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the musée mécanique / good old-fashioned interactive multimedia

before electronic video games, arcades were filled with electromechanical games, fortune-telling machines, and other amusements. hundreds of these vintage devices live on in san francisco's musée mécanique.

bodie, california / the liveliest ghost town in the west

in the sierra nevada mountains of eastern california lies the remains bodie, once the state's second-largest city. a bustling mining town in its heyday, it's now lovingly preserved in a state of arrested decay.

sarlat la canéda / time travel, french style

the french town of sarlat looks much the same as it did in medieval times, except that now there are more foie gras shops and internet cafés.

tachyons / tracking the elusive faster-than-light particle

the theory of relativity says that nothing can accelerate to a speed faster than light. but a hypothetical particle called a tachyon gets around this rule because it started out going faster than light.

the great clock of westminster / big ben and beyond

the clock tower that rises from the british houses of parliament is often mistakenly called big ben, but that's actually the nickname of one of the bells inside. that's just one of several surprising facts about this well-known clock.

carbon dating / decay rates create debates

scientists can determine the age of very old organic artifacts using the clever process known as carbon dating. but how does it actually work, and why do some religious groups find it so problematic?

rigo artwork / painting by the numbers

some of san francisco's best public artwork was made by an artist who changes his surname every year. the man who was rigo 82 in 1982 was rigo 06 in 2006, but his masterpieces are timeless.

pennsylvania coal fires / heat under the street

when a fire gets started in a coal mine, it can be impossible to extinguish. coal mine fires have been raging in pennsylvania for over 40 years, with no end in sight.

spontaneous human combustion / answering the burning questions

it makes for great tv shows and horror stories, but is it really possible for a person to spontaneously burst into flames? the experts don't doubt that people have burned to death, but the whole spontaneity thing is problematic.

the writings of carlos castaneda / sorcery, mythology, or both?

revered by some as a great spiritual leader and mocked by others as a fraud, carlos castaneda made a huge (if dubious) impact on the way people think about sorcery and mysticism.

membership libraries / exclusive playgrounds for book lovers

rare yet marvelous institutions, membership libraries are open only to those who have paid their annual dues. in exchange you get access to a place where books are taken as seriously as they should be.

white noise / color-coding sound

people commonly refer to static, hissing, rainfall, and other similar sounds as white noise, but real white noise is a bit different. and yes, noise comes in other colors as well!

anechoic chambers / the sound of silence

for testing audio equipment and other sensitive tasks that require a complete absence of reflected sounds, an anechoic chamber is the ultimate cone of silence.

cochlear implants / the sound and the fury

with an external microphone and processing circuitry and tiny electrodes implanted into the cochlea, some deaf people can regain partial hearing. but is this a cure or an assault on entire culture?

binaural beats / the magical music of the brain

when your brain tries to process two tones with slightly different pitches, one delivered to each ear, it creates the sensation of a rhythmic beat. this phenomenon can help put the brain into a relaxed state.

holophonic sound / 3d audio with just two speakers

surround sound gives you immersive audio in a single plane, and requires several speakers to do so. but holophonic sound promises 3d sound that includes the up-down axis, and requires only two speakers altogether.

array microphones / the more (microphones) the merrier

with the help of some digital signal processing, an array of two or more microphones can pick out a speaker from background noise, and even refocus their signals as the speaker moves.

audium / san francisco's theatre of sound

for an experience of sound that's unlike any concert you've ever heard, go to san francisco's audium, a theater where listeners are surrounded by speakers and enjoy the performance in total darkness.

flywheel batteries / a new spin on energy storage

chemical batteries aren't the only way to store large amounts of electricity. reduce the friction enough, and a large, heavy, spinning wheel can serve the same purpose. it also lasts a lot longer than batteries.

the egely wheel / vital energy measurement for the masses

a small electronic device can supposedly measure your ch'i, or vital force. but is it it a technological marvel, a hoax, or just wishful thinking?