‘Entertainment’

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Grouchy Birthday, Oscar!

June 1, 2014 4:00 pm

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Today is Oscar the Grouch’s birthday – he turns 45 years old! And what better way to celebrate than with some fun facts and math about this lovable grouch and trash! Click “Read More” to do the math.

Happy Birthday, iTunes!

April 28, 2013 3:00 pm

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Today is the 10th birthday of iTunes, the online store that lets you buy songs, movies, apps for your smartphone, videos…all kinds of stuff that you can enjoy on your phone or computer. Before iTunes, the only way we old-timers could buy songs was on something you could hold in your hand, like a CD, a tape cassette or a vinyl record. Or you could get songs electronically from various illegal websites, which was exciting but felt icky. So the idea that you could get onto your computer, buy any song you wanted (legally), and get it within seconds was mindblowing. iTunes opened with just 200,000 songs on it, all priced at 99 cents, and within just one week they had 1 million song downloads. As of today, iTunes has sold over 15 billion song downloads from a collection of 26 million different songs. Let’s just say, it takes far more than one person to listen to it all.

Having a (Snow)Ball

January 25, 2013 4:00 pm

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When it snows outside and you get that really wet, sticky kind of snow, it’s easy to pack it with your hands into a solid white ball that just begs to be thrown.  Sure, you can roll it along the ground to make it bigger, and pile up a few to make a snowman…but it might be even more fun just to chuck it at someone.  We’re not exactly sure who invented the snowball fight, but we do know that in 1863, during the American Civil War, when a few soldiers started chucking friendly snowballs at each other, it turned into a giant fight involving 9,000 soldiers. If serious grownups can get sucked in like that, it’s clear the snowball fight is here to stay.

Back to Square One

January 23, 2013 4:00 pm

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One of the most popular and widespread toys ever invented is the Rubik’s Cube.  The mission is so simple: just turn the rows and columns to swap around the pieces and get all six faces to be solid colors.   And yet that turns out to be one of the hardest challenges out there – maybe because a 3x3x3 cube has over 43 quintillion possible line-ups of the pieces.  Ever since the cube was invented in 1974, over 350 million of these puzzles have been sold; the Cube has inspired people to set all kinds of records, spawning speed cubers, one-handed cubers, and the real geniuses who study the cube, blindfold themselves and solve it from memory.  To get a taste of the excitement, let’s look at the math behind cracking the code.

Climbing the Mountain – Inside Out

January 15, 2013 4:00 pm

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It’s pretty exciting to get on a roller coaster, tip over the top of a hill and plunge toward the ground at 30 miles an hour.  But it’s even more alarming to do this in the dark.  On this day in 1975, Disney Parks opened Space Mountain, the famous roller coaster at Disney World in Orlando, FL. The entire ride spirals around the inside of the mountain, dark except for sparkly stars and some pulsing lights, which do nothing to help you see where you’re going.  So every twist, turn and plunge comes as a total surprise.  Clearly lots of daredevils love this kind of thrill: over the decades hundreds of thousands of visitors have ridden Space Mountain, leading Disney to build four more of them around the world.

Not Your Everyday Mouse

January 13, 2013 4:00 pm

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On this day in 1930, a certain cartoon character showed up in U.S. newspapers for the first time: Mickey Mouse.  When Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks first drew this friendly rodent two years earlier, he probably had no idea that a mouse could become so popular.  With his high voice, red shorts, and poofy yellow shoes that look impossible to walk in, Mickey is one of the world’s most famous cartoon characters.  He was also the first cartoon character to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside real humans – after all, he wears clothes, too.