof and shatterproof, with a built-in rechargeable battery, all-in-one Luci lanterns hold a charge for up to 12 hours and stay bright all night. Perfect for camping, boating or hiking, emergency breakdowns, power outages or hurricanes, home d̩cor, weddings or celebrations, Luci is ready for anything Рanytime, anywhere, any weather.


Everyday Things Media

What Do Crisco and Diamonds Have in Common?

Here are two stories that show how good marketing turned a substance with low to mediocre value to be prized by the general public. Believe it or not diamonds are not as valuable as you may think, they just have good marketing. Crisco had to be sold as a replacement for something that didn’t need a replacement. Two great podcasts explain.

Planet Money Episode 335: Who Killed Lard?0/163834119/episode-335-who-killed-lard

Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Everyday Things Humanities

7 Billion People

The world’s population today is about 7 Billion. Sounds like a lot. Is that too many people for this planet? What if all 7 Billion people stood in one place shoulder to shoulder, would it fill up a whole country? a state? Really, only one large city, Los Angeles, CA to be exact. Just 500 square miles.