Correct Your Posture With a Device That Tells You to Sit Up Straight

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When you were a kid, well-meaning adults probably told you to sit or stand up straight. You likely shrugged and followed suit, or rolled your eyes and ignored them. But years (and multiple desk jobs) later, you—and your aching back—have to admit that the grownups of your childhood had a point.

Thankfully, there’s now a more technologically advanced way to correct bad carriage than your parents’ nagging. Poze is a tiny wearable sensor that monitors the angle of your back’s position. If you slouch 15 degrees or more, it buzzes you after one minute, providing you with a gentle reminder to straighten your spine.

Since people presumably don’t want the world to know they’re struggling with bad posture (or they’re not a fan of the way wearables look), Poze is designed to be discreet. Secure it to the skin under your collarbone using hypoallergenic tape, or clip the tiny gadget onto your shirt. Once Poze is attached, turn it on with the push of a button. Start wearing Poze 15 minutes at a time, and gradually increase this amount to a few hours per day. By then, your body will have hopefully committed its newfound correct posture to muscle memory.

Poze recently received full funding on Indiegogo, and it’s now available for preorder, with a projected December 2016 delivery date. Consider buying it as a stocking stuffer for the person who has everything—everything that is, except for good posture.

November 30, 2016 – 6:30pm

11 Geeky Holiday Decorations

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This season, deck the halls in geekery. Here are some holiday decorations that pay tribute to your favorite TV shows, movies, and other geeky interests.


Sure, you could get a real wreath, but it’ll die by the end of the season and you’ll need to buy a new one next year. Instead, get something that will last years and give you a chance for a little personalization. This plastic wreath from ThinkGeek lets you build your own designs using toy bricks from brands like LEGO, PixelBlocks, K’Nex, and more. The kit starts with a green base, a red bow, and “greenery,” and then you can build from there.

Find it: ThinkGeek


No tree is complete without the right set of lights. This Doctor Who-inspired string of lights features 10 plastic, glowing TARDIS bulbs. (We imagine the lights are much bigger on the inside.)

Find it: Amazon


Leave this stocking up, and you’re sure to get some pretty good loot—especially if you have a Lannister coming to visit. The 19-inch polyester stocking is officially licensed and sports the sigils of the Houses Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell, Greyjoy, Lannister, and Baratheon of Dragonstone.

Find it: Amazon


Set the right mood with a candlelight dinner courtesy of Darth Vader. The solid metal candlestick is modeled to look just like the Sith Lord’s lightsaber. It even comes with three bright red candles to further sell the look.

Find it: ThinkGeek


While your neighbors across the street are setting up their inflatable Santa, you can go a more unconventional route. This fallen AT-AT Walker will look right at home amongst the snow on your front lawn. The 15-inch-long lawn ornament is made of resin and will remind passersby of the Battle of Hoth.

Find it: ThinkGeek


Adventure Time might be coming to a close soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate all the lovable characters from the cartoon series. This Beemo ornament is ready for the holidays with a Santa hat and a mound of glittery snow.

Find it: ThinkGeek

7. R2-D2 NUTCRACKER; $35

If you have a tough nut, R2-D2 is the droid friend to help you crack it. The seven-inch-tall wooden nutcracker can squeeze open nuts with a lever.

Find it: ThinkGeek


Ditch the star this year and go for the Death Star. Unlike your run-of-the-mill plastic toppers, this impressive sphere commands the attention of the room with flashing lights and music. With a remote control, you can make your villainous space station glow red or blue, and play the Imperial March or Star Wars theme. The six-and-a-half-inch sphere sits comfortably on most trees and runs on batteries.

Find it: ThinkGeek


Diehard Doctor Who fans might be tempted to dedicate their whole tree to the cult television show and no one’s stopping them. This 15-inch miniature tree set boasts a healthy set of blue branches that are decked out in silver garland. It comes with 12 decorated baubles and six plain baubles to get the collection started.

Find it: Amazon


Keep your tree safe from crime and corruption with the help of The Dark Knight. This string comes with 10 lights encased in plastic Batman logos—perfect for keeping The Joker from taking your party guests hostage.

Find it: Amazon


Deck your tree out with ornaments inspired by Harry Potter. This set of three from Hallmark resembles the Snitch, the Sorting Hat, and Harry’s beloved owl, Hedwig.

Find it: Amazon

November 30, 2016 – 6:00pm

Our Poor Sleep Habits Cost the Economy Billions Each Year

filed under: money, sleep, Work
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Between nonstop workdays, poor health habits, and the blue-light effect, it’s no wonder that one in three American adults aren’t getting enough sleep. Anyone who’s experienced sleep deprivation knows how it can impact you on an individual basis, but new research shows that it has an effect on the U.S. economy as well. As Quartz reports, lack of sleep amounts to the loss of 1.2 million work days—or $411 billion—a year.

The research firm RAND put together their study on the economic costs of insufficient sleep [PDF] by comparing numbers from a UK workplace survey to a 2013 National Sleep Foundation study of the sleep habits in five countries. According to the paper, workers who slept less than six hours each night reported a 2.4 percent higher rate of productivity loss than those who got the full recommended sleep amount (seven to nine hours). Even employees getting six to seven hours, just below the healthy minimum, were 1.5 percent less productive.

Poor performance at work due to grogginess can result in a real loss for a company. As the report shows, that reduced productivity from the sleep-deprived worker adds up to six additional missing work days a year. All together, these fatigued employees take away 2.28 percent of the GDP from the economy.

RAND admits that employment at medium-to-large companies and the finance industry was over-represented among the 62,000 subjects in the report. But it’s not hard to see how an exhausted workforce could have a negative impact in other fields: Past research has shown that people who get insufficient sleep are more likely to catch colds, experience anxiety, and have trouble forming memories. Bad sleep habits can have long-term effects as well, such as increased risk for certain cancers and other health issues.

If a full night’s sleep isn’t already a priority in your life, it’s time to make it one. After settling into bed at a reasonable hour, encourage your body to fall asleep faster by dimming your devices at night and using a white noise machine to drown out disruptive sounds. If none of that seems to work, consider asking your doctor if a sleep disorder could be the cause of your restless nights.

[h/t Quartz]

November 30, 2016 – 5:30pm

Nintendo Theme Parks to Power Up in Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka

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Nintendo via YouTube

Ever since an ill-fated diversion into feature films with 1993’s live-action Super Mario Bros., Nintendo has been notoriously guarded about licensing its characters for any non-pixelized project. Now, it looks like Mario is finally ready to extend the borders of his playable world. On Tuesday, Universal Resorts announced that portions of its parks in Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka, Japan would be devoted to Nintendo-themed attractions.

“Imagine the fun of stepping into a larger-than-life Nintendo adventure,” the press release read. “Gigantic Piranha Plants spring to life. Question blocks, power-ups, and more surround you. And Mario and all his friends are there to pull you into a brand-new world.”

The parks plan to open their Nintendo expansions in the next several years; the release also makes mention of the “creative visionaries behind Nintendo’s worlds” being involved. Mario and Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto is expected to have a hand in the attractions. Here’s a video released by Universal on the future of the project:

[h/t Orlando Sentinel]

November 30, 2016 – 5:00pm

Belgian Beer Makes the Cut for UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage List

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If you’ve ever visited Belgium, a large portion of your travel time was likely devoted to eating and drinking. The small European country is famous for its culinary offerings (frites, waffles, and chocolate, anyone?), but even more so for its beer culture. Now, The Guardian reports, Belgium’s storied suds have been officially added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Launched in 2006, the list identifies traditional occurrences, observances, and social activities around the world that help define citizens’ national identity.

According to Reuters, the Belgian Brewers trade association petitioned the specialized United Nations agency to add beer drinking and brewing to the list. This past week, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage met in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, to debate whether beer (and other proposed cultural additions, including Indian yoga and Czech and Slovak puppetry) should make the cut.

Beer production and consumption might not sound high-brow enough to warrant a vaunted status, but Belgium takes both activities pretty seriously. The country is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, yet it boasts nearly 200 breweries and 1500 varieties of beer, according to the Belgian Brewers. Not surprisingly, beer is even one of the nation’s national dishes.

Plus, the trade organization argues, beer helps the local economy, promotes camaraderie among citizens, and is historic, to boot. Rudi Vervoort, a mayor and member of the Brussels Parliament, agrees: Earlier this week, he commented to The Guardian that the beverage “has been a part of our society since time immemorial.” We’ll toast to that.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

November 30, 2016 – 4:30pm

62 Years Ago Today, Ann Hodges Was Hit by a Meteorite

filed under: History, space
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C M Handler via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

If you think construction noise is a nap-destroying nuisance, you should check out the space rock that hit a sleeping woman on this day in 1954.

Ann Hodges had settled onto the couch that afternoon with no awareness of the agent of chaos tearing through the heavens above her house. A larger-than-average meteorite was zipping toward our planet, crumbling as it fell. The fireball produced by the meteorite’s disintegration was so bright it could be seen by humans below in three different states. Most of the rock’s bulk was vaporized as it entered Earth’s atmosphere, but one bowling-ball-sized chunk survived and continued on its improbable course.

The scorching-hot rock crashed through the roof of Hodges’s home in Sylacauga, Alabama, then through her ceiling into her living room, bouncing off a large radio before slamming into her unconscious body. Astonishingly, 34-year-old Hodges survived the incident with minor injuries, including a heinous bruise on her waist. But the meteorite’s violent arrival was just the start.

Everyone wanted a piece of the space-struck housewife—Hodges made appearances in newspapers, LIFE magazine, and on TV game shows—but they also wanted a piece of the rock that struck her. Air Force intelligence seized the rock to make sure it wasn’t some sort of spy equipment. Geologists at the Smithsonian wanted to keep it for further study. Ann’s husband Hewlett saw the meteorite as a gold mine and decided to sell it.

Unfortunately, their landlord Bertie Guy had the same idea. The two took it to court, where Guy argued that any celestial object that fell on her property automatically belonged to her. The case became a battle of endurance. Eventually, the landlord lost, but not before the drawn-out legal process drove down the meteorite’s value. By the time the rock reverted to Ann and Hewlett’s possession, nobody wanted to buy it. Ann began using it as a doorstop, and eventually donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

The trauma of the incident, legal battles, and overwhelming media attention left their scars on Hodges long after her bruise had healed. She and her husband separated, citing the strain caused by the meteorite and saying they wished it had never happened. Ann fell ill and died just eight years later at the age of 52.

Hodges’s brush with space was, oddly enough, not the beginning nor the end of her home state’s relationship with meteorites. The jazz standard “Stars Fell on Alabama” was penned 20 years earlier in praise of an especially spectacular meteor shower. Six decades later, another meteorite rained debris not too far from the couple’s old home. If this story has a moral, it’s for Alabama residents: Please keep an eye on the sky. 

November 30, 2016 – 4:15pm

7 Ways to Have a Frugal Holiday (Without Feeling Like a Scrooge)

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Let’s talk turkey. You can easily shell out thousands of bucks this holiday season on fancy presents, lavish dinners, and festive activities. Or, you can soak up every bit of the celebration while sticking to your budget. Just borrow one of these frugal-but-festive tips from real savers across the country.


“The dollar store has so much holiday stuff, including decorations and stocking stuffers. But there’s also some great craft supplies, especially if you get creative. I love making DIY ornaments for the grandparents.” —Molly Polins, Chicago, Illinois


“I love hosting a big holiday dinner, but it can easily cost me $200 or more to get all of the groceries. Last year, I invited friends for a potluck instead. They seemed to love it, and I could focus on making a few of my favorite dishes instead of buying everything I couldn’t make from scratch. I probably spent $75 total.” —Rachel Cohen, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


“Studies show that volunteering makes you happier and healthier—and I believe it. Definitely it’s become a tradition I look forward to. Last year I made door decorations for a Ronald McDonald House, where families stay when their kids are in the hospital. It sounds cheesy, but giving back reminds me that the season is really about sharing warmth and love. We all need that to get through the winter.” —Nicole Wells, Ann Arbor, Michigan


“Not all holiday activities have to cost a lot—or even a cent! One of my family’s favorite traditions is we pile the kids into the car in their jammies and drive around to look at Christmas lights, sipping hot chocolate from a thermos.” —Amanda Collins Simkin, Mount Prospect, Illinois


“For the last five years, my group of friends has exchanged gifts by drawing names from a hat. We decided it has to be a homemade gift, and that challenge makes it both more fun and more frugal. One year I knit a scarf, one year I baked these killer cornflake-and-coffee cookies, one year I put together a photo book. Another little bonus of this set-up: We get together as a group to draw names and then again to swap gifts, so it’s like two little parties instead of one.” —Laura Liss, Sacramento, California


“Hosting a dinner can be pricey. Even an evening shindig with appetizers and cocktails can add up. But breakfast is pretty cheap: Bagels, donuts, a giant quiche for everyone to share. Mimosas are scrumptious without being a big splurge. And while most people have a million invites for holiday parties later in the day, mornings tend to be pretty open. Who doesn’t love a good brunch party?” —Ellen Stura, Boulder, Colorado


“For kids, unwrapping gifts is nearly as fun as whatever present is inside. So I grab a lot of presents from the Target dollar bins and wrap things separately. They’re so excited to see all of that wrapping paper!” —Amber Kozawick, Chicago, Illinois

November 30, 2016 – 4:00pm

Drought Continues to Plague the Southeast

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The Blue Ridge Mountains in the eastern Appalachians get their name from the bluish haze that often blankets their rolling peaks on humid afternoons. Their colorful hue adds to the beauty of the region, but the intense haze smothering the mountains this week is a reminder that not all is right with this natural wonder. Large wildfires have been burning across interior parts of the southeastern United States for much of November as the region endures a drought that grows worse with each passing day, straining local water resources and stressing nature to its breaking point.

The November 22, 2016, update of the United States Drought Monitor (USDM) paints a dire picture for millions of people from the Mississippi Delta to the mountains of the Carolinas. The USDM is produced by scientists each week using factors such as temperature and precipitation data, soil moisture information, and water measurements from streams, rivers, and reservoirs. Once a drought reaches extreme or exceptional levels for a long period of time, as we’re seeing in states like Alabama and Georgia, it can result in widespread crop losses and extensive water shortages.

Dennis Mersereau

In contrast with many areas of the world that experience pronounced rainy seasons, rainfall in the southeastern United States is fairly consistent throughout the year. You can generally expect similar amounts of rain each month, with a little more in the summer and a little less in the fall. This year, however, storms were few and far between during the winter, and the typical summer deluges were less frequent on hot summer afternoons.

After trudging through one dry month after the other, rainfall deficits quickly started to add up. The lack of water has taken a serious toll. An analysis by NOAA on November 28, 2016 (see below) showed year-to-date rainfall deficits of more than a foot across a huge region, with the greatest impacts focused on Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Some areas are nearly 2 feet behind normal so far this year.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal recently declared a “Level 2 drought” for some counties in the northern part of the state, which enforces a slew of water restrictions on residents who live in hardest-hit communities. The restrictions include a ban on luxuries like car washes, and authorizes an odd-even daily schedule for outdoor watering based on your street address and the day of the week. The restrictions could get even more stringent if there’s no liquid relief in the future. The lack of rainfall has caused the water level in Lake Lanier in northern Georgia to fall more than 9 feet since last spring, and Lake Hartwell—which straddles the border between Georgia and South Carolina—has seen a similar drop in water levels. Lakes and reservoirs could eventually reach dangerously low levels if the drought continues and further water restrictions aren’t put in place.

Year-to-date rainfall deficits across the Southeast as of November 28, 2016. Image Credit: NOAA/NWS

It’s not just water systems that have taken a hit due to the abnormally dry conditions. Vegetation across the affected areas is so dry that it won’t take much to start a raging wildfire. Fire crews have responded to hundreds of wildfires across the southeast over the past couple of months, including those caused by fireworks, campfires, arsonists, discarded cigarettes, and even an explosion along a gas pipeline near Birmingham, Alabama earlier this month. Some of the wildfires are so large and intense that the smoke is covering thousands of square miles around the infernos. The smoke was so dense around Atlanta during the day on November 14, 2016, that it reduced visibility to just three miles at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a couple of hours.

The fires have gotten worse through the month. An intense wildfire caused major damage in and around the popular resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in eastern Tennessee in the just past few days, killing three people, injuring 14 more, forcing the evacuation of thousands, and burning hundreds of homes and businesses.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s any long-term relief in the forecast for the drought-stricken areas. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says that we’re currently experiencing a La Niña in the Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon where waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific are colder than normal for an extended period of time. There’s a decent chance that these conditions will persist through this winter. La Niña winters in the United States are characterized by warmer-than-normal and drier-than-normal conditions across the southern part of the country, which doesn’t bode well for areas currently in a drought. That’s not to say that the parched land won’t see any relief over the next few months—but any rain that does fall probably won’t go a long way to fixing the damage that’s been done.

November 30, 2016 – 3:30pm

What Flavor Is Juicy Fruit Gum?

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Getty Images

We’ve all chewed Juicy Fruit gum at some point, enjoying the sweetness for about 20 seconds before it completely dissipates and turns into a rubbery wad devoid of all flavor.

But what exactly is that distinctively delicious flavor that briefly tickles our taste buds? Wrigley has kept the secret ingredient under wraps for decades; a wrapper from 1946 describes the unique taste as “a fascinating artificial flavor.”

One fan allegedly emailed the company in 2002 and got this response:

“I’m afraid we can’t be very specific because, for competitive reasons, we consider our Juicy Fruit flavoring formula to be a trade secret. I can, however, tell you that the mixture of fruit flavors in Juicy Fruit is comprised of predominately lemon, orange, pineapple, and banana notes.”

Despite the company’s response, some people think the gum tastes less like common citrus and banana, and more like an exotic fruit called jackfruit; it even has a similar aroma. However, this probably isn’t the case because, as Today I Found Out points out, there don’t seem to be any records of Wrigley ever importing the fruit or its juice.

Instead of actual fruit or even fruit extracts, some chemists believe that the gum smells like jackfruit because they both contain a chemical called isoamyl acetate. Isoamyl acetate, sometimes referred to as banana oil or essence of pear, is a common ingredient in bubble gum, and some fruits produce it naturally as they ripen.

When Juicy Fruit first appeared on store shelves back in 1893, isoamyl acetate was most commonly produced by whiskey distilleries as a byproduct—and at the time, Illinois, also home to Wrigley, produced more than 18 million gallons of the hard stuff every year. Smells Like Science speculates that Wrigley purchased isoamyl acetate from local distilleries until a synthetic process became available some years later.

Much like the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices, or Coke’s “7x” flavoring, we may never know what, exactly, is in Juicy Fruit gum. But there is one thing we do know: it’s delicious—for 20 seconds.

Have you got a Big Question you’d like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

November 30, 2016 – 3:00pm

Amazon is Running Deals for Your Favorite LEGO Maniac

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amazon / istock

If you’re a LEGO fan or have a brick enthusiast on your list, there’s a good chance you’ll be picking up some LEGO sets this holiday season. And as experience shoppers know, paying for LEGO bricks can be almost as painful as stepping on them. Luckily, Amazon is running a limited-time Cyber Week deal on some popular Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel Super Heroes sets on top of some great DC Super Heroes bargains. Finding a LEGO deal can be tough, but whether you’re looking for a big Millennium Falcon or Prince Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle, Amazon has you covered with discounts of up to 20 percent off. We’ve found a few sets that are particularly great buys. 

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!


LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon 75105 Building Kit for $119.99 (list price $149.99)

LEGO Star Wars StarScavenger 75147 for $33.59 (list price $49.99)

LEGO Star Wars 10236 Ewok Village for $218.99 (list price $249.99)

LEGO STAR WARS TIE Striker 75154 for $57.99 (list price $69.99)

LEGO Star Wars 75074 Snowspeeder for $9.99 (list price $11.99)

LEGO Star Wars 75111 Darth Vader Building Kit for $23.99 (list price $29.99)

LEGO Star Wars Encounter on Jakku 75148 for $47.99 (list price $59.99)

LEGO Star Wars Vader’s TIE Advanced vs. A-Wing Starfighter 75150 for $70.99 (list price $89.99)


LEGO Disney Princess Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle 41062 for $31.99 (list price $39.99)

LEGO Disney Arendelle Castle Celebration 41068 Building Kit for $47.99 (list price $59.99)

LEGO Disney Anna and Kristoff’s Sleigh Adventure 41066 Building Kit for $23.99 (list price $29.99)

LEGO Disney Princess Daisy’s Beauty Salon 41140 for $8.39 (list price $9.99)


LEGO Super Heroes 76059 Spider-Man: Doc Ock’s Tentacle Trap Building Kit (446 Piece) for $31.99 (list price $39.99)

LEGO Super Heroes Super Hero Airport Battle 76051 for $63.99 (list price $79.99)

LEGO Superheroes The Quinjet City Chase for $46.66 (list price $79.99)

LEGO Super Heroes Attack on Avengers Tower 76038 for $51.53 (list price $59.99)

LEGO Super Heroes 76057 Spider-Man: Web Warriors Ultimate Bridge Building Kit (1092 Piece) for $78.99 (list price $99.99)


LEGO Super Heroes Clash of the Heroes 76044 for $8.31 (list price $12.99)

LEGO Super Heroes Heroes of Justice: Sky High Battle 76046 for $46.99 (list price $59.99)

LEGO Super Heroes 76055 Batman: Killer Croc Sewer Smash Building Kit (759 Piece) for $60.99 (list price $79.99)

LEGO Super Heroes 76054 Batman: Scarecrow Harvest of Fear Building Kit (563 Piece) for $47.95 (list price $59.99)

November 30, 2016 – 3:03pm

Amazon Product Id: