Starvation, Chewing, and Cigarettes: The World's First Fad Diets

Every year we spend over $60 billion dollars on dieting in the USA alone. Between Paleo, raw foods, superfoods, juice cleanses, gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, carb-free, and about a million others, fad diets are doing pretty well for themselves these days. » 3/24/15 12:28pm 3/24/15 12:28pm

Why Is The Dollar Sign A Letter S?

The letter S appears nowhere in the word "dollar", yet an S with a line through it ($) is unmistakably the dollar sign. But why an S? Why isn't the dollar sign something like a Đ (like the former South Vietnamese đồng, or the totally-not-a-joke-currency Dogecoin)? » 2/07/15 10:27am 2/07/15 10:27am

Melanie's Marvelous Measles Is A Book For Children That You Can Buy

Melanie's Marvelous Measles is a book about how awesome it is to catch the measles. Children ages 4-10 are invited to learn that the measles is actually pretty fun, has no serious possible side-effects, and is something kids should look forward to getting. » 2/03/15 6:40pm 2/03/15 6:40pm

It's Groundhog Day

. . . and therefore the perfect day to watch that classic Bill Murray film about life in a world where nothing ever changes, and every day is exactly the same as the one before it. » 2/02/15 9:44am 2/02/15 9:44am

What Would Global Wealth Equality Look Like?

The Oxfam charity grabbed headlines this week with a report on global wealth inequality. Their primary data source was the (much more in-depth) Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, which in 2014 specifically focused on the same subject. » 1/24/15 12:25am 1/24/15 12:25am

Who has come closest to winning Civilization in real life?

Games in Sid Meier's Civilization series are loosely patterned off the rise and fall of real-life civilizations. And some of these real-life civilizations had exactly the kinds of ambitions that would win a game of Civilization. Which raises the obvious question: did any of them get close? Has anybody won? Are we… » 12/22/14 10:05am 12/22/14 10:05am

Three-and-a-Half Years of Sunlight: Fossil Fuels and Carbon

Our planet runs on sunlight. The steady stream of free energy that rains down on us from above keeps us warm, drives our cycles of wind and rain, and powers the photosynthesis that ultimately feeds very nearly every living thing on Earth. » 11/18/14 7:17am 11/18/14 7:17am

The Woman Who Saved Mongolia's Dinosaurs

Great interview on Slate with Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, the minister of culture, sports and tourism who has worked to convince her fellow Mongolians to finally care about (and put an end to) the long-running poaching of Mongolia's dinosaur fossils. » 10/05/14 12:11pm 10/05/14 12:11pm

You Have Better Taste Than You Realize

The old "tongue map" from our elementary school textbooks has been roundly debunked. Experimental confirmation of "umami" expanded Westerners' traditional four basic tastes—sweet, sour, salty, and bitter—into five. But did you know those 5 basic tastes might actually be 6 . . . or 7, 8, or more? » 9/17/14 2:06pm 9/17/14 2:06pm

This Dinosaur Babysitting Session Didn't End Well

Babysitting isn't a human invention: roughly 3% of mammal species, and 8-9% of modern bird species, involve individuals other than the parents in raising the young. And this fossil nest, found in the Cretaceous rocks of Liaoning Province, China, might be the first known example of dinosaur babysitting. » 9/04/14 8:20am 9/04/14 8:20am

These Deep Sea Animals May Be Ediacaran Survivors

Danish researchers, writing in PLOS ONE, have described a new genus of deep-sea animal discovered off the coast of Australia. Specimens defy easy placement in any known animal group, while sharing similarities with a group thought to have died out more than 500 million years ago. » 9/04/14 12:29am 9/04/14 12:29am

How Do We Know The Continents Are Moving?

50 years ago, "continental drift" was a fringe hypothesis rejected by most geologists. Today the theory of plate tectonics (which includes continental drift) is universally accepted as true, and unifies once-separate areas of geology under one grand banner. » 9/02/14 8:38pm 9/02/14 8:38pm

City Spiders Are Bigger, Fatter, And More Fertile

Researchers from the University of Sydney found that members of the orb-weaving species Nephila plumipes grew larger, fatter, and reproduced faster when they lived in urbanized city environments instead of their natural wild habitats. » 8/21/14 10:54am 8/21/14 10:54am

A Slightly More Rigorous Look At io9's Adjective Use

For a control group, I picked the top 25 adjectives in the English language, all of which are relatively non-sensational words like "good" and "new" and "different". For our purposes here, this should work just fine. » 8/06/14 2:27pm 8/06/14 2:27pm

Academic Urban Legends: Is Spinach A Good Source Of Iron?

Spinach is a great source of iron! Except no, no it isn't. That was debunked in the 1980s . . . someone misplaced a decimal point in the '30s, and everyone since has thought it had 10 times more iron than it does. Or was it the 1890s? Or . . .. » 8/05/14 7:26am 8/05/14 7:26am

What Is Weird Al Wearing In This Mandatory Fun Album Art?

The style of Weird Al Yankovic's newest album cover is meant to evoke a Soviet-era propaganda feel, with a hint of totalitarian oppression. Rolling Stone described his outfit as "what appears to be a Russian military uniform". But is it? Is it Russian, or Soviet, or what? » 8/02/14 12:53pm 8/02/14 12:53pm