One Reason the US Isn't Destroying All Its Nukes: Killer Asteroids

Among the few apocalypses worse than nuclear annihilation, asteroid impact has got to be near the top of the list—at least if Hollywood's depictions are any indication. Luckily, the American public has at least one agency defending it against errant space rocks: the exact same agency that's supposed to be protecting… » 10/01/14 6:40pm 10/01/14 6:40pm

The United States from the sky in restored 1980s aerial film footage

Harrison Sanborn found a whole lot of beautiful aerial footage shot by his dad in the late 1980s—using an Arri IIC camera with Eastman Kodak 5247 film. He scanned it at 2K resolution and made this little piece "for fun." Looking at the Twin Towers still standing makes me sad and nostalgic. » 9/29/14 10:02pm 9/29/14 10:02pm

Uncle Sam was (probably) a real dude

As the physical embodiment of all things American, Uncle Sam has been used to represent the likes of freedom, Big Brother, consumerism, fetus-snatching, and everything in between. But just over 200 years ago, this anthropomorphized flag of a man was an actual, living human being—and a too-weak-to-enlist one, at that. » 9/28/14 9:45pm 9/28/14 9:45pm

SeaRAM Outfits the Navy's Favorite Gatling Gun with Homing Missiles

Shockingly, there are some instances where the US Navy's Phalanx Close-In Weapons System's (CIWS) red hot wall of 20mm tungsten isn't enough to neutralize incoming threats—like against fast moving anti-ship cruise missiles. For times like those, America's Navy relies on the Phalanx's bigger, badder, rocket-propelled… » 9/24/14 11:44am 9/24/14 11:44am

DIY Fireworks Instructions From the 1920s Were Ridiculously Unsafe

Americans love things that sparkle, things that glow, and especially things that blow up. So it makes sense that on America's birthday, we take great pride in our various spectacles of light and noise. Today, there are countless YouTube videos and how-to websites showing how to create your own firecrackers and… » 7/04/14 1:32pm 7/04/14 1:32pm

The complicated truth behind the empire of the United States of America

Let's celebrate the USA on July 4th! How big does the celebration go across America? Across the 50 states, duh. The 48 contiguous, Alaska and Hawaii. But what about Washington DC? And the Indian territories? Puerto Rico? Guam? The Virgin Islands? And let's not get into places you've never heard of like Johnston Atoll… » 7/03/14 8:31pm 7/03/14 8:31pm

Technically, American flag napkins are illegal

When activist Abbie Hoffman wore his American flag shirt back in the 1960s people were shocked. He was even arrested and charged for "mutilating the American flag." Oh how times have changed. Today, putting the American flag on t-shirts, in advertisements, and even on napkins is considered the height of patriotism.… » 7/03/14 6:20pm 7/03/14 6:20pm

48 American Flags That Came Before Today's Stars and Stripes

Ah, Old Glory. A symbol of hard-won freedom that we honor by printing on $60 short shorts. It seems eternal, but it's actually gone through dozens of revisions over the years. Would your beer kozies and bikinis have looked better if we'd stuck with the Bedford Militia Men's flag of 1775? You be the judge. » 7/03/14 2:20pm 7/03/14 2:20pm

You…

What Would Change If Politicians Wrote Laws Based on Internet Polls?

A new political party, designed by software devs and engineers, is joining the race in California. If elected, PlaceAVote's Congressional candidates vow to decide on every bill based on the majority vote of their constituents—as measured via online polling. Could that sort of direct, digital democracy improve how… » 5/24/14 5:00pm 5/24/14 5:00pm

Thoughts for Your Penny: The One-Cent Piece Is Worth a Century of Type

Every few years, there are calls to retire the American penny (as cumbersome and too expensive to produce), and rebuttals to preserve it (for posterity and price stability). I don't know how or when this question will be answered. Personally, I would not miss the gobs of metal in my pockets, but I would miss the… » 4/23/14 1:20pm 4/23/14 1:20pm

Here's a Map of the 47 Percent of America Where No One Lives

As anyone who's driven through Middle America knows, it feels like there's very few places in the U.S. that don't have at least a few inhabitants. But as a map by cartographer Nik Freeman proves, there are still some amber waves of grain and fruited plains that remain. Emphasis on some. » 4/16/14 4:40pm 4/16/14 4:40pm

How the American Dream Is Killing the American Electric Bill

In 2012, American homes consumed 3.65 billion kilowatthours (kWh) worth of electricity—up from 720 million kWh in 1950—more than double per household than our British counterparts, and second only to China. How did the American home become such an energy hog, despite so many advances in efficient appliances and… » 4/10/14 2:00pm 4/10/14 2:00pm

A Map of State Life Expectancies (And What Country They're Closest To)

Americans are living longer, healthier lives—79.8 years on average—ranking 35th in the world in terms of life expectancy from birth. But where you live in the United States has a drastic impact on how far over or under the average your personal timeline will be. This illuminating map by the non-profit Measure of… » 2/04/14 10:20am 2/04/14 10:20am