Thinking Cap: Podcasts, Articles And Clips To Make You Smarter

This week in Thinking Cap, let's talk about how quantum computers will change technology, check out boozy US travel destinations, super creepy events in history, how politcs impacts gold prices and watch a live stream of the Earth from the International Space Station! 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.


How Quantum Computers Work (and Will Work in the Future)

The always excellent Kurzgesagt starts off this video about quantum computers and future computing technology by explaining the very real issue we're facing today: Computer parts and components are approaching the size of an atom, which means that as they get ever smaller and we continue to shrink transistors and try to cram even more into ever smaller spaces, they will stop working in a way that we can reliably predict.

There's more to this issue, though I'll let the video explain in better detail — but the real fun is in how we're learning to work beyond this functional limit with the help of good old quantum mechanics. Quantum computers hold a lot of promise, and in theory the ability to store and process incredible amounts of information, but right now, they're still working theories and lab-controlled prototypes. We'll see what the future holds. [via Kurzgesagt]


10 Awesome Boozy Travel Destinations in the United States

Buffalo Trace distillery. That's a lot of booze! #bourbontrail #bourbon #buffalotrace #kentucky

A photo posted by Mike McGee (@metbari) on

Visiting the US east coast and want to take a great wine tour? Consider the Bucks County Wine Trail, in Pennsylvania. Beer lover in Seattle? Book a room in the Hotel Max, where many guestrooms have kegerators right there in the room, waiting for you to lift a glass and pull the tap.

These are just two of Oyster's list of 10 great booze-forward travel destinations around the good old US of A. There are destinations for you if you're into spirits, like a rum running tour in New Orleans and a distillery in Estes Park. Check out the whole list, and if you're looking for a grown-up American getaway, pick your favourite and go. Enjoy responsibly. [via Oyster]


Some Very Creepy, Very True Historical Events

It may be a bit early for a little creepout, but this thread at Quora is full of very true, very real, and very unfortunate events in history that will make you, well, at least a little uncomfortable. Not all of them are horrifying (although some of them are), but they're all at least a little unsettling. Like the Lake Okeechobee skulls (edited for clarity:)

Lake Okeechobee is the large lake seen in the southeastern part of Florida, occupying approximately 730 square miles [1890 square km] across five different counties. It is part of a large drainage system that feeds the Florida Everglades.
In the late 19th century, early pioneers made a rather gruesome discovery: hundreds of skeletons and skulls visible in the south end of the lake during low water. So many skulls that according to one settler, "during low water it looked like a pumpkin patch." Fishermen would regularly find skulls in their nets. One surveyor in the early 1900s exposed over 50 human skeletons under just two inches of sand while clearing land on Grassy Island. The lake water level reached an all-time low in 1918, exposing hundreds of skeletons chaotically wedged in the silt north of Ritta and Kreamer Islands. So far over 1,000 skeletons are estimated to have been recovered and the bones seemed to be primarily concentrated within a 30-mile [48km] range extending from Kreamer Island to Observation Island to the mainland.
There is no good explanation for the cause of the bones. Skulls and other bones were still commonly found in the 1950s. A writer for the October 18, 1959 edition of the Miami News attempted to attribute the skeletons (as many have) to the 2,000 lives lost during the 1928 hurricane.
Many hurricane victims have indeed been pulled from the lake; however, the discoveries of so many skeletons in the late 1800s and early 1900s pre-date the occurrence of the 1928 hurricane.
The lack of artifacts aside from the bones themselves do not support the idea of the lake itself being a burial site, or the sudden catastrophic loss of a village on the lake shore. An unsubstantiated legend claims that 200 Seminoles committed suicide in 1841 to avoid capture by the army, but it doesn't explain the total number of skeletons reportedly found. The 1837 Battle of Okeechobee during the Seminole war occurred on the north end of the lake with only 30 dead. Some groups believe that the skeletons are ancient Native Americans that pre-date the Spanish settlements in Florida. The ultimate fate of all of the bones that were recovered from the lake is unknown.

That's not the only story. This answer, recounting the sad tale of Takako Konishi, and how her death wound up being made into a movie that actually had nothing to do with how she actually died, is also unsettling. So is the very true historical story of Vasily Blokhin, the world record holder for "most prolific executioner", and the man hand-picked by Stalin to oversee the horrors of the Katyn Massacre. If you want to be more creeped out by history than you ever will be by a movie, the whole thread is a good read. [via Quora]


How US Presidential Politics Change Gold Prices

You've probably seen this scenario play out before: Someone that someone else doesn't like gets elected, and it's doom and gloom for the economy, so you'd better buy gold because for some reason doing that will protect your money from the looming economic destabilisation because [person someone doesn't like] is the American president.

The truth is a bit more complicated though, and gold prices have a lot of inputs and factors — not just who sits in the White House. That said, gold prices have fluctuated based on partisan politics, for a number of reasons, and this graphic from American Bullion has some interesting numbers on gold prices, past US presidents and a few other economic factors. [via American Bullion]


A Live Stream of the Earth from the International Space Station

The Earth is beautiful, and since I always like to end Thinking Cap with something that's a little inspirational and maybe a little heartening to end your week on a good foot, try this live stream of our world, in HD, from the ISS. The stream is provided by NASA, but up on YouTube all the time, and you can tune in and full-screen on a second display whenever you need a little boost. There's music, but you don't necessarily need it. Either way, take a look, enjoy, exhale and have a great weekend. [via Space Videos]


That's all for this week. If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts or eye-opening videos, share them in the comments below!

Title GIF by Nick Criscuolo. Additional photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


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