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Vintage Photos Show New York City Commuters In 1966


Danny Lyon was famous for his work photographing the civil rights movement in the south and motorcycle gangs in Chicago. 

When he returned to New York, his mother told him, if ever got bored, he should "just talk to someone on the subway.” 

Danny Lyons Subway PhotographyWe're not sure if he ever took his mother's advice and talked to the straphangers, but he sure did take some beautiful pictures of them.

The result is a photo series he called "Underground: 1966," which features eight pictures Lyon took candidly of travelers on the New York City Subway system in Brooklyn during New Year's Eve in 1966.

Danny Lyons Subway PhotographyThe series is now being exhibited for the very first time, and will be on display in Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station for the next year. 

“Brooklyn is changing very rapidly and so many newcomers have joined longtime residents among the 40,000 people who use the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station every day," Lester Burg, senior manager of MTA Arts & Design, said in statement. "‘Underground: 1966’ is a great opportunity to show them how it used to be, and to show off the work of a groundbreaking photographer who was born in Brooklyn.”

Danny Lyons Subway Photography (1)Lyon was methodical in his approach to the photographs, like any true artist. For his artist's tools, he used a Rolleiflex camera with color translucency film. 

He didn't use a tripod for any of the photos (they weren't allowed on the subway), even when the frame had moving objects, which created a blur effect on some of the photos featuring motion. He told Fast.co that, since the color film was slow, he leaned on poles to keep his camera steady.

Danny Lyons Subway Photography (1)This artistic choice perfectly captured the hustle and bustle of the subway system. It also makes the surreal somber faces of his subjects pop that much more against the blur of movement.

Though Lyon no longer uses a Rolleiflex, he told Fast.co he still sometimes takes pictures of commuters traversing the city on the subway.

"I find sitting across from people as they move through the city fascinating, and I often take out my iPhone, hoping to make a portrait unobserved," he said. "But it’s very hard to do."

See the rest of Lyon's amazing photographs below:

Danny Lyons Subway PhotographyDanny Lyons Subway Photography

SEE ALSO: 15 Awesome Photos From Sony's 2015 World Photography Awards

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Pixar Cofounder Ed Catmull Is Selling His Hawaiian Vacation Home For $20 Million


catmull house

Ed Catmull, cofounder and president of Pixar Animation Studios, has listed his Hawaiian home for $20.138 million, Realtor.com reports.

The house has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a large swimming pool, and 125 feet of untouched beachfront. It's located in Kailua, on the island of Oahu.

Catmull has quite the real estate portfolio — in addition to a $6 million home in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood, he and his wife own homes in Piedmont, California and Salt Lake City, Utah.

They also previously owned two other homes in Kailua, but they sold both in 2012 for $2.15 million and $3.5 million, respectively. 

The home is located on an oceanfront lot in Kailua, in the eastern part of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The house itself has more than 10,500 square feet of space.

The interior has a classic Polynesian feel.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This Futuristic $13 Million Yacht Can Be Powered By The Wind Or The Sun


Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 2

Super-luxurious megayachts are great, but they're not exactly self-sustaining. That's what makes architect Margot Krasojevic's new yacht concept such a revolution.

The trimaran combines self-harvested energy, a mast made out of carbon fiber, hydrofoils, and an out-of-this-world futuristic design to create one of the most innovative, eco-concious, and eye-catching yachts ever.

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 4For starters, the boat's huge mast is motorized, allowing its sail to catch as much wind as possible at the best possible angle. It wraps around to form a part of the center hull as well.

The retractable wing-like sail attached to the mast is made from Kevlar, a high-strength synthetic fiber. And it doesn't just catch the wind — it catches the sun as well.

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 5Tiny solar cells cover the sail, allowing it to soak up the sun's rays and convert it to energy used to power the yacht.

Though the sail is quite large, it probably wouldn't collect enough of the sun's energy on its own to power the ship in the event of no wind.

To aid in the collection of the sun's rays, the ship's two hulls feature super-reflective Fresnel lenses and holographic film to reflect as many of the rays as possible to the huge sail. Additionally, if there is no wind blowing at all, the entire sail can fold upward, directly toward the sun, to soak up as much sunshine as possible.

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 3Combining all that power from those two sources, the Krasojevic says the boat can operate almost completely self-sufficiently.

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 7Krasojevic isn't stopping there with the boat's eco initiatives. She told the Daily Mail that she is looking into designing a way for the boat to also use kinetic energy derived from the ship's movement.

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 8The three-hulled trimaran style of the ship can transition into a monohull mode, ideal for cruising. When in this mode, a set of hydrofoils (similar to an airplane's airfoils) can lift the boat above the water, reducing water resistance by up to 80% and allowing the boat to be much more efficient with the energy it harvests. 

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 6Krasojevic aims to start construction on the yacht in April of this year. 

Fresnel Hydrofoil Trimaran Yacht 9

SEE ALSO: The World's Most Expensive Yachts (And The Billionaires Who Own Them)

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These Luxurious Hotels In Canada Are Treating Dogs Like Kings


Pampered pooches can join their owners and stay in some of Vancouver's poshest hotels. These hotels allow pets to stay for free and are also offering accommodations such as complimentary treats, beds, and bowls.

Produced by Devan Joseph. Video courtesy of Associated Press.

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Here's One Way To Tell If Your Relationship Will Last


couple relationship romantic love

Wondering whether your relationship will go the distance?

Ask a friend.

That may sound counterintuitive. After all, you presumably have more information about your own romantic relationship than your college roommate, say. But you are also terribly biased.

Research has shown that each of us has a rosy view of our own relationship. Your friends, on the other hand, may be better able to see it for what it is.

A friend's perceptions of your romantic union, at least one study has found, are actually better than yours at predicting the fate of your relationship.

A Beautiful Illusion

Most of us harbor positive illusions about the people closest to us, especially those central to our own identities — like a romantic partner. In many ways, this isn't a bad thing: In fact, people who idealize their partners tend to have longer-lasting relationships.

But such a rosy view might also "cloud their judgement and influence their perceptions," a team of psychologists from Purdue University and Southern Methodist University wrote in 2001. The result? People in love "predict that their relationship will last longer than it actually does."

For better or for worse, however, your friends are generally less invested in your relationship than you are, and therefore less likely to be biased in how they see it. Fortunately, you can use their expertise to your advantage.

Auspicious Beginnings?

In that 2001 study, Christopher Agnew, Timothy Loving, and Stephen Drigotas acknowledged that people are not so great at predicting how their own relationships turn out, and designed an experiment to find out whether people's "social networks" — at the time just an old-fashioned term for friends and acquaintances — could act as more reliable soothsayers.

The researchers focused on 74 couples who had been dating for a median of one year and asked them to list their individual friends and joint friends. (The small, non-diverse group of mostly college-aged participants means that the study's results are intriguing, but by no means the final say on all human relationships.)

They interviewed the couples about their relationships, and then they sent questionnaires to hundreds of their friends, asking them to share what they really thought about their friends' pairings.

Six months later, 15 of the 70 couples the researchers could still contact had broken up. 

couple happy relationship smiling

A Crystal Ball

In general, the study suggests, your friends are not as psyched about your relationship as you are — at least if you're a 20-year-old college student. At the beginning of the experiment, the people in relationships said they were more committed and happy than their friends seemed to think they were.

"Given the amount of effort individuals put into their romantic endeavors, [they] are likely motivated to view their relationships in a positive light," wrote Loving, in a later analysis. "Otherwise, why would they be in them?"

However much your friends want you to be happy, it's not personal for them the way it is for you — and that distance turns out to be crucial. 

While "friends' perceptions [were] somewhat aligned" with what the couples themselves reported, "joint friends, her friends, and his friends all [perceived] relationship state as significantly more negative than the couple members themselves did," the researchers explained in the paper.

As it turned out, these glass-half-empty perceptions of the couples were "powerfully predictive" of the fate of the relationships. And the more couples blabbed to their friends about their relationships, the more accurate their friends' perceptions were. Meanwhile, the friends of the women in the pairings — most of whom were women themselves — seemed to be more in tune with their friends' relationships than both the couples themselves and their friends as a whole.

These findings, the researchers write, "are especially remarkable" since outsiders' impressions of relationships are based on secondhand knowledge and "considerably less information" than the couples have themselves. Of course, the authors note, couples have a "tremendous personal stake in the romance that clouds [their] judgement regarding it."

elderly old couple relationship longevity healthy bikes happiness aging

No Such Thing As A Sure Thing

Notably, the 2001 researchers did not actually ask participants whether they thought their friends' relationships would last. They simply asked participants for their impressions of each relationship, and then measured whether those impressions were predictive of the way the relationships turned out. (They were.)

In an earlier, smaller study, though, Canadian researchers found slightly different results: Students' roommates and parents were asked directly whether the student-couple would still be together after one year, and those confidantes were also able to make more accurate predictions than the students themselves.

That result seems to confirm that "ask a friend" may indeed be one good way to see into your relationship's future. But the couples in the Canadian study provided more accurate assessments of their own relationship's quality than did their parents and roommates, suggesting over-optimism even when they were cognizant of their relationships' realities.

Had the Canadian researchers simply looked at the outsiders' impressions of their roommates' relationships instead of asking for direct predictions, their findings would be in direct conflict with what the 2001 researchers found later; instead, it's a bit more muddled.

In 2006, Timothy Loving tried to make sense of some of this muddle with a larger follow-up study that looked at similar questions. He found that while the friends of female daters made accurate predictions about the future of their friends' relationships, "male daters' friends appear to have few unique insights" into their friends' romances. Perhaps, he suggests, women just disclose more to their friends, giving the male friends too little information to go on.

One of his key points though, is that there are too many variables to expect consistency, even among small samples that are roughly the same age. "Roommates" are not the same as "social network members" or "close friends," and it's reasonable to think that friends' predictive powers will vary depending on closeness. But Loving does suggest a question future researchers can ask the people in a relationship, to try to find the outsiders who will be most accurate and perceptive in their predictions: "Who knows you and your relationship best?"

If you're wondering what the future has in store for you and your plus one, it would be wise to set aside your rosy view and ask yourself that very question. Then, if you dare, ask that person what she really thinks about your relationship — and whether it will last.

SEE ALSO: Scientists Have Found A Surprising Key To Happy Relationships

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20 Great Biographies And Memoirs You Should Read


lena dunham book

Biographies are some of the most interesting books to read because they peek into the lives of other people. 

Amazon released the best biographies and memoirs of 2014.

From Lena Dunham's tell-all to Napoleon's personal letters, here are the best biographies and memoirs of 2014.

1. "Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's 'Learned'" by Lena Dunham: Dunham's book tackles life issues every woman can relate to, and includes everything from her first sexual experience to her obsession with death. "If I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you," Dunham writes, "or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”

2. "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir" by Roz Chast: Cartoonist Roz Chast writes about the difficulty of going from child of your parents to caretaker of your parents. Chast, an only child, details the years leading up to the deaths of her parents and how she coped with trading the family home for an institution, managing her parents' care, and saying goodbye.  

3. "Napoleon: A Life" by Andrew Roberts: Roberts brings new life to the legendary leader Napoleon. He is the first to use Napoleon's recently found 33,000 letters which reveal a lot about his character and his relationships with his wife, friends, and enemies. Roberts visited nearly all of Napoleon's 60 battle sites and made the trip to St. Helena, where Napoleon lived in exile, to gain further insight into this complex ruler. 

4. "The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League" by Jeff Hobbs: Hobbs was the roommate and friend of Robert Peace while at Yale University. Peace was exceptionally smart but came from an impoverished, broken home. Despite his academic success Peace could not escape his past, which ultimately cost the young man his life.

5. "A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal" by Ben Macintyre: Kim Philby rose through the ranks to lead Britain's counterintelligence team during the Cold War. The charismatic leader became friends with fellow British officer Nicholas Elliott, and the head of CIA counterintelligence James Angleton. Little did Elliott and Angleton know that their friend was a Soviet spy, tanking Western operations for years. The two men maintained their friend's innocence until finally realizing Philby's unimaginable betrayal.

6. "The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra" by Helen Rappaport: The four Romanov sisters were admired for their beauty and wealth; however, Rappaport reveals an intelligent and perceptive side to the Russian Grand Duchesses. Newly found diary entries and letters show the sisters as witnesses to the end of imperial Russia and the start of the Russian Revolution.

7. "I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist" by Betty Halbreich: Eighty-six-year-old Betty Halbreich reflects on how she became the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman. After a failed marriage, Halbreich was lost and alone in New York where she takes a job as a personal shopper at the famous store. Running the store's first personal shopping service, her reputation for her honesty and eye for style has earned her the trust of New York's social scene.  

8. "Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life" by Tom Robbins: Novelist Tom Robbins looks inward and recounts his life from his upbringing in Appalachia during the Great Depression to his international travels pre-9/11 security. He held many jobs, from Air Force weatherman to radio DJ to counter culture hero. Readers can see how Robbins' life shaped the characters of his famous novels.

9. "The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book" by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée: In the mid-1950s, an Italian publisher went to the home of the great Russian poet Boris Pasternak and left with the poet's first and only novel, and the words, “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak's words shook up the world during the Cold War.

10. "Updike" by Adam Begley: The story looks at the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike. The book takes readers from Updike's Pennsylvania childhood to his time at Harvard, his experience with suburbia, his travels, and his retirement. The biography details Updike's complex character and how he was able to create characters that are key players in American literature.

11. "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings" by Michelle Knight and Michelle Burford: This is Michelle Knight's harrowing account of her abduction and imprisonment for over a decade. Knight, along with two other women, were imprisoned and tortured in Ariel Castro's basement for years before breaking free in 2013. Knight talks about her past, the abduction, and how she will rebuild a life for herself now that she is free.

12. "Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island" by Will Harlan: America's "wildest woman" Carol Ruckdeschel is a self-educated scientist who tackles alligators, eats roadkill, and built her own cabin on Georgia's Cumberland Island. The island, owned by the Carnegie family, is also home to sea turtles whose fate is threatened by the Carnegies' plans for the island. The story shows the poor yet courageous Ruckdeschel going against one of America's powerful families to protect the sea turtles.

13. "Glitter and Glue: A Memoir" by Kelly Corrigan: After graduating from college, Kelly Corrigan sets out to see the world but soon finds herself broke, so she takes a job as a nanny for a widower's kids. Corrigan's mother always said, “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue” — words which start to take meaning for Corrigan as she looks after the kids and develops a stronger appreciation for the people and experiences that shaped her.

14. "My Struggle: Book One" by Karl Ove Knausgaard: This autobiography is a tale of fathers and sons. The artistic Karl Ove struggles to find his place in the world after his alcoholic father's death, and eventually finds new perspective when he becomes a father himself.

15. "Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman" by Galadrielle Allman: Galadrielle Allman was just two years old when her father Duane Allman, of the Allman Brothers Band, died in a motorcycle accident. Galadrielle's memoir tells the story of growing up with her father's fame and music all around her and how she came to know him and his legacy even after his death. 

16. "The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War" by Yochi Dreazen: Tragedy strikes when Major General Mark Graham and his wife lose both of their soldier sons within nine months: Jeff is killed in Iraq, and Kevin takes his own life. The Grahams are shocked at how the Army receives both of their sons' deaths differently, and work to change the military’s institutional shortcomings when it comes to mental illness and PTSD.

17. "Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage, and the Tumor That Tried to Kill Me" by Bryan Bishop: At 30 years old and with his radio career taking off, Bryan Bishop and his fiancee receive crushing news: Bryan has an inoperable brain tumor. Bryan uses his humor and positivity to chronicle the toughest fight of his life and how his will to live, mixed with an aggressive treatment, gave him back his life. 

18. "Cosby: His Life and Timesby Mark Whitaker: Journalist Mark Whitaker, through interviews with Bill Cosby and his closest friends, details how Cosby made his own way to become a television icon despite coming from poverty and a broken home. The biography also delves into Cosby's personal dramas and struggles, and the influence his wife Camille plays in his life.

19. "Call Me Burroughs: A Life" by Barry Miles: In the 1960s, Norman Mailer deemed William Burroughs "the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius." Burroughs was a figurehead of the Beat Movement. Miles chronicles Burroughs' cultural legacy up until his death.

20. "Unremarried Widow: A Memoir" by Artis Henderson: When Artis Henderson's husband Miles, a soldier, dies in a helicopter crash in Iraq, Artis becomes an "unremarried widow" at 26. Her husband's death mirrors the death of her father, who died in a plane crash when Artis was five. Artis looks at the 21 years between the two tragedies and how these two men, who she only knew briefly, have impacted her life. 

SEE ALSO: The 15 Best Humor And Entertainment Books Of The Year

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Here's The $974,790,317.77 Check That Harold Hamm's Ex-Wife Just Turned Down


Here's a copy of the hand-written check fo $974,790,317.77 that Sue Ann Arnall, the ex-wife of oil magnate Harold Hamm, rejected because she's appealing for more money, via @CNBC.

Note that he didn't fill in the space for what the check is for. 

They were married for 26 years. They divorced in November.

Hamm has an estimated networth of $7.8 billion, according to Forbes real-time calculations.

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A Photographer Traveled The US To Uncover The Weird World Of Conventioneers


TAXIDERMY_HR_14 conventioneers

We all have interests and hobbies from which we derive pleasure, fulfillment, and identity. 

Some take these interests to the next level, attending conventions all over the US (and around the world) to meet and discuss their passions with like-minded individuals. From politics to comics, and even websites, people love to form communities, both literal and metaphorical, around their shared interests.

Photographer Yvette Marie Dostatni was drawn to these kinships, and traveling the US to document different conventions, from the banal to the bizarre. Her series, "The Conventioneers," is a testament to the relationships found in these groups. 

"We live in a country that is unique because of not only our character, but our characters," Dostatni told Business Insider.

Dostatni shared some pictures and stories from the series with us here, but you can see more on her website. If you're feeling generous, donate to her Kickstarter campaign.

Dostatni says she stumbled upon a love for photographing conventions by accident when she was photographing a dog show at McCormick Place in Chicago.

"I saw a gaggle of nuns riding down an escalator surrounded by hordes of tough looking bikers. I decided to follow the nuns instead, and ended up at the Cycle World International [convention]," she says. "After that, I was hooked. I have been photographing conventions and conventioneers ever since."

Since then, Dostatni has seen a lot of interesting things, she says, like the Players Ball seen below, a convention for self-proclaimed pimps and their female admirers.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

We Tasted Three Recipes Created By A Hot New Chef (That Isn't Human)


IBM Watson Drink

This post is sponsored by IBM.

Deciding what to make for dinner can be a headache, but there may be a game-changing solution: Chef Watson.

This chef doesn't have a restaurant or cooking show. Chef Watson isn't even a person. Rather, it's software that creates original recipes by using algorithms to pair ingredients — often in ways you wouldn't expect.

IBM invited us to sample three Chef Watson-inspired dishes during a tour of the company's new Watson headquarters in the heart of New York City's Silicon Alley.

How Chef Watson Started

In some ways, Chef Watson is like a person. It's an extension of Watson, IBM's cognitive technology that processes information like a human, understands languages, and gets smarter as it goes. You may remember Watson as the supercomputer that won "Jeopardy!" in early 2011. The victory showcased Watson's enormous potential to the world, and IBM began brainstorming other uses for it. 

By the end of 2011, the company decided to apply Watson's capabilities to a task used in everyday life — cooking — to explore whether computers could enhance human creativity and discover new combinations. We spoke with Florian Pinel, the lead software engineer for Chef Watson, to find out how it all came together.

"A colleague suggested creating a computational creativity system to make new recipes that had never been seen before," said Pinel, who also has a culinary degree. "When I heard about the project, I thought it was perfect for me."

Working with chefs from the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), Pinel and his team compiled a database of 30,000 recipes to figure out which ingredients were used together and in which cuisines, and they parsed Wikipedia pages to get more information about the cuisines.

Chef Watson sausage empanadas

They designed Chef Watson to blend cuisines by identifying the common ingredient in both, enabling it to make recipes like Peruvian potato poutine, Indian turmeric paella, and Creole dumplings. 

Last March, the team unveiled Chef Watson at a food truck during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. It analyzed several recipes to give ICE chefs Michael Laiskonis and James Briscione something to work with. The process produced an unexpected hit: Vietnamese apple kebab made with pork, mushrooms, apples, and strawberries.

How The App Works

After the food truck's success, IBM announced a beta version of the app last June, in partnership with Bon Appétit. Chef Watson learned more about ingredient pairings and cooking styles from reading more than 9,000 Bon Appétit recipes. The app uses these existing recipes to generate its own.

When you open the app, you start with the main ingredients. Let's say you're preparing for a dinner party and enter "shrimp" and "tomato" as your base ingredients. Chef Watson will prompt you with other ingredients that might go well with it — perhaps lemons, olives, or polenta. After adding the suggested ingredients and excluding the ones you don't want, you select a "dish" (e.g. pasta, rice, or paella) and a theme or style (in this case, you'd go with "party").

Chef Watson generates millions of ingredient combinations but narrows it down to the 100 best variations. It even ranks them according to their element of surprise. That means you'll have 100 complete, step-by-step shrimp-and-tomato recipes to choose from.

The Future Of Chef Watson

Since the app is still in beta phase, there are a few kinks to be worked out before its official release. One time Chef Watson came up with a recipe for mushroom stroganoff that Pinel thought was "boring." And sometimes ingredients simply don't work well together. It also can't identify which foods are in season yet.

"You can definitely make disasters with Chef Watson," said Pinel. "You could type 'oysters' and 'chocolate,' but it will probably go downhill from there. It's there to inspire you, but not everything will work."

As its core, Chef Watson is a tool for discovery that could potentially change how people approach cooking. Unlike conventional cookbooks and recipe apps, the software tailors recipes to each individual by factoring in taste buds, dietary constraints, and health conditions. That means if you're gluten-free, allergic to seafood, and avoiding dairy, you won't need to scour the web for hours to find something you can eat. Chef Watson will do the work for you.

At the Chef Watson event, we tried Portuguese lobster rolls, Creole shrimp-lamb dumplings, and a cocktail made with apple juice, banana nectar, and ground ginger. We were suprised how well the textures and flavors in each dish complemented one another, especially in the dumplings. It demonstrated the intuition — as well as a strong grasp of different cuisines — you'd expect in an actual (read: human) chef.

Ultimately, Chef Watson could not only help us with our daily cooking plans, but it could also expand our own notions of what food should taste like. After all, one of Pinel's favorite Watson-inspired dishes, a "chocolate burrito made with edamame, apricot puree, and ground beef," didn't sound too appetizing to us. But maybe Chef Watson will make us all a little more daring.

Sign up to try Chef Watson now.

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The Real Stories Behind 7 Everyday Expressions


Many of our everyday phrases come from Shakespeare, while others have more gruesome beginnings.

But some widely repeated phrase "origins" are folk etymologies that have been passed on by word of mouth and AOL spam emails. 

Keep reading to see seven everyday phrase origins that are complete myths according to historical linguists, from "rule of thumb" to "raining cats and dogs."

1. "Rule of thumb"  

james gillray sir francis buller judge thumbMany people believe that the phrase “rule of thumb” dates back to when an 18th-century judge ruled that it was acceptable for a man to beat his wife as long as he used a stick no wider than his thumb. 

But the phrase, which today means "to do something the way it has always been done," was already in existence by the late 1600s. It originates from the human thumb's long history of being used to estimate measurements, from alignment to distance. 

For the confusion, we can thank a satirical cartoon artist named James Gillray, who published a harsh cartoon of a judge named Sir Francis Buller in 1783. It shows Buller carrying bundles of sticks while a man beats a woman in the background with a caption that reads, "Thumbsticks — for family correction: Warranted lawful!"

Yet despite a scholarly investigation, no evidence suggests that a judge has ever said this — let alone Buller — and there are no cases in British common law that have ever held that it was legal for a man to beat his wife with a stick of any size.

It is, of course, entirely plausible that Buller may have said or joked about such a thing, and for that he certainly deserves Gillray's derisive cartoon (as well as a good whacking himself).

2. "Paying through the nose" 

Apollinary Vasnetsov (1856-1933). Arrival of Rurik to Ladoga.The internet has a few fake etymologies for "paying through the nose," the most gruesome of which says that Vikings used to slit conquered villagers' noses if they could not pay their taxes. They were "paying through the nose," or paying out handsomely.

This is extremely unlikely, given that the idiom surfaced eight centuries after the Vikings' raids, but if it does come from the Vikings, the origin is probably much more boring. 

The most plausible explanation given by Anatoly Liberman from the Oxford University Press blog is that when the Danes conquered Ireland, they wanted to make money off of their new subjects, a common goal among conquerors, and imposed a tax. This was known as a poll tax or "nose tax." 

It had nothing to do with an actual nose in the same way that a "head count" does not refer to counting dismembered heads. The nose was a synecdoche for a person — the Danes wanted to tax every person in Ireland, or all of their "noses."

Some historians disagree and argue that "paying through the nose" comes from an 1898 essay by a former sailor named Richard Edgcumbe, who said the expression was originally used on ships, with "nose" referring to the bow of a ship:

It does not seem very difficult (at all events, for a sailor) to associate extortionate disbursements with handsome payments — such, for instance, as paying out a chain cable (through the nose), especially when the order is conveyed in such a language as this, 'Pay out handsomely.' At all events, I can speak on this matter from personal experience as a midshipman. To my mind, 'paying through the nose' for anything has always been associated with the rattling of a 'payed out' chain cable, after the anchor has gripped the ground.

Whether with boring taxes or sailor slang that reached the mainland, it certainly has nothing to do with actually slitting noses.

3. "Pulling one's leg"

pickpocketsA popular fake etymology for "pulling one's leg" says street thieves in London (from the Victorian or Medieval period, depending on the storyteller) would trip their victims to more easily rob them. 

Another tale was that "pulling one's leg" dates back to when people would pull on the legs of those hanged in Tyburn, England, (the principal place for execution in the 1700s). While this did happen to speed the deaths, it is implausible as a source because it has nothing to do with the phrase's current meaning and was not popular when these hangings took place.

As far as etymologists can tell, the phrase is most likely American. It was first printed in an Ohio newspaper called The Newark Daily Advocate in February 1883. The paper treated it as a new phrase, meaning the citation is probably close to the phrase's actual origin.

And though some etymology experts believe the phrase may have originated from "playfully tripping" someone, the actual origin remains somewhat of a mystery.

4. "Raining cats and dogs" 

norse god odin mythologyPeople say this phrase comes from Norse mythology and the storm god Odin, whose animal attendants were cats (which represented heavy rain or wind) and dogs (another symbol for wind). So when it was raining hard, Odin's "animals" were outside. 

But Anatoly Liberman from the Oxford University Press blog best summed up why this theory gets the basics so, so wrong:

In Norse mythology, Odin is not a storm god, his "animals" are a horse and two ravens, cats have nothing to do with either Odin or witches, and rain is not connected with any divinity. Odin presides over the Wild Hunt in late Scandinavian folklore, not mythology. The Wild Hunt, which is known in most of northern Europe, is obviously associated with stormy weather, but Odin's following is made up of flying corpses, not of cats, dogs, or witches.

So yes Odin is associated with stormy weather, but everything else is pretty much made up.

Liberman thinks it most likely originated from a 1592 sentence by Gabriel Harvey (and documented by the Oxford English Dictionary) that reads: "Instead of thunderboltes shooteth nothing but dogboltes or catboltes." The "dog bolts" were iron bolts to secure a door or a gate, while "cat bolts" were used to fasten together pieces of wood. In other words, they likened a heavy rainstorm to heavy metal bolts falling out of the sky. 

At some point, Liberman believes the "bolt" was dropped either as a joke or to make it easier to say, causing the phrase to make no sense today. 

5. "Saved by the bell"

Premature burial vaultThis phrase supposedly dates back to a time when people were at risk of being buried alive. To keep from waking up inside a coffin (and then really dying), loved ones were buried with bell ropes so they could ring the bell if they woke up. Once someone heard them, they were dug up and thus "saved by the bell."

And while that does match the phrase's current meaning — saved by a last-minute intervention — and even though being buried alive was a very real fear (with actual "safety coffins" designed at this time), this is not where the phrase actually comes from.

Instead, "saved by the bell" is boxing slang that became common in the late 19th century. A boxer who was about to be defeated would be saved if the bell that marked the end of a round rang out. Eventually, the phrase hit the mainstream.

6. "Dead ringer"

L'inhumation précipitée (1854) buried aliveToday, to be a "dead ringer" for somebody else means a person looks like an exact duplicate. 

But "dead ringer" is said to come from the same false source as "saved by the bell" — that people were buried with bells in case they weren't actually dead. They were "dead ringers."

But this could not be more wrong. Instead, "dead ringer" comes from US horse racing, when cheating owners would switch one horse with another and showcase it under a false name and pedigree to defraud bookies. 

The term "ringer" comes from an old slang usage of "ring," which meant to exchange or substitute something counterfeit for something real. The "dead" was added for emphasis.

Because the horses would have to look alike to be switched, the phrase evolved to mean two things that look extremely similar.

7. "Upper crust"

Breaking bread cutting breadPeople who are "upper crust" are upper-class, wealthy members of society.

The phrase was said to date back to a tradition in which bread was divided according to everyone's status. For instance, the burnt bottom would go to servants; the family would get the middle portion; and the honored guests would receive the top of the loaf, or its "upper crust."

The only source that even hints at such a custom is a book called "Boke of Nuruture" dating from 1460 that says "cut the upper crust for your lord." Because the phrase didn't become a slang term until the 19th century, this is unlikely the source.

A likelier scenario is that because the upper class was at the top of society, using bread as a metaphor they would be considered "upper crust."

BONUS: “Bury your head in the sand"

ostrich burying head in the sandWhen you "bury your head in the sand" it means that you are willfully ignoring a problem, usually with dire consequences. 

It supposedly comes from how ostriches hide their heads in the sand when they're attacked by predators, something observed by Roman writer Pliny the Elder.

However, Pliny had it all wrong: Ostriches don't bury their heads when they sense danger — they run away or lie down on the ground and play dead. Historians hypothesize that Pliny either saw an ostrich lying down and its light-colored head merely blended in with the sand, or he saw an ostrich eating

Either way, you can stop attributing this phrase to ostriches.

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Starbucks Has A Cheese-Flavored Syrup


Starbucks Australia recently added an usual syrup to its menu. 

An Australian on Reddit claimed that he "got a new syrup in Australia today!" along with an image of a bottle of cheese flavored syrup.

cheese syrup

What could this bizarre flavor of syrup be for? A nacho-flavored latte? Cheetos-flavored coffee? "One nacho bell grande latte, please," said one person in the comments.

But what initially sounded unappetizing to other Redditors revealed itself to be something that sounded rather delicious.

"[...]it's for a strawberry cheesecake Frappuccino," the original poster later wrote.

Starbucks cheesecake frap

As for the off-putting name of the syrup flavor, he speculated, "Guess they couldn't make the font smaller to fit the whole word in."

If you can't make it to Australia to try this drink, or if drinking cheese syrup is unappealing to you, you can always make your own strawberry cheesecake Frappuccino off of Starbucks' secret menu. That recipe includes strawberries and milk, creme, vanilla bean powder, white mocha syrup, and cinnamon dolce syrup — no cheese.

This is not Starbucks' first foray into cheesecake-flavored frappuccinos. Starbucks previously released a strawberry cheesecake frappuccino, which achieved a cheesecake flavor by using a cream cheese whipped cream.

SEE ALSO: Starbucks Has Started Serving Flat Whites In America — Here's What That Is

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A Restaurant Just Banned Tips And Employees Are Thrilled


Bar Marco

A Pittsburgh restaurant just banished tips and in return, started paying employees a $35,000 salary with benefits.

The restaurant, called Bar Marco, is also giving its workers health care, 500 shares in the company, and paid vacation.

"America needs to realize that working in the restaurant industry is an occupation," Bar Marco co-owner Robert Fry told Eater

All 20 of Bar Marco's employees have signed the new contracts, which state that they will work a maximum of 40 to 44 hours per week and get two days and one night off a week. Employees will also get 10 paid vacation days per year.

"This is truly touching and incredible," employee Csilla Marie Thackray wrote on the company's Facebook page. "So proud to be a part of such a phenomenal and supportive company."

Full-time salaries are rare in the restaurant industry and the minimum wage for tipped workers is meager. In Pennsylvania, the tipped minimum wage is is $2.83.

The restaurant has been inundated with resumes from prospective workers since announcing the changes.  

"All of our current employees have seen and approved the contract," Fry told Pittsburgh Next. "They will have a lot of responsibilities, too — like being present at bi-monthly finance meetings. We want complete transparency. We want people who want to be part of what we are doing and who want to grow with us."

Fry worked with long-time employees to craft the new compensation plan, according to Eater.

If Bar Marco employees still receive tips despite the ban, the money will be donated to a program that the restaurant runs that teaches kids to cook.

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The Best Things To Buy Every Month Of The Year


Knowing when a particular item will go on sale is just common sense: Chances are you would spend a lot more on a winter jacket in November than you would in April.

But it's more difficult to know when to shop for other products, like wedding dresses, champagne, and used cars.

We came up with a definitive calendar for the best things to buy in every month of the year, based on expert advice from websites like DealNews, DailyFinance, and Cheap Flights, among others.

Check out our infographic below to see what you should buy this month, and during every month the rest of the year.

What To Buy Every Month of the year infographic

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Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky Revealed As The Buyer Of A $19.5-Million Chicago Mansion


Eric Lefkofsky house

Groupon cofounder and CEO Eric Lefkofsky is the mystery buyer of a historic $19.5-million mansion in Glencoe, Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The purchase, which took place last summer, was reportedly the biggest to ever happen in the Chicago area. 

Since the home was never publicly listed and was purchased through a Delaware-based limited-liability company, the buyer was kept secret until now. 

The French Normandy-style home is a jaw-dropping 15,800 square feet, complete with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It fronts Lake Michigan. 

And according to the Tribune, Lefkofsky plans to expand the mansion further. With the help of Studio Gang Architects, he plans to construct an 800-square-foot addition with a gym and spa. The expansion will reportedly cost $697,000. 

eric lefkofsky house

The mansion was built by noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1917. It was nearly demolished in 2002, when the previous owner threatened to split the lakefront property in two. Chicago-area preservationists rallied to save the house.


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How Women's Looks Have Changed Over The Last 100 Years

25 Time-Management Tips Every Young Professional Should Know


interns job search

Montreal-based designer Étienne Garbugli spent most of his 20s equating long hours of hard work with success. But as he got older, he learned better ways to manage his workload and schedule his days.

Garbugli's presentation "26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I'd Known At 20" was viewed millions of times and became SlideShare's "Most Liked" presentation of 2013. He's now raising money via a Kickstarter campaign for an in-depth book on the subject, "Hacking Time."

Here, he's shared his new presentation, which includes more productivity hacks he's learned himself and from entrepreneurs.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

HOUSE OF THE DAY: Former Investment Banker Is Selling His Park Ave Penthouse For $40 Million


775 Park Avenue Triplex Penthouse

Former managing director at Morgan Stanley Charles G. Phillips and his wife Candace are selling their penthouse for $40 million, according to the New York Times.

Their children are now grown, so they don't need the huge amount of space the Park Avenue triplex offers. 

The apartment was built in the 1920s by famous Italian-American architect Rosario Candela, and his influence still radiates through the apartment.

Welcome to 775 Park Avenue, smack dab in the heart of New York City's Upper East Side and a mere two blocks from Central Park.

The house is part of a building designed by famous turn-of-the-century architect Rosario Candela. It's considered one of his great works, and the apartment has been carefully restored with his original work in mind.

The apartment was designed by Candela with entertaining in mind, and the dining room is big enough to host a banquet-style dinner.

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9 Everyday Phrases With Offensive Histories


sold down the river

If there's anything the last year has shown, it's that racial tension is still a reality in America.

But sometimes people use racist and offensive phrases without even realizing it.

Bigoted sentiments surround these nine terms, though in some cases their original meanings might have evolved.

1. "The itis"

More commonly known now as a "food coma," this phrase likely stems from a longer (and incredibly offensive) version — ni****itis. The condition alludes to the stereotype of laziness once associated with African-Americans.

Modern vernacular dropped the racial slur, leaving a faux-scientific diagnosis for the tired feeling after eating way too much food.

Try the technical term instead: postprandial somnolence. 

2. "Uppity"

Back in 2011, Rush Limbaugh said a NASCAR audience booed Michelle Obama because of "uppityism." Glenn Beck even defended him, saying the word was simply a synonym for "snobby."

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, however, black people were hanged for acting "uppity" or "insolent" — basically not knowing their place. A quick internet search shows the word often precedes "ni****." 

Originally, the term started within the black community, but racists adopted it pretty quickly.

3. "Gyp"

"Gyp" or "gip" most likely evolved as a shortened version of "gypsy" — an ethic group more correctly known as the Romani, now mostly in Europe. The Romani typically traveled a lot and made their money by selling goods. Business disputes naturally arose, and the masses started thinking of Romani as swindlers.

Today, "gyp" has become synonymous with cheating someone.

4. "Paddy wagons"

In modern slang, "paddy wagon" means a police car.

"Paddy" originated in the late 1700s as a shortened form of "Patrick," and then later a pejorative term for any Irishman. "Wagon" refers to a vehicle. "Paddy wagon" either stemmed from the large number of Irish police officers or the perception that rowdy, drunken Irishmen constantly ended up in the back of police cars.

5. "Hooligan"

This phrase started appearing in London newspapers around 1898. The Oxford Online Dictionary speculates it evolved from a fictional surname, "Houligan," included in popular pub songs, which other sources say might have evolved from Houlihan.

And Clarence Rook's book, "The Hooligan Nights," claims that Patrick Houlihan actually existed. He was a bouncer and a thief in Ireland.

The term has evolved into "football hooliganism," destructive behavior from European football (but really soccer) fans.

6. "Indian-giver"

Often a middle-school taunt for someone who gives a gift and promptly wants it back, "Indian-giver" originated from the phrase "Indian gift," first used by Thomas Hutchinson in his 1765 book, "The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay."

During interactions with Native Americans, he defined the term as a present "for which an equivalent return is expected." But he and his fellow colonists probably just misunderstood bartering. 

By the early 1900s, the phrase began to appear regularly as an idiom. 

7. "Sold down the river"

Today, if someone "sells you down the river,"  he or she betrays or cheats you. But the phrase has a much darker and more literal meaning.

During slavery in the US, masters in the North often sold their misbehaving slaves, sending them down the Mississippi River to plantations further south, where conditions were much harsher.

8. "Eenie meenie miney moe"

This phrase comes from a longer children's rhyme:

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe / Catch a tiger by the toe / If he hollers let him go / Eenie, meenie miney, moe

The rhyme has many versions, one of the oldest being where n***er replaces tiger. Rudyard Kipling mentions it as a "counting-out song" (basically a way for kids to eliminate candidates for being "It" in hide-and-seek) in "Land And Sea Tales For Scouts And Guides."

While the rhyme didn't necessarily originate with a racial slur, it became one of the most popular versions in the early 1900s, especially in the UK, according to the "Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes."

Bonus: "Rule of thumb"

A lot of people wrongly think the phrase "rule of thumb" references an old statute allowing men to beat their wives with a stick no wider than their thumbs. 

For example, The Telegraph reported just this year that judge Sir Francis Buller ruled in 1886 that "a man was entitled to beat his wife with a stick provided it was no thicker than his thumb." That ruling created the popular, and sexist, idiom, according to the Telegraph.

But way back in 1998, wordsmith William Safire told a different story in The New York Times. He cites "rule of thumb" as early as 1692 and then again, as an established proverb in 1721.

Buller did, however, make the ruling later in history. Someone should have knocked some sense into him — preferably with a stick much wider than a thumb.

SEE ALSO: 11 Everyday Phrases You Might Be Saying Incorrectly

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Bill Gates Is Revolutionizing How History Is Taught, And We Went To A Poor NYC High School To See It In Action


Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

Bryan, a teenager from Brooklyn, says his history class has changed his understanding of the universe.

"It's not like normal history. It's not like, 'This guy did this back in this time,'" he says. "But now I can say, I care about the Big Bang — if it was real — or I care about the stars. Because we came from the dust of stars. It makes you feel kind of cool. You feel connected to the universe."

Bryan's school, the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, is one of 1,200 high schools around the world that offer Big History, a radical new way of teaching world history that is raising eyebrows in education circles. Beyond its divisive method of instruction, the class has become a hot-rod thanks to its lead investor: Bill Gates.

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

Created by historian David Christian, Big History replaces the linear telling of history with a holistic approach, combining disciplines including biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, psychology, and philosophy, to give students a fuller understanding of the human narrative and their place in it. The curriculum hinges on collective learning, the idea that we learn not as an individual, but by building on a wealth of knowledge passed on as a group.

Christian, 67, developed the class as a young professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The cross-disciplinary nature of Big History captivated his students, who were tired of memorization-based history, and every year, the class was oversubscribed. Soon teachers from around the world were calling to ask about implementing something similar.

In 2005, Christian taped all 48 lectures in a small studio outside Washington. It wasn't flashy. Christian, a chipper Australian with patches of grey hair around his ears and a permanent smirk, stands in front of a brick wall adorned with plastic ivy and talks into the camera in half-hour increments. The Teaching Company released them as a DVD set for its "Great Courses" series in early 2008.

david christian, big history

As luck would have it, billionaire tech mogul Bill Gates watched the DVDs that year, while exercising on a treadmill in his home gym, the New York Times reported in October. He was sold.

Gates and Christian met up shortly after and agreed to adapt Big History for high school minds and share it across America. Gates put up $10 million of his own money to finance course development, teacher training, and content creation, including a course website that offers video, audio, and dynamic primary sources in lieu of a traditional textbook.

Since 2008, the curriculum has grown to reach 15,000 high school students in 1,200 schools worldwide, according to Big History Project organizers. It will be available at hundreds more classrooms by fall 2015, and the University of California network plans to adopt it in place of World History.

Still, a lot of people aren't happy that the richest man in America is bankrolling such a dramatic change in how history is taught.

"In the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert," Scott L. Thomas, dean of the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, told the New York Times. "He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."

I visited the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, one of the four schools in New York City that offers Big History, to see the class in action.

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

At first glance, Brooklyn School For Collaborative Studies (BCS) does not look cutting-edge. Located in Red Hook, an insular, low-income neighborhood cut off from public transportation, the school is one of the most racially diverse public high schools in New York City. Seventy percent of students qualify for reduced or free school lunches — an indication that their families suffer extreme poverty.

The facility is underwhelming and small, taking up just three cinderblock-walled halls, and it smells faintly of cat litter. During class, students walk around carrying bathroom passes just to pass the time. Occasionally, a teacher or administrator pops his head out a classroom door to ask what they're doing.

There's one classroom at the end of the hall, though, that buzzes with excitement. Thirty teenagers sit inside and debate today's discussion topic: "Why do humans create historical narratives?" In particular, teacher Scott Henstrand is asking what incentivizes DreamWorks to create "The Croods," an animated movie about a family of cavemen, rather than another princess or superhero kids' flick?

To watch the students debate is to sit front-row at a tennis match. They rattle off observations, while tacking jargony phrases — "I kind of disagree with Anthony because I don’t think it’s an opinion, I feel like it’s an educated inference," one girl says — onto each sentence.

Even when their contributions lack substance or elegance, they're passionate. Words like "Goldilock Conditions," "claim-testers," and other Big History vernacular slip into conversation with ease.

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

When Henstrand hears Ayana, a petite girl with a propensity to begin every sentence with "I agree [or disagree] because," use some of Christian's language in discussion, he claps his hands together.

Henstrand, who's been a teacher for 22 years, asks again: Why would DreamWorks make "The Croods?" Students speculate. Are they teaching kids about our ancestors in a funny and engaging way, so it's "not boring like an original document"? Or, does the movie aim to negate young people's religious beliefs, and turn them onto a more scientific view of the dawn of man?

Then another student introduces some cynicism into the discussion. "They probably sat down in some meeting and said, 'We need to make a movie that every kid will want to see,'" she suggests. "The main reason was for money, not to educate children of whatever."

Henstrand returns to the SMART Board, an electronic whiteboard, and after a quick search reports to the class that "The Croods" cost a reported $135 million to make and grossed more than $500 million worldwide.

"The total budget of our school is $6 million for a year," Henstrand says. "Just want to put that out there."

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

Like Gates, Henstrand stumbled upon Big History. He saw David Christian's TED Talk, thought it was pretty neat, and decided to show it in the biology class where he was substitute-teaching the following day.

The students went wild for it. There were no dates, battles, or names to memorize. It was a story about the human experience, seen through multiple lenses.

With their prompting, Henstrand approached Big History about bringing the course to BCS. At the time, the class was in its pilot phase, being used and fine-tuned by just seven teachers. Henstrand entered at the next wave of implementation, with 60 teachers.

"I was an earth science teacher," says Henstrand, a veteran of the New York City public school system. He's taught every grade from first through twelfth, and the creases behind his thin-rimmed glasses show it.

"What Big History does is it brings forth every discipline. Science becomes another medium for understanding history, and that resonated very deeply [with me]," Henstrand says. "Usually when you're in one content area, it's hard to make deep connections. All of them are needed to give at least some glimpse of the human narrative."

"So for me, that was like a gift," he says. "I get to teach this class and run amok."

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

Henstrand says no two schools teach Big History alike. Over the last few years, he and a team of three history teachers developed a version of the class that would work for their students.

BCS splits the Big History curriculum into two years, which is unusual for the program: Big History I for freshmen and Big History II for sophomores. They are required classes; the school decided shortly into its first year teaching Big History that it would no longer offer Global History.

It was an easy choice, according to principal Scill Chan.

"[Students] are used to these global survey courses that are about dates, battles, figures, and big names," she says. "But if you ask anybody, that's not the type of knowledge that they retain or that is useful in their professional lives." Alternatively, Big History teaches students to be curious, empathize with other people's perspectives, and defend their arguments.

So far, it appears to be having a positive impact.

Students' writing proficiency seems to have improved drastically, for one. Henstrand says by midyear, more and more students use evidence to support claims in their papers. While the full results of a wider survey aren't public yet, a Big History Project representative says the initial results are promising.

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

And despite the obstacles students face in their home lives, BCS boasts an extraordinary graduation rate of 91% — 30 percentage points above the citywide average.

Chan, who became principal in August and has worked at the school for seven years, says decisions like implementing Big History keep their senior classes full.

"Engagement for us is a big thing, because as they get older, we lose more and more students because the life demands or distractions get bigger and bigger," Chan says. "Tapping into that intellectual engagement — getting them to think about, 'how will we use the past to figure out the future?' — that really gets them to 'buy in.'"

It was a strategic move on their part to schedule the class for freshmen and sophomores. Big History allows them to place a really strong teacher, like Henstrand and his team, in the earlier grades so students have a higher chance of passing the class, which gives them credits and confidence.

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

While education activists and the media freak out about Gates' involvement in the program, Henstrand and Chan are nothing but grateful for the opportunities Big History Project has provided.

"As a public school, we are always strapped for resources. So we embrace partnerships with private organizations," Chan says. From her office on the fourth floor, she can hear police cars sound their sirens on the street below.

In addition to professional development for teachers and access to the course website, Big History provides BCS a small classroom budget to help offset the cost of printing student-journals. There's no fee for using the curriculum.

"Anybody who's going to over-politicize that type of partnership, I would welcome them, one day in their life, to come into a public school," Chan says, "and experience what it's like in the shoes of the public educators, who work everyday trying to make a huge difference in a young person's life."

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

When the bell rings and the second-year section of Big History comes to an end, a group of 10 freshmen and sophomores hold back to chat with me about the class. Henstrand excuses himself and a girl in a cheerleader uniform closes the door behind him.

I ask, "is Big History like any history class you've taken before?" And the students answer "no" in unison.

"It's not only history, it takes on many different things — history, science, a whole bunch of different categories," one student starts, adjusting his backwards baseball hat.

"It's not only focusing on what humans did. Like, normal history classes will focus on the US or other countries, but this history class more focuses on the history of the universe and talks more about the 'big questions,'" another student says.

"Like, how the world began."

"Why we're here."

Watching these teens communicate, you can see how they lean on each other. One student fills in the gaps of the other's observation.

Big History Project, Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies

They agree that Big History has broadened their horizons in ways they didn't expect. One student, Yordi, says Big History has changed his religious beliefs, and that the science "makes sense" to him.

Another student, Julien, who says he excels more in classes that evaluate students based on tests and quizzes, says Big History challenges him to articulate and defend a point off the top of his head — a new skill for which he is grateful.

What they appreciate most is collective learning, the cornerstone of the Big History pedagogy. The idea that we're not alone in the pursuit of knowledge gives them confidence to speak up and share their opinions, without fear of rejection or embarrassment.

Bryan, a tall young man who sits in the back of the class, summarizes his peers' sentiments.

"I think of it this way — as a tree with many roots," he says. "There's not one specific starting point. There's a bunch of different ones before you even get to the trunk of the tree."

There's no wrong answer in Big History.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Attend The Best Boarding School In America

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Incredible Video Of An Explosion At A Warehouse With 10 Tons Of Fireworks Inside


An explosion at a fireworks warehouse in Colombia knocked a local cameraman off his feet and filled the sky with whizzes, bangs and a display of dazzling colors. It is thought there could have been up to 10 tons of fireworks stored in the warehouse.

Produced by Devan Joseph. Video courtesy of Associated Press.

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