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

This week we're plotting a pinball-themed road trip across the US; looking at the most significant buildings of the past hundred years; and wrapping it all up with some adorable kittens, live streaming right now. Welcome to Lifehacker's Thinking Cap, a 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.


The Most Significant Buildings of the Past Hundred Years

I'm certainly not an architect, but I am a lover of interesting and beautifully designed buildings -- structures that break the mould and function both as shelter and as art. Thankfully, the architects at The Architectural Record just selected their top 125 buildings of the past hundred (plus) years, highlighting each one's contribution to art, architecture and progressive design.

The list is full of old, classic buildings and some new, futuristic and modern ones, so if you're a fan of both old and classy as well as sweeping and elegant, you'll find something to love in the list. For example, the High Line in New York City, the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan and, shown above, Diamond Ranch High School in California all make the list, along with some other structures you'll certainly recognise, either from history books or from documentaries on the world's most famous places. Don't be fooled though -- there are plenty of surprises too. [via Architectural Record, thanks Kottke!]


Why Textbook Prices Keep Climbing for Seemingly No Reason

Anyone who's been to university at all in the past few decades can tell you all about ridiculous textbook prices. Sometimes it's a course where a professor insists you buy the book they wrote -- and of course, the latest edition, at that. Sometimes it's just a matter of so many scholarly texts being in the hands of ever fewer publishing companies. In any event, this episode of the Planet Money Podcast dives into why, and some of the roots behind the ever-increasing prices. It's an old episode, but was recently replayed on the air for good reason. [via NPR's Planet Money]


Plot a Pinball-Themed US Cross-Country Road Trip

The folks at Atlas Obscura always have something interesting to teach us about our world and the amazing, often-unseen places in it, but if you're a pinball fanatic, this interactive Google Map and road trip will definitely tickle your fancy.

Admittedly, I'm not a huge pinball person -- it's just not a hobby I ever got into -- but I absolutely can admire the kitschy aspect behind it all and the love for quirky, interesting and unique pinball machines that, at best, only had a handful ever made. Atlas Obscura goes into the details here, getting you up to speed on both the rapid expansion and popularity of pinball as well as its sharp decline, for those uninitiated like myself.

The interactive map (above) at Google Maps comes pre-set with a road trip to the best and most prominent pinball arcades in America, with highlight information for each destination, perfect for that holiday you've been meaning to take. Pack your bags. [via Google Maps, thanks Atlas Obscura!]


The Monty Hall Problem, Explained

The Monty Hall Problem is a famous brain teaser that shows exactly how human beings will behave irrationally even when presented with a situation that should be fairly easy to understand mathematically. The video above, from Numberphile, outlines the problem and its actual solution quite well, but for a great read on the topic, it's worth checking out Priceonomics' essay, The Time Everyone "Corrected" the World's Smartest Woman. She answered the Monty Hall problem in a column in Parade Magazine, correctly, and had everyone from amateurs to PhDs coming out of the woodworks to explain how "wrong" she was. The problem was, she was right, and she knew it.

Similarly, Kottke -- where I picked up this video -- has an also enlightening explanation of the problem and how deceptively simple it actually is. Check out the video, then check out the full piece. [via Numberphile, thanks Kottke!]


A Live Stream of Kittens. Kittens All Day.

You look like you could use some kittens in your day. Click play. Watch the kittens playing, sleeping, bumbling about, you know, everything that kittens (and their mum, of course) do over the course of the day. Full-screen it and put it up on your second monitor. Manage those stress levels. Have a great weekend. [via Kitten Academy]


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 photos by ThreeBestFriendsTour, Matt Machtley,


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