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

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

These Doomsday Planes Protect Heads of State When Disaster Strikes

In the event of a nuclear strike on American soil, we're going to be in a little bit of trouble. But at least we'll die safe in the knowledge that the valiant leaders of our nation—or any yahoos lucky enough to be in office at the time—will be escaping the nuclear holocaust in a fleet of environmentally-impervious… » 1/10/14 12:20pm 1/10/14 12:20pm

A Map of the 124 United States of America That Could Have Been

The fact that we've kept the number of U.S. states relatively static is nothing short a miracle—there have been hundreds of attempts at state secession over the years. But what if they had all succeeded? This brilliant map depicts that alternative universe, where the U.S. is broken up into 124 different states that… » 12/31/13 2:00pm 12/31/13 2:00pm

For Retailers, Today Really Is the Shittiest Day of the Year

You've heard of Black Friday, the darkest day for American capitalism; Cyber Monday, where everyone gets out their latent shopping aggression online; now there's even Grey Thursday, as retailers open on Thanksgiving Eve to get an edge on the competition. But, friends, have you heard of Brown Friday? » 11/29/13 11:00am 11/29/13 11:00am

What the world must look like to a flying bird (hint: awesome)

Claytonias F. traveled around America the past few months and documented it all with a quadcopter drone, a Phantom and a GoPro. The aerial views of our wonderful country are incredible to us foot worn humans but probably just a normal Wednesday for flying birds. This is probably the closest we'll come to flying. And… » 11/22/13 9:00pm 11/22/13 9:00pm

Illustrating America's Silliest Laws With Equally Silly Photographs

Stories about weird local laws always begin like urban legends. You might have heard that in Wisconsin, the Dairy State, all restaurants are required by law to serve cheese with every dish, including placing a slice of certified Wisconsin cheese on top of each and every order of apple pie. » 11/15/13 4:00pm 11/15/13 4:00pm