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In 1851, A Man Picked Two Unpickable Locks And Changed Security Forever

The pursuit of lock picking is as old as the lock, which is itself as old as civilisation. But in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key — a chest, a safe, your home — and have complete, unwavering certainty that no intruder could get to it.

Barbed Wire's Dark, Deadly History

In the mid 1800s, not many (non-native) Americans had ever been west of the Mississippi. When Frederick Law Olmstead visited the west in the 1850s, he remarked that the plains looked like a sea of grasses that moved “in swells after a great storm.” Massive herds of buffalo wandered the plains. Cowboys shepherded cattle across long stretches of no man’s land. It was truly the wild and unmanaged west, but it was all about to change, due, in large part, to one very simple invention that would come to be known as “the devil’s rope.”

The Creepy, Surreal Apocalypse Of The Sims Online

A few months before the end of the world, everyone was saying their goodbyes. The world that was ending was The Sims Online, an online version of The Sims. Even though The Sims was one of the most popular computer games ever made, the massively-multiplayer online version did not do well.

How One Fed-Up Dude Fixed An Awful Highway Sign Himself

At some point in your life you’ve probably encountered a problem in the built world where the fix was obvious to you. Maybe a door that opened the wrong way, or poorly painted marker on the road. Mostly, when we see these things, we grumble on the inside, and then do nothing.

Why New York's Penn Station Sucks

New Yorkers are known to disagree about a lot of things. Who’s got the best pizza? What’s the fastest subway route? Yankees or Mets? But all 8.5 million New Yorkers are likely to agree on one thing: Penn Station sucks.

Before The Hashtag, There Was The Octothorpe

If you want to follow conversation threads relating to this show on social media — whether Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, Tumblr — you know to look for the hashtag: #99pi. In our current digital age, the hashtag identifies movements, events, happenings, brands — topics of all kinds. The “#” didn’t always have this meaning, though.

The Factories That Churn Out America's Most Iconic Trophies

There’s a little trophy shop called Aardvark Laser Engraving down the street from our office in Oakland. It’s small but bustling, and its windows are stuffed to the brim with awards made of all kinds of materials and in any shape you can imagine: chalices, orbs, golfers, gavels, apples and plaques. Plenty of plaques. They are engraved to award the Club DJ of the Year, the newest member of a local Freemason branch, one mysterious trophy just says “Rifle Expert”, and there are plenty of heartfelt engravings to spouses, family members and retiring co-workers.

The Problem With The Chair

“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” — Mies van der Rohe. Van der Rohe, as with Eames, Gehry, Hadid, Libeskind, Corbusier, and Breuer: if they have designed a big building, chances are they have designed a thing on which to sit.

Why We Still Haven't Killed Off The High Heel

As a fashion object and symbol, the high heel shoe is weighted with meaning. It’s also weighted with the wearer’s entire body weight. The stiletto might be one of the only designs that is physically painful, but it has somehow has persisted for centuries.

The City Pipes And Stairways That Get Left Behind And Lead To Nowhere

Cities, like living things, evolve slowly over time. Buildings and structures get added and renovated and removed, and in this process, bits and pieces that get left behind. Vestiges. Just as humans have tailbones and whales have pelvic bones, cities have doors that open into a limb-breaking drop, segments of fences that anyone can walk around, and pipes that carry nothing at all.

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