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Watch a Player Piano Rock Out

Player pianos lend a whole new meaning to the phrase "ghost in the machine."Automated instruments date back to the early 18th century, but we generally associate player pianos with Old West saloons....

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Children in Spain are Going on a Homework Strike

Good luck, kids. (Photo: Ian Burt/CC BY 2.0)Three weeks into fall and already sick of homework? Spain may have a tactical answer. CEAPA, a kind of mega-PTA representing the parents of schoolkids across...

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The Year Hundreds of Bombs Went Off in New York City

The aftermath of the Wall Street bombing. (Photo: Library of Congress/LC-DIG-ggbain-31303)On Saturday, a bomb exploded in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, injuring dozens and, for a moment,...

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Toddler Pulled Alive From Siberian Forest After 3 Days

Lost toddler survives three days in Siberian taiga alone https://t.co/Rkr67pb9SU#Siberiapic.twitter.com/76IlywgJms— The Gulf Today (@thegulftoday) September 23, 2016Russian authorities say that a...

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A Guide to the 58 Crazy Different Terms for 'Water'

Considering that humankind has from the very beginning subsisted on, resided near and built civilizations around water, it’s not too surprising that English and other languages are overflowing with...

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Are Mermaids Real? The Long Tail of a Simple Question

Over the past few months, Atlas Obscura has been at the receiving end of many a search query about mermaids. Day after day, it is one of the most enduringly popular search terms on our site. What do...

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The Best Sport Of The Early 1900s Involved Pushing Around An Elephant-Sized Ball

A freshmen vs. sophomores pushball game, at Miami University in 1910. (Photo: Miami University Libraries/Public Domain)Imagine you're touring the shed of an early 20th-century sportsman. It's mostly...

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Found: A Centuries-Old Network of Hidden Underground Tunnels

Stockton-on-Tees seems like your basic British market town with a history dating back to the 12th century. You've got your lovely rowhouses, your pleasant parks, and your 18th century ship replica....

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An Australian State Has Banned Mooning

A stone moon. (Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/CC BY-SA 2.0)No more butts in Victoria. Thanks to strict new legislation in the Australian state, mooning and streaking have been officially and specifically...

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The Hidden Meaning of Political Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers on sale at an anti-war protest. (Photo: Patricia Marroquin/shutterstock.com)Whether it’s “Yes She Can” or “Hillary for Prison,” it’s hard to take a drive anywhere in the United States...

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Why Linguists are Fascinated by the American Jewish Accent

Between 1880 and World War I, a wave of Eastern European Jewish immigrants crashed on America’s shores. They spoke Yiddish, and then English, with a special tone, a kind of sing-songy incantation....

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How Beige Took Over American Homes

When I was in middle school, my parents renovated our family home. The house, an unpretentious 1,844 square-foot one-story traditional—a rather minimal house with a front facing garage, one...

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A Rare, Lonely, Amorous Musk Ox Is Stinking Up a Small Swedish Town

A bull musk ox, possibly out looking for love. (Photo: Tim Bowman, US Fish and Wildlife Service/Public Domain)Male musk oxen are easy to spot—they're huge and shaggy, with curved horns and lumbering...

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Hitler Probably Spent WWII High on Cocaine and Oxycodone

(Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H1216-0500-002/CC-BY-SA 3.0)In 1940, as the German army prepared to invade France through the Ardennes, a region of hills, forests and other rough terrain, army...

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How Did These Ancient Roman Coins End Up in Japan?

An artist's depiction of ancient Roman coins. (Photo: Public domain)Officials in Japan said Monday that they had found something unusual: a bunch of ancient Roman coins, from the time of the Caesars....

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Watch What Designers in the 1930s Thought We Would Wear in the 21st Century

As the new millennium approached, people in the 19th and 20th centuries tried to predict what life would be like in the future. Amidst questions of how we would get around and what war would be like,...

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The First Encyclopedia by a Woman Contains The First Image of a Pretzel

Can you find the very first pretzel? (Photo: Christian Maurice Engelhardt/Public Domain)Newspaper obituaries around the globe are filled with firsts: first woman in space (Sally Ride), first person to...

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A Guide to the Real-Life Homes of the Heroes of Children's Literature

On this map, you will find the real world locations where the heroes of books you might have read early in life lived out their adventures. On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, just a few blocks from...

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Why Making a Better Umbrella Is Way Harder Than It Seems

The inside of an umbrella. (Photo: Ralph Hockens/CC BY 2.0)A version of this post originally appeared on Tedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.Umbrellas are a good...

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A 'Black Moon' is Coming

The moon is going to disappear... again. (Photo: trasroid/CC BY 2.0)Can you spot the black moon? This Friday, in the Western Hemisphere, a rare “black moon” will rise in the night sky, according to...

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