Pony Up

Normally the word explosion has sort of a negative connotation. And yet, properly managed, explosions are responsible for getting many of us safely to work in the morning, in the form of the internal combustion engine. If all goes according to plan, these explosions happen in the combustion chambers inside a vehicle's engine. The chambers sit on top of cylinders, which contain the pistons and valves that manage all of the important manipulation of fuel and gases flowing into and out of the engine.

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Police, Academy

Death and taxes are both mortal locks in this world, but the government can only spend one of them. Which they do. A lot. That's not terribly surprising, since governments have an incredible number of responsibilities that -- like many responsibilities -- require money. And because there's a finite amount of cash to go around, state governments have to make some tough decisions about where to lay it, which means spending has something important to tell us about priorities.

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iPod dPreciation

In an incredibly bold and almost certainly unprecedented move, Apple has decided to release a newer version of one of its popular products. That's right: as of Friday, the iPhone 6 is available for pre-order. Since you're currently connected to the Internet, that's probably not news to you. But what you might not know, what wasn't part of any cryptic e-whispering or subsequent media hullabaloo, is that — just a few days earlier — Apple wordlessly murdered the iPod classic. No press release, no farewell tribute. One day it was in the web store, and the next it just...wasn't. (RiP)

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Civic Duty

Back in 2006, Honda was pretty psyched about its new 50-mpg Civic Hybrid model. And, if this ad is any indication, so were the flowers, praying mantises, toucans, giraffes, and fishes. And why shouldn't everybody be psyched? Fifty is an awful lot of miles to be able to drive on a single gallon of gas, and less fuel consumption means lower emissions, spunkier fauna, happier customers. After all, not only can consumers feel good about doing something helpful for the environment, they can also spend a lot less money on transportation. So are hybrids a good deal, right? Well, that depends.

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Driving Question

It's football season again, so let's talk about professional basketball for a minute. That's right, basketball. In order to make games more exciting, NBA rules don't allow teams to hold onto the ball for too long during any given possession. Currently, the shot clock counts down 24 seconds, meaning that's the amount of time a team has to attempt a score before they're forced to turn the ball over. That's the law of the land.

Now imagine everybody gets together next week and agrees that they'll instead turn the ball over after 18 seconds. Not that the rule will change — there will still be 24 perfectly good seconds available for legal use — but that the new prevailing convention will suddenly be to give up 25% of your available possession time. Everyone would think that's nuts.

And yet that's more or less what happens in every single NFL football game. A team has four chances to advance the ball a minimum of 10 yards, but if they haven't succeeded after three plays, they typically sacrifice the last down in order to punt the ball over to the opposing side. Pretty much everybody thinks that's reasonable.

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Blindsided

Cars today come with all sorts of crazy bells and whistles designed in the name of safety. There are backup cameras, blind spot monitors, and even sensors that will tell you when you're drifting out of your lane! But are these technologies making us that much safer, or are they just enabling us to drive carelessly?

Let's take your mirrors, for example. With all of this newfangled technology, it's easy to forget to adjust your rear- and side-view mirrors before starting the car, and trust that the car will tell you when something is wrong. But what if you drive a car that doesn't have technology like blind spot mirrors, or the technology itself malfunctions? Knowing how to adjust your mirrors seems like a pretty important (and potentially life-saving) skill.

So, how can you be sure that you've got your mirrors in the right positions? Despite the importance of this skill, a lot of people adjust their mirrors incorrectly! In case you aren't a maven of mirror mechanics, let's explore how people typically set their mirrors (and how they ought to set them).

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Green Acres

Last month Mathalicious HQ packed up and headed to Austin, Texas, which now makes us a part of the single largest demographic group in the country. No, not Texans. City folks.

Depending on how much faith you have in the Census, it turns out that something like 80% of all Americans live in urban areas. For at least two reasons, that's crazy high. First of all, it's almost impossible to get 80% of Americans to agree on anything, so it's borderline miraculous that so many people have agreed to share such a tiny fraction of the country's area. Second of all, we've only been at this urbanization thing for a couple hundred years, and we started out extremely rural.

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My Fellow Americans

If you're a history buff, you may know that in 1790 George Washington delivered the first-ever State of the Union address to the American people. He opened on an optimistic note:

"I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity."

If you think that sounds a little highfalutin, that may be because, by today's standards, it is.

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