In this week's Thinking Cap, we get to the bottom of why cats love to curl up in boxes or other small spaces, show off a vending machine that dispenses books and look at some podcasts to close your week. Welcome to Lifehacker's Thinking Cap, a new series where we round up interesting, informative and thought-provoking podcasts, interviews, articles and other media that will teach you something new, inspire you and hopefully cap off your week nicely. Let's get started.
The Biblio-Mat, a Random Book Vending Machine
When bookstores put those shelves out front or around the side of their stores that advertise books for a dollar or two, people walk right past them and don't even think about it. When you put those same books in a vending machine that you can pop a couple of coins into and get a random book with the luck of the draw, well, suddenly that game aspect of the whole thing makes people flock to it and turns it into an interesting game of chance that's fun to play — and fun to watch. [via YouTube]
How to Make the Most of Your Convention Experience
Comic-Con started this weekend, and other huge conventions aren't far behind! If you're heading out to one, or heading to another major convention of some stripe, you'll need some tips to help you make the most of the experience. Of course, we have some great tips to help you survive and to stay healthy while you're there, but this piece from Forces of Geek is also full of tips to make the most of your experience, not just survive while you're there. For example, they highlight the "5-2-1 Rule", which mandates five hours of sleep per night, two full meals a day and one shower a day — and all of those sound pretty damned important to me.
They also include some tips to avoid the dreaded Concrud, but also some great pointers to surviving the Dealer's Room:
The hard part of a dealers room is not breaking your convention budget. Believe it or not, most dealers are also fans and they know what you're going through. It's rare to see a dealer get pushy about making sales. Most are just happy to see you come by. Speaking as a dealer, even at conventions where my sales are low, I always see a bump in online sales after the event and that's because I know not everyone can buy something that weekend, but because I have good product and am not pushy, people appreciate that, and remember after the event to see what I have available when they do have the bucks to spend.
Best day to buy? That depends. If price is your number one concern, then do your shopping on Sunday (or whatever the last day is). The closer it is to the final hour for the dealers room at that event, the more likely you're going to find special clearance sales and offers. Dealers don't want to lug all that stuff back home (or worse… ship it), so many are going to slash some prices. Now, that said… it's a bit of a game. If you see something you want on Saturday, there's no guarantee it will still be there on Sunday — so you take your chances. And if you bought something at full price on Friday, and see it for nearly half price on Sunday, it may seem unfair, but there was always the chance there would not have been any left by Sunday. It's a bit of a gamble.
All in all, if you're headed a big convention — whether it's a comic, sci-fi, anime or other gathering, it's worth a read to help you prepare. [via Forces of Geek]
The Most Bizarre Exports Around the Globe
Normally I don't include infographics in these roundups, but I love this one — mostly because some of the exports are just truly unique, and others make perfect sense. For example, the UK exports lemon curd to Kenya (which makes sense because Kenya isn't really known for its lemons and lemon curd is delicious) which is really interesting, but also China exports pandas to Canada, which is also really interesting. Almost as interesting as the fact that the US exports beer (specifically Brooklyn Brewery) to Sweden and wolf urine to Japan. [via Mental Floss]
What Are Some of Your Favourite Podcasts to Listen to in the Morning?
This thread at Quora is full of recommendations if you're looking for something to spice up your morning commute, or you're interested in trying something a little different.
There are well over a hundred answers, a ton of links and some great podcasts on topics all over the map. Here's one good answer with an mix of podcasts on various topics:
- BBC's From Our Own Correspondent (an in-depth look at the stories behind the top news headlines around the world, told by BBC correspondents, journalists and writers in a captivating storytelling format; hosted by Kate Adie)
- Optimise with Brian Johnson (condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and micro classes on how to apply these ideas; here's where I get a lot of book recommendations, including most recently Seneca's On the Shortness of Life)
- Invisibilia (a show about invisible forces that affect and control human behaviour: our ideas, beliefs, and emotions)
- Intelligence Squared (the world's leading forum for debate and intelligent discussion; I like the diversity of topics that are covered and that include Brexit, democracy, foreign intervention, capitalism, the art market, contemporary literature, feminism, events in the Middle East)
- The Memory Palace (storytelling podcast about events from the past)
- Middle East Analysis (podcast on events happening in the Middle East and North Africa regions; the main contributor is international lawyer and political advisor Dr. Harry Hagopian)
- This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt (a podcast dedicated to living a life with more passion, working with greater focus, and pursuing goals that give purpose and meaning to our lives)
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg, and just a few worth checking out. Seriously, scroll through the full thread — you might find some duds, but all in all there are at least a few you'll either be able to vouch for because you listen to them, or a few you'll want to subscribe to. [via Quora]
Why Cats Love Boxes So Much
Another Mental Floss piece, but I couldn't resist given the subject matter. After all, we all know that cats love boxes, but why? They also love small spaces like sinks and other small containers, but the reasons behind why are all poorly understood — however, you may have predicted the reason why:
Cats, Wilbourn reasons, take comfort in cramped spaces because it makes them feel more secure and dominant. "I think part of it goes back to when they were kittens and inside the womb, feeling safe and comforted. There's a feeling of coziness, being able to do what they want to do, and just feeling untouchable."
Science has been able to support this theory. Animal behaviorists have studied stress levels in newly arrived shelter cats and found that felines with access to boxes had lower stress levels and faster adjustment periods than those without [PDF]. Even if they're not quite as protected as they think they are — you can pretty much do anything to a cat who is in a box as you could a cat who is outside of one — their perception may be that they're insulating themselves from harm.
Another good theory is that small spaces help cats retain body heat, which explains things like sinks in the summer time and cardboard boxes well, any other time. [via Mental Floss]
The Bratwurst Bot
You might not think a robot could do something that requires finesse like saute up the perfect bratwurst, but you'd be wrong. Not only does it handle the meat like a pro, it turns the sausages to make sure they get that delicious char on all sides, avoids overcooking them entirely (which is more than some people can say) and even serves them up and tells you to enjoy your meal.
I, for one, welcome our new sausage grilling robot masters. [via YouTube]
That's all for this week. If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts or eye-opening videos, share them in the comments below!