How Flamethrowers Work


How the Census Works
Hibernation: Not a Snooze
Why Did Easter Island’s Civilization Collapse?
The Amazing History of Soda
How Polar Bears Work
How Ice Ages Work
All we know about Zika so far…
How Cerebral Palsy Works
What’s the deal with Stradivarius violins?
Alexander Hamilton: Most Influential American?
View Transcript here.
Topics in this Podcast: Chuck, josh
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What Are the Benefits of Installing Children’s Playground Equipment?

When you’re at a loss about what to do to keep your children happy and healthy, go to a playground. Children of all ages can spend hours swinging, climbing, balancing, digging, running and interacting with each other in these indispensable arenas. A report prepared for the Shasta Children and Families First Commission concluded that playgrounds are ¡°vital for a child¡¯s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development.¡±
The Surgeon General reported in January 2010 that almost one in every three children in the United States is overweight or obese. Playground equipment gets children moving and having fun at the same time. Slides provide climbing exercise for the legs; bars exercise arms and shoulders; jungle gyms strengthen arms, legs and shoulders; and all the equipment together encourages children to run from one piece to another, giving them a healthy dose of cardiovascular, heart-healthy exercise.
Part of the appeal of playgrounds and playground equipment is that children get to be around one another. The Voice of Play website reports that both group interaction and social development take place on playground equipment in a number of ways: Children learn how to take turns and exercise self-control waiting for a swing to open up; they can observe each other on all the equipment; and they can strike up conversations with peers on the platforms, bridges and ramps of playground structures. Linnea Anderson, writing about the history of playgrounds in the U.S. for the infed website, explains that early playground advocates believed that social interaction in playgrounds benefits the country as a whole, building ¡°citizenship and neighborliness¡± when children from different races and economic levels have a chance to play together.
Parents who have seen their 4- or 5-year-old navigate a climbing wall or walk up a rope ladder or their 3-year-old venture out on a wiggling rope bridge have also seen the wide smiles once the children conquer their fears of these playground structures and gain success in mastering them. Voice of Play says that the sense of accomplish children gain leads to self-confidence and an increase in self-esteem. The website adds that some equipment, such as tunnels and enclosed spaces, encourage imaginative play, where children can experiment with expressing different emotions and learning about life possibilities. The site quotes Albert Einstein: ¡°Play is the highest form of research.¡±
Playground equipment helps toddlers’ brains develop, as they learn about the world through motor activities and sensory experiences, according to the Shasta report. It goes on to explain that brain development in the first six years of life is especially important, and that the more children exercise both their sensory and motor skills by using playground equipment, the more brain-neural connections they create.

Howard Menger and UFO Contactees

Reincarnated Saturnian and space communicant Howard Menger held forth from his farm in New Jersey, where followers would come to witness… well, something. Followers would see lights and even figures but always in the dark and never up close. Once, when Menger led a follower into a dark building to speak with a spacewoman, a sliver of light happened to fall on the face of the “extraterrestrial.” It was, the follower could not help noticing, identical to the face of a young blond woman who happened to be one of Menger’s closest associates.
After releasing a book, From Outer Space to You (1959), and a record album, Music from Another Planet, Menger would virtually recant his story, vaguely muttering about a CIA experiment. In the late 1980s he withrew his recantation and marketed a new book detailing his latest cosmic adventures.
Most contactees have managed to stay out of legal trouble, though law-enforcement and other official agencies look into their activities from time to time. Reinhold Schmidt was not so lucky. In the course of contacts with German-speaking Saturnians, Schmidt’s space friends showed him secret stores of quartz crystals in the? mountains of California. Armed with this information and a gift for (so the prosecutor charged) “loving talk,” he persuaded several elderly women to invest their money in a crystal-mining venture. The money went, however, into his own pocket. He went on trial for grand theft and from there to jail.
Still, not all contactees are con artists, by any means. In 1962 Gloria-Lee, who chronicled her psychic contacts with “J.W.” of Jupiter in Why We Are Here (1959), starved to death in a Washington motel room after a two-month fast for peace ordered by her space friends. In 1954, in the face of massive press ridicule, followers of Dorothy Martin, who communicated with extraterrestrials through automatic writing, quit jobs and cut all other ties as they awaited a prophesied landing of a flying saucer that would pick them up just before geological upheavals caused massive destruction.
The charlatan contactees typically claim physical encounters, nearly always have photographs and other artifacts (in one especially brazen instance, packets of hair from a Venusian dog) to “prove” it, and in general behave more like profiteers than prophets. The psychic contactees, on the other hand, tend to be quiet, unflamboyant, and almost painfully sincere. They can best be described as Space Age religious visionaries. In another century their messages would have been from gods or angels or spirits. These messages, generally inane and rarely profound, are manifestly not from true extraterrestrials. Psychologists who have studied contactees believe these individuals are not crazy, just unusually imaginative; their communicators come from inner, not outer, space, via a nonpathological form of multiple-personality disorder.
Though only a few professional contactees of the 1950s are still alive or active today, the contactee movement is as big and vibrant as ever. This is due in part to the efforts of a Laramie, Wyoming, psychologist, R. Leo Sprinkle, who sponsors an annual summer conference on the University of Wyoming campus. Those attending are mostly individuals convinced that the Galactic Federation — a sort of extraterrestrial United Nations — has placed them on Earth to spread the cosmic gospel. In a sense these conferences function as revival meetings in which the faith is renewed even as the larger world continues to scoff.
Read about other well-known UFO hoaxsters and scam artists:

Ultimate Guide to Wine Country Trains

What could be a better way to enjoy wine than to travel through the gorgeous terrain that produces it with other people who love the grape?
The idea of enjoying wine country by rail has evolved into enormously popular tours from coast to coast over the last 20 years. One of the biggest attractions was started in 1990 by the late Vincent DeDomenico, the inventor of Rice-A-Roni. DeDomenico was looking to preserve old rail lines in northern California, and he came up with the concept of the Napa Valley Wine Train, which leaves downtown Napa daily from March through December.
The Napa Valley Wine Train now hosts 100,000 guests per year, and lunch and dinner trains are often sold out two months in advance for the harvest season in September and October. Wine lovers book the Vista Dome car, which offers nearly 180-degree views, well in advance for fall trips. “They want to see the whole experience,” says Andrea Guzman, promotions and partnerships manager for the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Depending on the tour, the rail excursions can include lunch or dinner, stops at wineries, picnics or overnight stops at small hotels. For many visitors, the tours provide a site for proposals, a treat for Mother’s Day or a venue for a small destination wedding. The Napa train is host to about half a dozen weddings a year. “We always get destination niche weddings of four to six people,” Guzman says.
The Napa company has actually trademarked the term “Wine Train,” but this style of rail tour is not confined to California. Travelers in New Jersey, Colorado and Missouri can tour wine country by train, too, either by Amtrak or by small, dedicated rail lines.
Read on for a rundown of what they offer and where to embark.

Back Pain, Cramping, Spotting & Headaches 2 Days Before a Period

Women may experience an array of symptoms right before their menstrual cycle begins, and others may go through their cycle painlessly. Experiencing back pain, spotting, cramping or headaches in the days leading up to menstruation can be quite normal; however, there are explanations for these symptoms.
The menstrual cycle occurs about every 25 to 36 days, with three to seven days of bleeding. As the hormones estrogen and progesterone decline, it triggers the uterine lining to shed. As the hormone level begins to rise again, the uterine lining begins to thicken, a follicle is formed within the ovary and within the follicle forms an egg, or ovum. Midway through the menstrual cycle, the luteinizing hormone from the pituitary gland surges, causing both estrogen and progesterone to rise. This causes the follicle to burst, releasing the egg inside. Some women feel symptoms such as abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, bloating, breast tenderness and irritability when these stages take place. Some women may also experience spotting in the days leading up to day one of menstruation.
Premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS, is a set of symptoms that a woman experiences before menstruation. Factors such as cyclic hormonal changes, chemical changes in the brain, stress and poor eating habits can all contribute to PMS. Symptoms of PMS include anxiety, tension, crying spells, mood swings, appetite changes, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, acne, constipation, abdominal cramping and muscle pain.
Miscarriage is the non-surgical loss of pregnancy. Early miscarriages go unnoticed much of the time, and according to MedlinePlus, up to half of fertilized eggs end in miscarriage before the seventh week, before a woman notices she¡¯s pregnant. Contributing factors to miscarriage are hormone imbalances, infection, uncontrolled diabetes, immune disorders and problems in the reproductive organs. Symptoms are low back pain or abdominal pain, passing tissue-like clots, vaginal bleeding and headache.
Reproductive diseases that cause internal bleeding or internal growths such as endometriosis¡ªa disease that causes endometrial tissue to form outside of the uterus¡ªand polycystic ovary syndrome¡ªa disease that causes the ovaries to form multiple cysts¡ªcan cause abdominal cramping, spotting, headache, back pain, bloating and irregular menstrual cycles. Diseases such as these can be caused by imbalances in the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Any unusual pains, spotting, bleeding or headaches should be reported to a physician. All instances of bleeding or spotting outside of normal menstruation are considered abnormal even if the cause may be harmless.

What Is a Wingback in Football?

Coaches spend a lot of time studying and experimenting with blocking at the line of scrimmage. Different blocking schemes are used depending on whether an offense is passing or running, and within those subgroups is a range of blocking assignments and changes that can help give a team the edge. The wingback is a position that has evolved, but it is still used in today’s game to provide more blocking options and confuse the defense.
Wingbacks line up right next to the down lineman on one side of the line. Unlike the rest of the line, though, wingbacks stay standing and line up a step back from the line of scrimmage. Wingbacks help increase blocking ability on the line, particularly at the outside, but they also pose the threat of taking a handoff or breaking downfield to receive a pass. This puts the pressure on the defense to determine what the wingback’s likely role is, and how this player should be covered.
Some players have been identified primarily as wingbacks. Johnny Rodgers, for example, was identified as a wingback when he won the Heisman Trophy playing for Nebraska in 1972. Rodgers was a player who could perform as a running back and a wide receiver and would line up in multiple positions on the field. Today, these players are more often referred to as hybrid players or multiposition athletes. A player lining up in the wingback position on a set play could be a running back, full back, wide receiver or tight end, depending on what the coach desires. It is advantageous to place skill players at this position.
The wingback has always been an option for football coaches devising schemes in games. One such scheme that made the wingback a prominent figure was the single-wing formation, developed by Glenn “Pop” Warner to take full advantage of running back Jim Thorpe’s talents in 1907. The plays run out of this formation were similar to a sweep or outside toss in today’s football, and the wingback was out in front setting up blocks to free the running back. Different formations have since placed the wingbacks in different positions, including behind the tackle and to one side of the quarterback and running back, but the function has remained largely the same.
The wingback is not always referred to as such, in part because the personnel or primary position of the wingback is often expected to use the skills of his primary position. A wide receiver in at wingback, for example, would alarm the defense that a passing play might be called, whereas a tight end used for blocking would suggest that a run play is coming. Wingbacks are used to improve blocking at the edge of the line. They can be brought in for several reasons, including to slow down defensive pressure or provide blocking assistance on one side of the field, particularly if an outside run to that side will be called. A wingback might also be brought in to confuse the defense and mislead them about the upcoming play. However, the wingback is not characteristic of any common football formations as it was in earlier days.

The Advantages of Playing Football

Playing football provides numerous types of advantages, such as increased aerobic and anaerobic fitness, improved fitness skills and even psychosocial benefits. Football also suffices as a form of exercise that meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention¡¯s minimum recommended exercise recommendations of 150 minutes per week. Football can benefit all ages, provided the participant¡¯s doctor approves, and his developmental stage, maturity and physical size suits a contact sport.
Football involves running, sprinting and drills that require generous energy expenditure and engage the cardiovascular system. Regularly participating in aerobic exercise such as football offers benefits such as increased longevity, as well as reduced susceptibility to heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and other chronic diseases, reports the Harvard School of Public Health. It can also foster weight loss and weight management; a 155-pound person burns nearly 600 calories per hour playing football, according to Harvard Medical School. Football players, particularly those who are overweight, may lose 15 to 20 pounds in a single season, according to Dave Cisar, who is the founder and president of the Screaming Eagles Youth Football Organization in Omaha, Nebraska.
Football helps develop numerous types of fitness skills including speed, agility and power. Players may lose body fat, gain lean muscle and increase the likelihood of maintaining healthy habits throughout life, according to USA Football. Football players will develop muscle strength through conditioning exercises and explosive power through tackling and defensive moves. Other advantageous elements of football include increased muscular endurance, as well as improved flexibly and mobility, according to certified strength and conditioning specialist Phil Davies on the Sports Fitness Advisor website.
Abiding by the rules of the game and adhering to the coach¡¯s instruction teaches players discipline and emotional temperance. The competitive aspect of the game helps the players learn how to deal with disappointment, develop resilience, practice good sportsmanship and learn how to grow from constructive criticism. Football can also instill confidence and self-esteem, and help players overcome shyness, Cisar explains. The fast-paced nature of the game requires players to harness a great deal of concentration, adaptability and quick thinking. Football can also help ward off depression, as well as help players develop positive social circles and role models, reports USA Football.
Competitive sports help teach teamwork, which translates into selflessness, cooperation and better communication skills. The structure of the game fosters important life skills, such as leadership, goal-setting and time-management skills. Organized group sports such as football also offer a host of other advantages that can benefit players in all aspects of their lives, including higher grades, greater family attachment, less participation in risky behaviors and increased involvement in volunteer work, reports the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

How to Put on a Chin Strap on a Football Helmet

A helmet is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in the sport of football. It can help prevent or reduce the risk of skull fractures and severe brain injuries, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. In order for a helmet to work properly, you have to ensure it fits the player correctly and has all the required pieces in place, including the chin strap. If a helmet doesn’t have one or needs a replacement strap, you can usually put a new one on yourself.
Find the snaps on the sides of the helmet. There should be two on each side of the face guard.
Attach the chin strap by positioning each side of the strap over the snaps you found on each side of the helmet. Press down until the snaps from the strap and the helmet each snap together.
Try your helmet on, place your chin in the chin cup and adjust the chin straps until they hold your helmet on snugly. Each side of the strap should have equal tension.

Who tests out amusement park rides?

In the mid-1980s, the now-closed Action Park amusement park in New Jersey offered intrepid employees $100 cash to test out its insane Cannonball Loop waterslide, which shot riders down a steep hill before launching them through a loop and spitting them out into a pool of water. (Legend has it that actual human beings were asked only after a crash-test dummy emerged from the slide in one piece, which apparently took quite a few attempts.) When the Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark attempted to build the tallest waterslide on the planet in 2014, engineers used sandbags to determine whether the ride was safe. No one wanted to test the slide after the sandbags flew off, so park owner Jeff Henry braved it himself, taking his assistant and the slide’s head designer along as human guinea pigs. When Henry survived the plunge, he invited journalists to test the slide before opening it to the public. When the Six Flags in Largo, Maryland, was ready to test its new Apocalypse rollercoaster, the park tapped coaster fanatic Sam Marks ! who runs a coaster club in Virginia ! to test its latest creation.
For the most part, this is how ride launches work: The first brave riders to test new rides are park employees, owners and designers, along with the journalists and theme park fanatics who will help spread the word and pump up interest in the ride.
If you’re looking to test rides for a living, there are a few different career paths you could follow. You’d need a strong engineering background to go into ride design, but the job comes with a few perks ! namely, the opportunity to create the rides of your dreams and to test prototypes of your creations long before they’re ever unveiled to the public. You can also earn the chance to test new rides if you pursue a career with an independent firm that specializes in ride testing. Officially known as forensic engineers, these professionals might use nondestructive testing to analyze the quality of steel or try out different types of harnesses to balance comfort and safety.
Want a chance to test new rides but don’t have an engineering or technical background? Get a job at a theme park and work your way up. One operations manager at Schlitterbahn gets paid to test rides all day to ensure that guests will have an optimal riding experience. England’s Drayton Manor Theme Park employs a guest services manager who’s responsible for riding every attraction in the park each week. Sure, these positions are limited ! though plenty of parks have them ! but if you’re willing to put in the time, there’s no reason you can’t land one.
If you want to test rides without quitting your day job, plenty of companies offer promotions to hire temporary ride testers, who are paid to ride and promote various attractions. In 2009, Orlando’s “67 Days of Smiles” campaign paid one lucky winner $25,000 to visit theme parks for the summer, and European resort marketer First Choice offered $32,000 and a six-month contract to visit parks around the world and write up reviews on top attractions. Improve your odds of landing this type of gig by building a strong social media presence and joining ride clubs in your area.

Is Earth on a collision path with a major asteroid?

March 2, 2007
Even if you think the only life in the universe is on Earth, we’re still not alone. In addition to the other planets and moons in our solar system, there are countless tons of space dust, millions of meteors, asteroids, comets and various types and sizes of debris (including the trash we’ve left up there ourselves) flying around at incredible speeds and in all sorts of orbits. Earth gets hit by stuff every day — it just doesn’t show up on the common man’s radar because the impact isn’t newsworthy. Space dust doesn’t hurt us. Most large asteroids that hit Earth are the size of a basketball by the time they make it through the burning conditions of Earth’s atmosphere, and those hit about once a week. It’s pretty much just the astronomers that notice. It would take something massive — space-terms massive — to make the rest of us notice. And the last time the rest of us really noticed was in 1908, when an asteroid about the size of a football field exploded in Earth’s atmosphere with the force of a 15-megaton bomb, leveling an 800 square-mile (2,000-sq-km) area of Siberia. The nuclear bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima had a 15-kiloton yield.
So imagine the furrowed brows when NASA announced that it was expanding its Near Earth Object Program, which identifies and tracks asteroids, and the European Space Agency is launching a mission to test a potential asteroid-deflection method. As it turns out, statistically speaking, an asteroid the size of a football field should hit Earth about every hundred years. So — statistically speaking — we’re due. But the asteroid that has scientists huddled together, holding conferences and releasing carefully worded statements is at least twice the size of a football field, and “nuke it” is actually being whispered as a last resort. It’s called Apophis, and it’s about 250 meters across. The 45-million-ton rock is orbiting the Sun at 28,000 miles per hour (45,000 kph). If it hits Earth, it could easily level a large city.
According to all sources, the chances of it hitting are slim, about one in 45,000, and getting slimmer. In 2005, scientists calculated that Apophis had a one in 5,500 chance of colliding with Earth, and they predict that the chance of a hit will continue to decrease. Using calculations based on the relative positions of Earth and Apophis in 2007, the asteroid will be within 24,000 miles (39,000 km) of Earth in 2029. That’s very, very close, much closer to Earth than the moon is, and we’ll be able to see it with the naked eye in both day and night-time. But that’s not the close call astronomers are worried about. It could come even closer to Earth in 2036, and there are some algorithms that predict a collision, but most experts say it won’t hit us. Still, preparations are underway.
The idea is to plan early for the best avoidance strategy. With 20 years to go, we could probably make sure Apophis won’t hit us even if it wants to. Most scientists think that blowing it up with a nuclear bomb is a bad idea — that we’d just end up with a bunch of large asteroids hitting Earth instead of one really large one. Others says if we blow it up early enough, there would be enough time for the trajectory of the pieces to shift out of the danger zone. At the moment, though, the method of choice for saving Earth from Apophis is deflection.
There are a few big ideas out there. One has several spacecraft landing on Apophis, drilling through the surface and pumping out what’s inside. NASA has actually done something like this successfully with its Deep Impact mission, which crashed an impactor into a comet with the purpose of revealing the comet’s composition. With Apophis, the point would be to pump the material out into space with enough force to push Apophis in the opposite direction, throwing it off course. Scientists are also talking about sending a spacecraft into the asteroid’s orbit to fly next to it. This “gravity tractor” spaceship would essentially alter the gravity equation that keeps Apophis on its path, pulling on the asteroid until its position no longer threatens Earth.
But according to Donald Yeomans of NASA’s Near Earth Object Project, the simplest way to deflect Apophis is to send a spacecraft up there to just slam into it, knocking it out of the way.
Forty-five million tons of speeding asteroid aside, it could be that all the fuss about Apophis is about something at once both more and less threatening. NASA estimates that there are 100,000 asteroids orbiting dangerously close to Earth right now that are big enough to cause a problem, and the agency is only tracking 4,000 of them. We may need to solidify a plan of attack. On the other hand, there are 100,000 asteroids orbiting dangerously close to Earth, right now. And right now. And … right now.
Still here? For more information on Apophis and related topics, check out the following links: