July 28, 2015

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Back in April, a Pickings post led with a WaPo article on the huge number of museums in the country. 10,000 more than the 11,000 Starbucks and 14,000 McDonalds combined – 35,000. The Smithsonian Magazine writes on seven of the museums that sit along famed US Route 66.

… With the road cutting through big cities and small towns alike, Route 66 helped small businesses thrive. Diners, motels, trading posts, gas stations, natural wonders and roadside attractions all became part of the uniquely American experience the road provided.

But the Federal Highway Act of 1956 proved to be the beginning of the end of Route 66’s heyday. In response to the growing car culture of America, the law allocated money for newer, faster, better roads—like Interstate 40. These roads allowed for the near-total circumvention of Route 66. As the Mother Road saw less traffic, the small businesses alongside it died out. On June 27, 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned, meaning the road was no longer part of the US highway system.

Today, though, Route 66 has seen a bit of revival, thanks to recognition of its history and cultural value. The National Parks Service offers grants for preservation of the road. Travelers who want to experience a taste of mid-century Americana are hitting the road again. Even foreign tourists are making the trip to get their kicks on Route 66. While certainly not the fastest or easiest way to drive from Chicago to Los Angles (or vice versa), it is the most scenic, and still ripe for discovery. 

So, buckle up—summer is road trip season and there is no better road to take than the one that so captivated the American imagination. Alongside the diners and natural wonders, Route 66 is a haven for off-the-wall collections and eclectic museums. Here are seven of the most fascinating: …



Five Thirty Eight  blog posts on the optimal speed of exercise.

There was a time when the optimal exercise speed was however fast you had to run to get away from a saber-tooth tiger. Even today, in much of the developing world, people exercise through activities such as farming and fetching water that are necessary for survival.

However, in the developed Western world, where exercise tends to be an extracurricular activity, there is apparently tremendous interest in just how fast you should move in order to improve your health. Consider, for example, the many posts on The New York Times’ Well blog on the topic (walking versus running, the “right dose of exercise,” “walk hard, walk easy”), all of which focus on the relative benefits of walking versus jogging versus running.

So is it better to walk? To walk fast? To run slow? To run fast? On its face, this question is poorly posed, since it says nothing about our goals or our constraints. Am I aiming to lose weight? To live longer? To win road races? Am I willing to exercise for three hours a day? Twenty minutes? Almost never? Clearly, these considerations matter when trying to determine the optimal speed. Here is how I would think about asking the question instead: What is the easiest way to reduce my chance of death? …



And Huffington Post says running improves health.

1. Better Knees
Think running wears out your knees? Think again. One recent study found that it may actually help prevent knee osteoarthritis, a condition that affects roughly 9.2 million adults; another discovered that road warriors were up to 18 percent less likely than walkers to develop the condition, in part because running may increase the thickness of knee cartilage.

2. Less Stress
When it comes to the mood-boosting effects of running, science suggests you can get more than just an endorphin high. According to a lab study in The Journal of Neuroscience, running may reduce anxiety by triggering neurons that mute your response to stress. …



Fulgurites are left behind when lightning hits sand. Amusing Planet has their story.

A single bolt of lightning can deliver 5 gigajoule of energy enough to power an average U.S. household for more than a month. When such a powerful lightning bolt strikes a sandy area like a beach or a dune, the sand particles can melt and fuse together in less than a second. Sand melts at about 1800 degrees Celsius, but the temperature in a bolt of lighting can reach 30,000 degrees, or more than five times the temperature on the surface of the sun. If conditions are right, the fused sand forms long hollow tubes called fulgurite. The term comes from the Latin word fulgur, which means “lightning”. Although lightning strikes earth at least a million times each day, only rarely does fulgurites form. …