California pays prisoners $2 per day to fight wildfires

California uses about 4,000 inmates as firefighters to help battle the state's brutal wildfires, paying each just $2 per day. Many are low-level offenders who work 24-hour shifts, getting incredibly little sleep. Why would California do this? Using prisoners as firefighters saves the state about $100 million per year. » 7/25/14 12:30pm Yesterday 12:30pm

The All-American Expo That Invaded Cold War Russia

Over the course of six weeks during the height of the Cold War, almost three million Soviets visited an exhibition that celebrated America. American kitchens, American art, American cars, and most especially American capitalism. The American National Exhibition in Moscow was a full-court press to convince the Soviet… » 7/24/14 3:00pm Thursday 3:00pm

"The device he would use is called a Picturephone..."

"By this month it should be possible for a New Yorker, a Chicagoan or a Washingtonian to communicate with someone in one of the other cities by televised telephoning. The device he would use is called a Picturephone and is described by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, which developed it, as 'the first… » 7/24/14 11:30am Thursday 11:30am

My new favorite Twitter account is @CrimeADay

Back in college I took an undergrad law course that devoted a day to looking at silly old laws that were still on the books. One of the laws stated that it was illegal to serve margarine in any Wisconsin restaurant without also offering customers butter. The whole class thought it was hilarious. And then, not a few… » 7/23/14 3:00pm Wednesday 3:00pm

Space Station 76 Pokes Fun at 1970s Futurism

You can almost hear the pitch meeting echoing through the Hollywood Hills: "It's like Anchorman, meets 2001: A Space Odyssey." And frankly, that sounds like a damn good way to spend an hour and a half. So let's hope the upcoming movie Space Station 76 lives up to the completely unfounded expectations I've created for… » 7/22/14 4:30pm Tuesday 4:30pm

Congress once considered renaming the US "The United States of Earth"

U.S. congressman Lucas M. Miller of Wisconsin was an odd dude. He served just one term in the House, and when you look at the bills he introduced it's easy to guess why. Back in 1893, Miller proposed abolishing the Army and Navy, wiping out pension laws, and even wanted to amend the U.S. Constitution to rename the… » 7/22/14 12:30pm Tuesday 12:30pm

Northrop Once Built Planes That Were Just Giant Wings

After World War II, the future of commercial air travel was supposed to be fantastic. There were promises that planes like Northrop Grumman's flying wing would become the norm for civilian flying. These promises were often made to Baby Boomers — young, impressionable kids of the 1950s and 60s — like in this cutaway… » 7/21/14 6:20pm Monday 6:20pm