Blog Posts by Melissa Knowles

  • Homemade Lightsaber Lights Up the Web

    Admit it, all you "Star War" fans out there. If you could get your hands on a real-life lightsaber, you would go for it, right? It just might be the holy grail for the biggest of "Star Wars" enthusiasts, and one man claims to have created it.

    In a YouTube video that is causing quite a stir throughout the galaxy, user "The DIY Laser Guy" demonstrates his "handheld laser" cutting through objects such as paper, cardboard, tape and a pingpong ball. The blue laser itself is 3,000 milliwatts, which the laser guy says is the strongest he has ever used. He writes in the video's description, "I usually try to refrain from using the term 'lightsaber' when referring to my lasers but there really isn't much else out there to describe this laser." He also notes that owning a lightsaber is legal in the U.S.

    The video is proving to be a hit, with more than 330,000 views and counting so far. Some commenters were thrilled by this potential light sword. One person was particularly enthusiastic and wants

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  • The Internet has become a vital tool for reconnecting lost objects with their rightful owners. You might remember the story of Todd Bieber, who helped return a roll of film filled with pictures to New York City tourists, traveling all the way to Paris to do so. Now, Bieber's friend Abbi Jacobson needs some help.

    Jacobson recently received a letter delivered to her apartment in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. However, the letter was not intended for her; it was addressed to someone who lived in the apartment in 1944. The letter was sent by Joseph O. Matthews to his wife on December 2, 1944. And it had already been opened.

    On receiving the letter and realizing how old it was, Jacobson said, "Imagine getting this. I was like, this is crazy!"

    Jacobson is searching for the owner of the letter, or at least the owner's family members so that she can give it to them. She started her search at the municipal archives. After searches at historical societies and libraries yielded

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  • Blind Golden Retriever Puppy Captures Hearts on the Web

    Are you aware that there is an unofficial ongoing battle to be the cutest animal on the Internet? Everyone gets a vote, and certainly it seems as if everyone contributes a picture of their cuddliest, most adorable pets, or animals they encounter at the zoo. We're all familiar with Grumpy Cat and Boo. Get ready, because new competition has entered the cyberspace.

    Meet Ray Charles the dog: He's a blind Golden Retriever who is stealing hearts left and right on the Web. Born in a Boston shelter last December, there was some concern that he would have trouble getting adopted, because blind dogs tend to have problems finding a suitable home. But according to his very own Facebook page, there is no reason to worry about Ray Charles. His owners, who also serve as his human interpreters, write for him on his page: "I can run and play and do everything else other dogs that can see do."

    His Facebook page also contains pictures of Ray wearing silly outfits, taking baths, and playing with his

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  • Army Veteran Becomes First American to Win British Cheese-Rolling Contest

    A Colorado man who served in the United States Army has done something that is not for the faint of heart or those who might be out of shape. To make it even cooler, he traveled almost 5,000 miles to be the first American to ever win it.

    Kenny Rackers is not your average 27-year-old. No, sir. He's an all-American athlete, and he has been training for an extremely intense event. What event? A cheese-rolling competition -- and not just any cheese-rolling competition.

    Yes, Rackers competed in and won the historic Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake near Gloucestershire, England. The 200-year-old annual event took place over the weekend. In case you're unfamiliar with the art of running after a wheel of cheese, let me explain the event.

    A woman named Diane Smart makes the wheel of cheese -- she's been doing it every year for the past 25 years. Competitors climb to the top of a steep hill, as more than 2,000 spectators watch. The cheese master hurls the cheese down the hill, and the

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  • Try This New Trend: Reenacting Old Photos

    Ever heard the phrase 'The past is dead and gone?' It usually rings true, except when photography is still around to keep it alive. Now, a new trend has taken the web by storm that attempts to connect with the past using old photos. It has been called both 'reenacting old photos' and 'young me now me,' but it is definitely one thing-- hilarious.

    The trend involves finding an old photo of oneself, perhaps as a baby, and doing all that is possible to reenact the photo. We are talking props, locations, even sometimes photo editing tools to make the picture look dated. The combination of a young child next to what is usually a much, much larger individual sheds light on just how much changes even in a matter of a decade or two.

    Some examples include a girl who somehow found some boots that used to be oversized, as well as a dad feeding his son a beverage that is a little more adult than a bottle of milk. The pictures are gathered in many places, but credit can go to Ze Frank's blog for

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  • Extraordinary Video of Man Playing Guitar During Brain Surgery

    When you think of all the advancements in medical technology, it can blow your mind. To prove that, we're bringing you the story of Brad Carter, a 39-year-old musician and actor. Carter has appeared on various TV shows, including "CSI." Carter had brain surgery recently, and you have to see it to believe it. Thanks to Vine, Twitter, and the power of the Internet, now you can.

    Carter was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2006. He started experiencing hand and eye tremors, which caused him to lose his ability to play the guitar. Doctors at UCLA Medical Center performed a deep brain-stimulation surgery, which involves implanting an electrode emitter to affected areas of Carter's brain. Surgeons had to awaken Carter during the surgery to make sure they were implanting the electrode emitter in the right part of his brain.

    The surgery turned social when doctors in the operating room tweeted six-second Vine videos of the procedure. We watch as doctors prep his head. Once the electrodes

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  • If you were to browse the iTunes music charts, it may surprise you to find that the top-selling song right now is by an artist you may have never heard of: Zach Sobiech's "Clouds" has landed at No. 1 with its inspirational message of hope and courage.

    In 2009, when Zach was just 14 years old, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of terminal bone cancer. In June 2012, he was told he had only a few months left to live. Sadly, Zach lost his battle with cancer on May 20. He had just turned 18 on May 3.

    "I want everyone to know: You don't have to find out you're dying to start living." With those words, 18-year-old Zach Sobiech inspired millions. Instead of waiting out his last days in sadness, Zach chose to inspire others by sharing all the songs forming in his head.

    That's exactly what Zach's message has done. Reaction to Zach's story and his death has been popping up all over social media. One person tweeted, "If you haven't watched Zach Sobiech's story, go watch it. So

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  • Get Ready, East Coast, the Cicadas Are Coming

    If creepy-crawly flying insects are not your thing, you might want to stop reading now: Brood II has arrived. What is it? It's the infestation of cicadas that takes over the East Coast every 17 years. The insects do not bite or sting and have no intention of causing pain or damaging crops. Their only goal is to mate.

    In between infestations, they stay underground for 17 years, emerging only when the ground temperature reaches precisely 64 degrees. Their emergence was delayed this time because of the East Coast's uncharacteristically cool spring temperatures. The cicadas have not been seen in these quantities on the East Coast since 1996 (before that, they showed up in 1979). Brood II has already begun in Virginia and some other Southern states. Farther north, in New York and New England, the infestation is expected to begin shortly, as summer quickly approaches.

    Cicadas are easily identified by their unmistakable loud chattering noise — which has been measured at up to 94 decibels.

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  • Helen Mirren Fulfills Boy’s Dying Wish When Real Queen Says No

    A little boy's dying wish came true, thanks to Dame Helen Mirren. Oliver Burton is a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome who has fought different forms of cancer for nearly his entire life. He was recently diagnosed with terminal spine and bone marrow cancer.

    Oliver requested to visit Buckingham Palace and have afternoon tea with the queen of England as his dying wish. A national trust that helps cancer-stricken children says Queen Elizabeth was unable to accommodate the little boy. That's when Mirren stepped in to take her place. Mirren, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film "The Queen," effortlessly took on the character for Oliver's sake.

    First, Mirren invited the boy and his parents to see her performance of the queen in a play she's currently in called "The Audience." Following the play, the family was invited backstage to have tea and cakes, served by footmen, and meet Mirren and her corgis. Mirren remained in character during the entire

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  • Flickr Gets Redesign for the Ages

    Every user gets a terabyte of storage. That's the big news that Yahoo! announced Monday for its photo-sharing service Flickr. So exactly how much digital memory is a terabyte? Think of it this way: If you took one high-definition photograph every hour of every day, it would take you approximately 61.5 years to fill all of that storage space. Another way to think of it: 537,731 full-quality photographs would be equal to one terabyte of storage.

    In addition to offering more free storage than any other online photo-sharing or social media service, Flickr's look has been completely overhauled. No longer antiquated with blue text links and small or cropped images, the new Flickr is redesigned to let the photos shine -- allowing them to be on full display.

    Beyond being able to personalize their Flickr experience with full-quality images, users may also share them across different social media platforms, including Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. Plus, Android users can now get in on the

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