Why Is Iceland So in Love With Licorice?

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Step into any Icelandic gas station or grocer and you’ll find at least 75 percent of the candy contains black licorice. Licorice powders, chocolate-covered licorice gummies, licorice-coated raisins, and thick, lava-like licorice sauces lurk behind the glass at local ice cream shops. You can even order licorice soft-serve with licorice hard-shell dip, if that’s your thing.

While the divisive treat has a cult-like following in all of the Nordic countries (there are festivals), Iceland has made a name for itself for combining licorice with chocolate, and for consuming it in quantities that would keep a dentist awake at night. But how did this bizarre black stuff wind up in nearly every candy bar in the land of fire and ice? The roots of its predominance … Read the rest

Anatomy of the 7 Train

The 7 train is known for more than just rogue subway surfers. It’s a key line on the New York City public transit network, and arguably, the most diverse commute in the country. And this year, it marks its 100th year in operation.

Nicknamed the “International Express,” the 7 kicks off on Main Street, in Flushing, Queens; cuts through East Asian, Latino, South Asian, and other immigrant locales; and terminates in Hudson Yards, Manhattan. In 1999, the White House Millennium Council deemed it a National Millennium Trail for being a testament to the immigrant experience.

The route of the 7 train and the Flushing catchment area (Courtesy of Columbia University Press)

A new book by urban sociologists Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum sketches a … Read the rest

Was the Guy in ‘The Scream’ Afraid of… Clouds?

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Take a look at Edvard Munch’s 1893 oil painting “The Scream,” and any number of feelings may bubble to the surface. You might find yourself overcome by awe at the work’s mastery. You could feel empathetic terror with the subject, who is looking out over the water, howling his head off.

And if you’re like anything like meteorologist Helene Muri at the University of Oslo, you may also be struck by a question—what is that guy so afraid of, anyway?

Curious, data-minded onlookers have been trying to draw conclusions about this for years now, blaming everything from volcanic pollution to an anxious hallucination. As Agence France-Presse reports, Muri and her team presented their latest theory at a meeting of the European Geoscientists Union in … Read the rest

Found: ‘Extraneous Golf Ball Materials’ in Frozen Hash Browns

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Over the weekend, the company McCain Foods USA announced a voluntary recall of “Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns,” sold in in states at Roundy’s and Harris Teeter supermarkets. These two-pound bags of chopped potatoes, the company said, contained “extraneous golf ball materials…inadvertently harvested with potatoes.”

The obvious question here is: how does a golf ball end up in potatoes? As NPR reports, the company doesn’t say how the golf ball materials got mixed up with the potatoes.

But it seems that golf ball contamination is a known danger of potato agriculture. In 2002, the University of Idaho created a guide on “Managing Foreign Material for Quality Idaho Potatoes” in which golf balls were featured as a “common foreign material found in potatoes,” alongside bones, … Read the rest

This Magic Dutch Traffic Light Helps Bicyclists Avoid Stopping

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Red lights are the momentum-sucking bane of any bicyclist—they add time to the trip and kill your physical efficiency (just ask a physicist!). But thanks to some weird, animal-based technology in the Netherlands, riders may soon be able to sail through the city on a magic wave of green lights without having to worry about stopping for cars.

Flo, a traffic system that went into place last week in Utrecht, is a tall, blue kiosk abutting a bike path. Using sensors, it determines cyclists’ speed from hundreds of feet out and displays several kinds of symbolic advice. If cyclists need to speed up to catch a green light at the next intersection, they get a hare (not to be confused with a rabbitRead the rest

Djerbahood: The Street Art Drive That Transformed A Tunisian Village

The sleepy little village of Erriadh on the island of Djerba—once known as the “island of dreams”— is not part of Tunisia’s tourist circuit. It’s primarily a pilgrimage site, being home to the largest and oldest synagogue in North Africa —El Ghriba— which is in continuous use for over 2,000 years. Other than a few thousand pilgrims, the village sees very little foreigners. There are no large businesses or hotels in Erriadh; only small houses with traditional Berber architecture featuring open courtyards and domes. But over the last few years, this has been changing. Erriadh’s primary attraction today is street art.

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The Fainting Goats of Tennessee

Unlike humans, animals rarely faint from surprise, panic attacks or any other strong emotional stress. But there is a breed of goat that appears to do so.

When startled, the so-called “fainting goat” collapses on its side. They fall over, often with legs comically raised towards the sky. After laying motionless on the ground for a few seconds, they recover and bounce back on their feet as quickly as they fell. This curious reaction to fright has made fainting goats the popular subject for many viral, and often humorous, internet videos.

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Photo credit: www.kidsdiscover.com

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The Invisible Network That Makes Cities Work

Do you trust your neighbor? With your spare keys? With your dog? To not look when you change clothes with the blinds open? And has that behavior changed?

As patterns of communication, social interaction, and economic exchange shift, so too does the nature of trust. You can’t see trust. You can’t touch it. But like the copper below city streets and the wires above them, a network of trust undergirds urban neighborhoods and communities. And it’s undergoing something of a revolution.

Economists who write about trust love behavioral game theory experiments that measure the risk-reward premium of trust. The Trust Game, a version of Daniel Kahneman’s famous Dictator Game, allows counterparts to loan or give each other money … Read the rest

Enormous Iceberg Stranded in Canadian Town

Icebergs are not a rare sight off the east coast of Canada. Indeed, there is an area stretching from the coast of Labrador to the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland that has been nicknamed the “Iceberg Alley” for the sheer number of icebergs that floats into the vicinity during spring and early summer. But even longtime residents did a double take when an astonishingly big one ran aground near the village of Ferryland, this week.

The big chunk of ice towers 150 feet. It’s the largest Iceberg Alley has ever seen.

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Photo credit: Greg Lock/Reuters

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The Hopes and Fears Around Ben Carson’s Favorite Public Housing Program

When Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren asked Ben Carson what he would do as HUD secretary to address the condition of U.S. public housing, Carson enthusiastically singled out one program for praise—the Rental Assistance Demonstration program (RAD), a five-year-old federal initiative that has gone largely under the radar. He said he’s “very encouraged” by RAD’s early results, and “looks forward to working with Congress to expand this worthy program.”

RAD works by transferring public housing units to the private sector, so that developers and housing authorities can tap into a broader range of subsidies and financing tools to rehab and manage the units. Given Congress’s refusal to adequately fund public housing and the billions of dollars needed for backlogged repairs, supporters say RAD is the best available … Read the rest

Fear of a White Lighter

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There are all sorts of luck-related legends surrounding smoking. Some people turn one cigarette upside down in each new pack they buy, making it “lucky.” Others believe that lighting three or more cigarettes on the same match will bring on bad luck. And then there’s the notion that using a white lighter is supremely unlucky, a superstition that has managed to thrive among smokers of all kinds despite being, well, pretty silly.

Even in 2017, it’s not uncommon to encounter smokers who not only won’t purchase white lighters, but won’t use them to light things even if they belong to someone else. Some people don’t even like being in the room when one is being used. But how did this legend get started in the first … Read the rest

Google Maps and the Non-Existing Pizza Joint

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Thanks to an error on Google Maps, a home in Darwin, Australia was labeled as a pizza joint, and sure enough, the people came out.

The home belonged to 69-year-old Michael McElwee, who became aware of the mistake after people began showing up on his doorstep, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. McElwee says one person came to try to deliver magazines to his “pizza shop,” while another person came by looking for a job. McElwee’s neighbor also noted that their dog had been barking much more frequently recently.

In fact, the map marker was meant to locate a pop-up pizza joint that sets up every year in a nearby park; Google has since said that they are working to resolve the issue.

As for … Read the rest