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99% Invisible

99% Invisible

Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org.

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502- 99% Vernacular: Volume 3

In the final episode of our vernacular spectacular anniversary series, 99pi producers and friends of the show will be sharing more stories of regional architecture?some close to home, some on remote islands? that capture our imagination and inspire us to look deeper.  Stories of Bermuda roofs, Queen Anne Cottages, and what exactly counts as an "earth tone."

99% Vernacular: Volume 3

 

 

2022-08-03
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501- 99% Vernacular: Volume 2

Only a small percentage of architecture is actually designed by architects. And while a famous architect-designed tower in a skyline might be the best way to identify a city at a distance, up close it?s the subtle cues and vernacular design that make the city what it is. This week, 99pi producers and friends of the show share more stories about architecture we love from our hometowns and other places we've lived, but with an emphasis on examples that may be a bit shaggier, and have somewhat more functional origins. These may not be the first things people call beautiful, but they?re beautiful to us, and they are essential parts of the places they?re built.

501- 99% Vernacular: Volume 2

2022-07-27
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500- 99% Vernacular: Volume 1

For the 500th episode of 99% Invisible, we started thinking about the kinds of designs that we love from the places we have lived -- and even some regional vernacular we love from places we haven?t lived, but just admire. 99% Invisible is all about who we are through the lens of the things we build. We often tell stories about how people shape the built world, but these are more about how the built world has shaped us.

99% Vernacular: Volume 1

2022-07-19
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499- Say Aloe to My Little Frond

Houseplants are having a moment right now. In 2020, 66% of people in the US owned at least one plant, and sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Instagram accounts like House Plant Club have a million followers. Over the past decade there has been a steady stream of think pieces offering explanations for the emergence of this new obsession. But while millennials may have perfected the art of plant parenting, this is not the first time people have gotten completely obsessed with houseplants. Journalist Anne Helen Petersen digs into the history of domesticated plants in a series of articles on her Substack, Culture Study, and joins us to talk about what she's found.

Say Aloe to My Little Frond

2022-07-13
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498- The Octagon House

99% Invisible producer emeritus Avery Trufelman traveled from New York to San Francisco recently, and took host Roman Mars to see an unusually shaped old building on the west side of the Bay. As it turns out, this peculiar octagonal home isn't unique -- there was a whole architectural fad of building these back in the mid 1800s, tapping into a parallel trend: self-improvement.

Publisher Orson Fowler (most famous for being a phrenologist) used his professional position to self-publish a book about the many benefits, health and otherwise, of living in an octagonal home. His book, Octagon House: A Home For All, became a sensation. In its wake, hundreds of octagon houses started popping up all over the country.

The Octagon House

2022-07-06
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497- Hometown Village

Sakhalin is a long, skinny island east of Russia's mainland. Russia and Japan have long fought over the territory, which has left the ethnic Koreans who came to work on the island starting in the early 1900s in a kind of limbo. Tatyana Kim, a native of Sakhalin, guides us through its unusual history and the difficulties of a repatriation that is long overdue.

Hometown Village

 

2022-06-29
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496- The Rights of Rice and Future of Nature

The Ojibwe name for wild rice is Manoomin, which translates to ?the good berry.? The scientific name is Zizania palustris. It?s the only grain indigenous to North America, and while it might be called rice, it?s actually not closely related to brown or white rice at all. It has long played an important role in Ojibwe cultures, but last year, Manoomin took on a new role: plaintiff in a court case. Last August, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was sued by wild rice. The case of Manoomin v Minnesota Department of Natural Resources alleges that the Minnesota DNR infringed on the wild rice?s right to live and thrive. But can wild rice sue a state agency? The short answer is: yes. This is the story about what might happen if rice wins.

The Rights of Rice and Future of Nature

Support for this episode was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. RWJF is working to build a culture of health that ensures everyone in the United States has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. If you have a hunch about how changes to the way we live, learn, work and play today are shaping our future, share it here: www.shareyourhunch.org

2022-06-21
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495- Meet Us by the Fountain

No teenager in America in the 1980s could avoid the gravitational pull of the mall, not even author Alexandra Lange. In her new book, Meet Me by the Fountain, Lange writes about how malls were conceptually born out of a lack of space for people to convene in American suburbs. Despite the fact indoor shopping malls are no longer in their heyday, malls have not gone away completely. Lange writes about the history of mall culture, and how the mall became a ubiquitous part of American life.

Meet Us by the Fountain

2022-06-14
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494- Flag Days: Unfolding a Moment

Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. At least, that's what we were taught in school. But when historians go searching?there?s no proof to be found. In this collaboration with the podcast Sidedoor, we unravel this vexillological tall tale to find out how this myth got started, and who Betsy Ross really was.

Plus we talk about the real flag that inspired the song, The Star Spangled Banner.

Flag Days: Unfolding a Moment

 

2022-06-08
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493- Divining Provenance

Priceless cultural artifacts have been plundered and sold for hundreds of years. You can find these relics in museums and in private collections. In recent years, with the advent of online marketplaces, researchers have begun to find a lot of artifacts for sale on the web.

The Syrian War has resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties. Not to mention, hundreds of billions in damages. And that battle has played out on land considered to be the cradle of civilization -- a place rich with layers of archeological history.

Producer Zeina Dowidar and her team on the Kerning Cultures podcast tell stories about the Middle East and North Africa. For this episode, they took a comprehensive, inside look at how one country struggled to retain its cultural heritage in the midst of a brutal conflict.

Divining Provenance

Plus we have an interview and preview of the podcast Real Good

2022-06-01
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492- Inheriting Froebel's Gifts

In the late 1700s, a young man named Friedrich Froebel was on track to become an architect when a friend convinced him to pursue a path toward education instead. And in changing course, Froebel arguably ended up having more influence on the world of architecture and design than any single architect -- all because Friedrich Froebel created kindergarten.

Frank Lloyd Wright?s son, John, was an architect, but his most famous creation wasn?t a building. It was a toy set that kids have been playing with for over 100 years.

 Inheriting Froebel's Gifts

2022-05-25
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491- The Missing Middle

Downtown Toronto has a dense core of tall, glassy buildings along the waterfront of Lake Ontario. Outside of that, lots short single family homes sprawl out in every direction. Residents looking for something in between an expensive house and a condo in a tall, generic tower struggle to find places to live. There just aren?t a lot of these mid-sized rental buildings in the city.

And it's not just Toronto -- a similar architectural void can be found in many other North American cities, like Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston and Vancouver. And this is a big concern for urban planners -- so big, there's a term for it. The "missing middle." That moniker can be confusing, because it's not directly about middle class housing -- rather, it's about a specific range of building sizes and typologies, including: duplexes, triplexes, courtyard buildings, multi-story apartment complexes, the list goes on. Buildings like these have an outsized effect on cities, and cities without enough of these kinds of buildings often suffer from their absence.

The Missing Middle

2022-05-18
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490- Train Set

The greatest mode of transportation is the funicular, which is a special kind of train pulled by a cable that runs up steep slopes. But trains are great even when they're not going up treacherous terrain. And in that spirit: here are some of the most ambitious, fascinating, and downright crazy trains that the world has ever seen.

Train Set

2022-05-11
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Roman Mars on Blank Check with Griffin and David

Bonus episode: Roman Mars on Blank Check with Griffin and David talking about The Quick and The Dead (Sam Raimi, 1995)

Roman note: I LOVE this show!  Many of us on the 99pi staff are huge fans and follow it religiously. If you've never heard or it, search through to find a director you like and listen to a whole series. You'll be hooked.

Not just another bad movie podcast, Blank Check with Griffin & David reviews directors' complete filmographies episode to episode. Specifically, the auteurs whose early successes afforded them the rare ?blank check? from Hollywood to produce passion projects. Each new miniseries, hosts Griffin Newman and David Sims delve into the works of film?s most outsized personalities in painstakingly hilarious detail.

Subscribe! It will make you happy! Apple, Stitcher, Spotify

2022-05-06
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489- Pandemic Tracking and the Future of Data

Data is the lifeblood of public health, and has been since the beginning of the field. But essential data gathering for the COVID pandemic was hindered by a couple of of underlying weakness in the US public health apparatus. We have a fractured system where the power lies in US states that don't always coordinate effectively. Also there has been inconsistent funding. When there was an immediate crisis, there would be an infusion of cash. But then, when the crisis passed, the resources would evaporate. 

We take a look at data gathering in regards to public health from the 1600s to today and how it might change in the future.

Support for this episode was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. RWJF is working to build a culture of health that ensures everyone in the United States has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. If you have a hunch about how changes to the way we live, learn, work and play today are shaping our future, share it here: www.shareyourhunch.org

2022-05-04
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488- It?s a Small Aisle After All

If you?ve ever been to a supermarket in the US, you?ve probably seen an ethnic food aisle. Maybe it was called the "international aisle," or "world foods," but it was the same idea. This is the ?It?s A Small World After All? part of the shopping experience. It?s where you?ll find ramen next to coconut milk, next to plantain chips next to harissa. Although ethnic aisles look different in every supermarket, they?re often variations on the same theme. And while so-called ?ethnic food brands? get a chance to feed the American masses, they?re still confined to the ethnic aisle. And they may never leave.

It's a Small Aisle After All

 

2022-04-26
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487- Atlas Obscura

Standing on Beechey island, a peninsula off Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic, are four lonely graves: three members of an ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Passage, and one of the men who went looking for them. In 1845, Sir John Franklin led an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, a direct route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean across the arctic, on two ships that were called "unstoppable" at the time. They were stopped, though the exact circumstances remain murky.

The story of the graves is chronicled on the Atlas Obscura Podcast, a short, daily celebration of the world's strange and wondrous places. The podcast has a mission similar to 99pi, which is to inspire wonder and curiosity about the world.  Today we're featuring two stories from the show.

The second story visits the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, which bills itself as "the nation's only retailer of lost luggage." If you've ever lost a bag during air travel, it probably wound up there, along with many other treasures and oddities.

Subscribe to Atlas Obscure on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get podcasts.

2022-04-20
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486- Rumble Strip

Every year in the spring, small towns throughout New England host their annual town meeting. Town meetings take place in high school gyms or town halls, and anyone can come. In fact, in Vermont, Town Meeting Day is a public holiday. Everyone gets the day off work to make sure they have the chance to participate. It?s a moment when everyone who lives there can come together to talk out the issues facing the town and decide how they want to spend their money.

Radio producer Erica Heilman lives in Vermont and is the host of a  jewel of a podcast called Rumble Strip. It?s ostensibly all about life in Vermont, but it may just also be about life in general.

2022-04-13
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485- Murder Most Fowl

While urban parks are safe havens for birds, parks are often surrounded by condos and hotels and office buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows. And these all-glass building facades are the absolute worst for migrating birds. Because unlike people, birds don?t really understand glass.

It?s believed that building collisions are one of the biggest causes of bird death. Birds crash into buildings during the day because they don?t see the glass, and they run into buildings at night because they are lured in by artificial lighting. Most of these collisions happen below 100 feet, because that?s where birds are used to landing in trees.

Murder Most Fowl

2022-04-05
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484- Dear Hank and John and Roman

So why don't we have mouth Roombas? Is the universe full of chickens? What scientific advances are happening? What was the first internet purchase? How do I convince my parents to let me check a bag? What is Twitter? What's the difference between a telescope and a camera? Are sea monkeys natural? Hank Green and Roman Mars have answers!

In their podcast Dear Hank & John, hosts John and Hank Green (who are also authors and YouTubers) offer both humorous and heartfelt advice about life?s big and small questions. They bring their personal passions to each episode by sharing the week?s news from Mars (the planet) and AFC Wimbledon (the third-tier English football club)."

Dear Hank and John and Roman

2022-03-30
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483- Grid Locked

In February 2021, it began to snow in Austin, Texas, which was unusual, and exciting for some, at least until the power dropped out for millions of people. To many, this came as a shock ? how could a state known for its energy production have such widespread, prolonged power outages? To understand the situation, one has to look at the history of the grid, and how Texas came to be what we call an ?energy island.? It's the only state in the lower 48 that operates its own independent electric grid.

For more on the Texas grid by Mose Buchele, be sure to check out The Disconnect.

Grid Locked

2022-03-22
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482- Natalie de Blois: To Tell the Truth

Natalie de Blois contributed to some of the most iconic Modernist works created for corporate America, all while raising four children. After leaving this significant mark on postwar Park Avenue, she transferred to the SOM Chicago office, where she became actively involved in the architecture feminist movement and was one of the leaders in the newly formed Chicago Women in Architecture advocacy group. Later, she finished her career as a professor at UT Austin, where she trained a future generation of architects.

In the New Angle: Voice podcast, ?Hear from historians, family, colleagues, and the women themselves, how it was to be an architect coming up in the early 20th century. Imagine sitting with these pioneering women, who opened up the magic of the built environment professions to all who had the gifts, grit and persistence to endure.?

2022-03-15
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481- The Future of the Final Mile

While something like dial-up might mostly be a thing of the past, the truth is copper phone lines still connect a lot of people to the internet over DSL. And even many people?s coaxial cable connections aren?t fast enough to meet the federal government?s definition of broadband (25 megabits per second download speed, and 3 megabit upload). Who gets fiber is determined by the market, and the market is determined not by who wants fiber, but really just who can already afford it. So for a lot of the country, the last mile remains a deep and vexing problem. Different cities have tried to solve that problem in different ways.

Support for this episode was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, RWJF is working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.

The Future of the Final Mile

2022-03-12
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480- Broken Heart Park

In the 1990s Dave Davis worked as the groundskeeper at a small neighborhood park in a suburb of St. Louis called Creve Coeur. It was an unpaid position, but it came with a strange perk: as part of the job, he got to live in a house on the grounds. On the outside, it looks like an ordinary ranch-style house, but once you got inside, something seemed a little off: it looked like someone had completed it in a hurry. It turns out that this house wasn?t supposed to be the home for the groundskeeper, and the park was never supposed to be a park.  It was private property that belonged to a prominent Black doctor back in the 1950s. But the land was taken from him before he could even finish building his home.

Broken Heart Park

 

2022-03-08
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479-According to Need wins duPont-Columbia Award

The Columbia Journalism School recently announced the 16 winners of the 2022 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, including According to Need, a project of 99% Invisible produced by Katie Mingle.

We listen back to a couple stories and get an update from Katie Mingle.

According to Need wins duPont-Columbia Award

2022-03-02
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478- Art Imitates Art

There's a small neighborhood within the SEZ of Shenzhen that is known for mass-producing copies of the most celebrated works of Western art, all painted quickly and by hand. The place is called Dafen Village. There is a very good chance that you've been in the presence of a painting made in Dafen. Perhaps you passed by one at the dentist?s office, or in a conference room of a Marriott in Orlando. You may have even hung one up in your home without even realizing it. 

To learn more about the origin of Special Economic Zones listen to the previous episode Call of Duty: Free

Art Imitates Art

 

 

 

2022-02-22
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477- Call of Duty: Free

On the west coast of Ireland, on the banks of an estuary dividing county Limerick from county Clare, lies a small town called Shannon. But Shannon is not a quaint fishing village or farming community. Its industry is its airport. And Shannon Airport is big. It handles up to 1.7 million passengers and 20,000 flights a year, most of them from other countries. It looks like a cosmopolitan international airport, but it has a unique claim to fame: the world's first airport duty-free store.

Today, the store has what you would expect -- designer perfumes, jewelry and various fine foods, with a lot of local (in this case Irish) products in particular. But like the area around the airport, the shop started out small, with a local boy from the area who would go on to change the world of tax-free commerce in and beyond Shannon.

Call of Duty: Free

2022-02-16
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476- Reaction Offices and the Future of Work

People have been going back and forth about what makes a healthy and productive office since there have been offices. The 20th century was full of misbegotten fads and productivity innovations that continue to this day, even when the whole notion of what it means to be in an office has shifted during the pandemic. In this first episode of our series "The Future Of..." we look at the past, present, and future of the office through the lens of the office furniture that has been designed to solve all our problems.

Support for this episode was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, RWJF is working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.

Reaction Offices and the Future of Work

2022-02-09
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475- Rock Paper Scissors Bus

When the two greatest auction houses in the world ? Christie?s and Sotheby?s ? vied for the privilege of auctioning off $20 million worth of art in 2004, little did they know that they would be forced to engage in an ancient form of ritualized combat known as rock paper scissors.

Plus, we get a hilarious breakdown of the Shang-Chi bus fight scene by a real San Francisco Muni bus operator, Mc Allen.

Rock Paper Scissors Bus

Subscribe to Snap Judgment

2022-02-02
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474- The Punisher Skull

The Punisher has always been a complicated Marvel antihero: a man whose creator imagined him as a reaction to the failures of government at home and in the Vietnam War. So why is the Punisher?s trademark dripping skull insignia ? a menacing image used throughout history to denote imminent death ? being painted on police vehicles, adopted by members of the military, and donned by white supremacists?

This episode of Endless Thread explores the story of The Punisher?s symbol as a meme, and looks at how well we understand its origins, its use today, and whether its creator ? or Marvel ? can take it back.

2022-01-25
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473- Mini-Stories : Volume 14

At the end of the calendar year and into the new year the 99pi staff collects a bunch of short, joyful little stories that are fun to produce and make us happy. We call them mini-stories. This is the third and final episode of this batch and the 14th volume overall and it?s a good one- we have surprisingly architectural sport commentary, Ben Franklin?s role in Daylight Saving Time, and the origin story of the fire pole.

Mini-Stories : Volume 14

2022-01-19
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472- Mini-Stories : Volume 13

We're kicking off the new year at 99pi with a fresh installment of mini-stories, including: a strange collision of mundane infrastructure and political insurrection; a graphic design history mystery dating back to the 1980s; what may be the most hated architectural design of 2021; and a record-breaking album cover design so cutting edge it cost more money to make than to buy.

Mini-Stories: Volume 13

Get Beauty Pill's Instant Night

Get New Order's Blue Monday

2022-01-12
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471- Mini-Stories : Volume 12

It's that time of year again! When 99pi producers and friends of the show join Roman to tell shorter stories, many of which have been sitting on our idea shelves, just waiting for this moment. Our first set of minis delves into the surprisingly controversial logo of a major sports league; a wild goose chase into erroneous statistics; the largely forgotten arts competitions of the Olympic Games; and a Modernist penguin pool that is beloved by preservationists but not so adored by actual penguins. And this is the first batch of our turn-of-the-year mini-stories. Tune back in for more minis at the beginning of 2022!

Mini-Stories: Volume 12

2021-12-22
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470- The Three Santas of Slovenia

Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe nestled between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary. It's a land of snowy white peaks, green valleys, and turquoise rivers. The country is beautiful in all seasons, but it is perhaps at its most magical around Christmastime. This nation of just over 2 million people is visited by, not one, not two, but three different "santas" every festive season. But it hasn't always been this way. Each Santa has had his moment in the spotlight?each in a different period of Slovenia?s complicated history. And in order to have a Christmas season that reflects that history and speaks to all Slovenians, you need three magical men.

The Three Santas of Slovenia

2021-12-15
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469- The Epic of Collier Heights

For Black Americans, Collier Heights became a suburban jewel in the postwar South spanning thousands of acres and packed with nature. Just as amazing as the expansive beauty is how this neighborhood came to be, especially given everything that stood in the way. Collier Heights was established in the early 1950s, when redlining and racial zoning all put hard limits on where black people could live. Driving its development was a team of community leaders who used cold, sharp strategy, flipping the logic of Jim Crow housing segregation on its head.

The Epic of Collier Heights

2021-12-07
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468- Alphabetical Order

In much of the western world, alphabetical order is simply a default we take for granted. It?s often the one we try first -- or the one we use as a last resort when all the other ordering methods fail. It?s boring, but it works, and it?s so ingrained that it?s hard to imagine not using it. But despite its endurance for most of its history, the alphabet wasn?t initially used to order much of anything. Judith Flanders, author of A Place For Everything, a history of alphabetical order, says that in societies like ancient Rome and early medieval Europe, writing implements were still rare. So what mattered most was organizing knowledge in a way that helped you to memorize it. And that was usually much easier to do in the order you naturally came across the information, like: chronologically, or by size, or geography, or region, or hierarchically.

Alphabetical Order

2021-12-01
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467- Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature

The French bulldog is now the second most popular breed in America. Their cute features, portable size, and physical features make for a dog that can easily travel and doesn't require a lot of exercise. But these characteristics sometimes have a detrimental effect on the dog's health. Tove K. Danovich writes "Rather than requiring human owners to change their lives to accommodate a new dog, the French bulldog is a breed that?s been broken to accommodate us."

Historically, dogs were bred for functional reasons, not aesthetics. But evaluating a breed based on how they accomplish a task is tricky, leading to the rise of visual standards more easily judged. As breed standards were formalized, purebred dogs grew in popularity and became a luxury of sorts; but with a limited genetic pool, this popularity naturally led to a lot of inbreeding to maintain breed consistency.

Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature

2021-11-23
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466- The Weight

Fitness trends come and go. But the simple weight is an anchor in the shifting tides of culture. As workout equipment has become canonized within the realm of home appliances, this heavy metal object aids in our dual ? and sometimes conflicting ? pursuit of athletics and aesthetics.

In season 2 of the Nice Try! podcast, show host and former 99pi producer Avery Trufelman heads inside the home, interrogating how individuals channel utopian ambitions through the lifestyle technologies and home goods that determine the ways we clean, cook, exercise, and sleep in order to lead better lives. But the problems these objects are designed to solve, and the way they solve them, promote a distinctly American ideal that prioritizes personal betterment over improving society as a whole.

2021-11-17
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465- Shirley Cards

Even if we think of the camera as a neutral technology, it is not. In the vast spectrum of human colors, photographic tools and practices tend to prioritize the lighter end of that range. One example of this bias was Kodak's Shirley Card, a reference photo used to calibrate photo printing machines.  For decades all of the models on the Shirley Cards were white. This meant that photographs of people with darker skin tones were often not printed correctly. But that's just one example of the limited dynamic range of photography purposefully excluding people with darker skin.

Shirley Cards

2021-11-10
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464- Finding Julia Morgan

Born in 1872, American architect and engineer Julia Morgan designed hundreds of buildings over her prolific career, famous for her work on incredible structures like the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.

She was also the first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at l'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman architect licensed in California. But it wasn't until 2014 that she became the the first woman to receive American Institute of Architects? highest award, the AIA Gold Medal, posthumously.

In the New Angle: Voice podcast, "Hear from historians, family, colleagues, and the women themselves, how it was to be an architect coming up in the early 20th century. Imagine sitting with these pioneering women, who opened up the magic of the built environment professions to all who had the gifts, grit and persistence to endure."

2021-11-02
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463- Fifty-Four Forty or Fight

At a glance, the border between the United States and Canada would seem to be at the friendlier end of the international boundary spectrum. But even though the US-Canada border is now pretty tame, when two countries touch each other over a stretch of 5500 miles, it can result in some surprisingly weird disputes, misunderstandings,  geographical quirks and ...really good stories. 

Fifty-Four Forty or Fight

2021-10-27
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462- I Can't Believe It's Pink Margarine

Margarine is yellow, like butter, but it hasn't always been. At times and in places, it has been a bland white, or even a dull pink. These strange variations were a byproduct of 150-year war to destroy margarine, and everything that it stands for. During this epic fight for survival, margarine has had to reinvent itself, over and over again. 

I Can't Believe It's Pink Margarine

2021-10-19
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461- Changing Stripes

Rioters carried many familiar flags during the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol -- Confederate, MAGA, as well as some custom-made ones like a flag of Trump looking like Rambo. Except for onlookers who were already familiar with the design, it would have been easy to overlook one particular bright yellow flag with three red horizontal stripes across the center. This was the flag of South Vietnam.

There were actually several confounding international flags present at the Capitol riot that day: the Canadian, Indian, South Korean flags, all were spotted somewhere in the mayhem. But what was peculiar about the Vietnamese flag being there was that it's not technically the flag of Vietnam but the Republic of Vietnam, a country that no longer exists. And what this flag stands for (or should stand for) remains a really contentious issue for the Vietnamese American community.

Changing Stripes

2021-10-12
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323- The House that Came in the Mail Again

The Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog was nearly omnipresent in early 20th century American life. By 1908, one fifth of Americans were subscribers. Anyone anywhere in the country could order a copy for free, look through it, and then have anything their heart desired delivered directly to their doorstep. At its peak, the Sears catalog offered over 100,000 items on 1,400 pages. It weighed four pounds. Today, those 1,400 pages provide us with a snapshot of American life in the first decade of the 20th century, from sheep-shearing machines and cream separators to telephones and china cabinets. The Sears catalog tells the tale of a world -- itemized. And starting in 1908, the company that offered America everything began offering what just might be its most audacious product line ever: houses.

 

Buy The 99% Invisible City!

2021-10-06
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460- Corpse, Corps, Horse and Worse

When it comes to English spelling and pronunciation, there is plenty of rhyme and very little reason. But what is the reason for that? Why among all European languages is English so uniquely chaotic today?

To help us answer that question, we spoke with linguist and longtime friend of the show, Arika Okrent, author of the new book Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme and Other Oddities of the English Language. In it, Arika explores the origins of those phonetic paradoxes, and it turns out some of the reasons for confusion are as counterintuitive as the words themselves.

Corpse, Corps, Horse and Worse

2021-09-29
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459- Yankee Pyramids

Presidential libraries are tributes to greatness, "[a] self-congratulatory, almost fictional account of someone's achievements, where all the blemishes are hidden," explains one New York architect.  But they're also a "weird mix of a historical repository of records and things that have a lot of meaning." Studying their origins and evolution, one can begin to see how presidential libraries have always involved tensions and contradictions.

Yankee Pyramids

The premise of using the extreme example of Trump to heighten the contradictions of executive branch norms is what we do on Roman's other podcast What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law. It's good! And it's not really about Trump, so don't worry. It's essentially a current events based Constitutional Law class taught by an incredible professor, Elizabeth Joh. We included the latest episode here for you to check out. 

 

2021-09-21
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458- Real Fake Bridges

The great Jacob Goldstein, author of Money: The True Story of a Made Up Thing, stops by to tell us two stories about the design of paper currency around the world. First, the story of the making of the Euro banknotes, the design of which was supposed to unify Europe and not rely on any one country's national heroes or monuments. Then we learn about China's early pioneering experiments in paper currency, hundreds of years before it caught on in the rest of the world. 

Real Fake Bridges

2021-09-14
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457- Model Organism

Axolotls are nature?s great regenerators. They are able to grow back not just their tails, but also legs, arms, even parts of vital organs, including their hearts. This remarkable ability is one of several traits that turned the axolotl into a scientific superstar. The axolotl is one of the most abundant laboratory animals in biology. They can be found swimming in tanks at universities all around the world. But in the wild they?ve only ever been found in one place: Mexico City.

Model Organism

2021-09-08
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456- Full Spectrum

In 2015 the world was divided into two warring factions overnight. And at the center of this schism was a single photograph. Cecilia Bleasdale took a picture of a dress that she planned to wear to her daughter's wedding and that photo went beyond viral. Some saw it as blue with black trim; others as white with gold trim. For his part, Wired science writer Adam Rogers knew there was more to the story -- a reason different people looking at the same object could come to such radically divergent conclusions about something as simple as color.

Rogers recently wrote a book titled Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern. In this episode, Roman Mars talks with the author about how the pursuit to organize, understand, and create colors has been one of the driving forces shaping human history, starting with the story of this hotly debated piece of apparel from 2015 then winding back through built environments of global World's Fairs.

Full Spectrum

2021-08-31
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455- A Field Guide to Water

What does water mean to you? In this feature, author Bonnie Tsui (Why We Swim), actress Joy Bryant, submarine pilot Erika Bergman, figure skater Elladj Baldé, 85-year-old synchronized swimmer Barbara Eison-White, professional mermaid Olivia Gonzales, and others share stories about the many ways water influences our lives.

From Pop-Up Magazine, creators of this Field Guide series: "We recommend listening outside, near water if you can. Head to the ocean if you?re on the coast. Or walk to a nearby pond or creek. Sit by a fountain at a park. Or just pour yourself a glass of water."

Plus, an excerpt of Roman Mars On The Anatomy Of A Good Story (w/ Michelle Fournet, Roman Mars, Pedro Pascal), part of the Periodic Talks podcast. It's a show about what gets people curious, from virtual experiences to celestial bodies, with Gillian Jacobs (Community, Netflix's LOVE) and Diona Reasonover (NCIS)

A Field Guide to Water

2021-08-18
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