Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • New social-media gadget lets you smell your tweets

    How's your social-media connection smelling today?

    Should anyone think to ask, you can now find an answer to this crucial question courtesy of a company called Mint Foundry . It has developed a small portable device called Olly that turns Internet notifications, including your Twitter feed and related pings, into smells.

    You can watch a video of Olly in action here, courtesy of Vimeo:

    The Smell Of Success - Prototype Demo

    For the time being, you can actually create your very own Olly, provided you have the technical knowledge and correct hardware:

    It can be stacked, have its looks changed around and all the parts, code and instructions are open and customizable. Currently, Olly can be created with a 3D printer but its developers, design lab Mint Foundry are looking to manufacture them for a wider audience.

    So how does it work, exactly? The customizable "web connected smelly robot" is assigned to a computer  that sends a signal to Olly to release various odors. Technically, it's not much more complex than having an USB-enabled Glade Plug-Ins hooked up to your laptop.

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  • Miles of mysterious striped network grids discovered in Chinese desert

    Here's a new geological conundrum courtesy of the Mysterious East: A group of people studying online maps stumbled across a series of strange patterns in the Chinese desert large enough to be seen from space. The unusual white designs appear to have been etched into the ground and their creators clearly don't lack for ambition:  They are over one mile long and 3,000 feet wide. The researchers have yet to identify the silver or white material used to fabricate these outsize desert grids.

    You can see a detailed satellite view of the desert pattern here.

    So why would the Chinese government--or anyone, for that matter--go to such trouble to paint such gigantic stripes on such remote territory? People analyzing the photos suggest the Chinese military may have constructed them as space-targeting grids.

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  • Chrysler minivan comes “fully loaded” -with $500k worth of cocaine

    An effective car commercial goes out of its way to convince would-be car owners that driving a new vehicle is an exhilarating, almost addictive experience. But San Jose psychologist Charles Preston wound up making this association a bit too literally, when he learned that the vehicle he'd purchased was carrying half a million dollars' worth of cocaine.

    From the San Jose Mercury News:

    Preston had no clue there was a cellophane-wrapped stash of 'snow' hidden inside the frame when he bought the pristine-condition, 2008 van last year from Thrifty Car Sales in Santa Clara. True, the windows wouldn't roll down all the way. But he had no reason to suspect it was because the door panels were crammed with kilos of coke.

    Preston continued to drive the minivan in blissful ignorance for 15 months until taking it into the shop for maintenance on the brakes. That's when he and the mechanic discovered the 14 tablet sized packages of contraband, which Preston immediately turned over to police. The cops later found an additional 5 packages tucked away above the car's wheels.

    "People make jokes -- oh, you should have sold it," Preston said of the cocaine. "But honestly, I've never been so scared in my life, even when I was mugged in New York."

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  • Welcome to The Sideshow

    A diver in Santa Claus' costume feeds a male whale shark at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium. (Itsuo Inouye/AP)Welcome to The Sideshow, a new blog passionately devoted to finding odd news stories from around the world.

    My name is Eric Pfeiffer, and I'll be guiding you through this tour of the Internet's strangest and most offbeat stories. Every day, I will seek to make The Sideshow your destination of choice for fare that ranges from the head-scratching to the flat-out bizarre. Yes, there will be hilarious animal videos--but there will also be material from the worlds of science, finance, and crime and justice.

    Ever since I've been old enough to read, I've been fascinated by stories that seem out of this world but often drift out of our collective consciousness without further explanation. Whenever possible, I'll dig deeper into these unusual and often unexplained stories to find out what became of the parties involved--and what was really behind some of those "too good to be true" headlines.

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