Category: Uncategorized

Runner’s World Feature: Porto Potties (yes really)

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 7.35.02 PMWe runners have a complicated relationship with portable toilets. We’re happy to see them before (and sometimes during and often after) a race, especially when we’ve been shot-gunning liquids and glucose. But that minute-plus (on average) we spend in their odiferous confines tends to yield some memorable-and-not-in-a-good-way moments. However, instead of shaking your fist at them, we suggest cutting the portable toilet some slack. Everything from the mysterious blue liquid to the height of the drop to the placement of the urinal has been studied and calibrated to make the best of a crappy situation. Which intrigued us—there’s a lot more to these things than we thought.

To explore the rest of the 5-page feature on the toilets we love to hate, check out the story in Runner’s World’s September issue. There’s a snippet version here.

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World


Pop-quiz: Who discovered Earth’s inner core? Who mapped the bottom of the ocean? Who was the first American to spot a comet? Headstrong delivers 52 surprising and entertaining profiles of extraordinary scientists who’ve shaped our understanding of the world.

Headstrong (written by me!) is out April 7th, 2015. Get it. Learn it. Be a better person for it.

Preorder Headstrong through your local bookstoreRandom HouseBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Runner’s World Feature: The Untold History of the Beer Mile

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It is April 27th, and James Nielsen assumes his starting position on the track at the College of Marin in Northern California. His wife, Mimi, is filming him with a Flip video camera. She raises her iPhone to the camera, and focuses on the phone’s timer. “On your mark, get set…” On “Go!” she starts the timer, and Nielsen springs into action. He cracks open a room-temperature Budweiser–because warm beer retains less carbonation than cold–tilts his head back 45 degrees–an angle he knows through studying fluid dynamics will best usher the brew down his gullet–and seals his lips onto the can. It takes him five seconds to drain the can, three seconds faster than if its contents had been simply poured onto the ground. Then–this is very important–Nielsen starts running and tosses the can in the trash.

Find the rest of the story in the October 2014 issue of Runner’s World or online here.

Locksport: A Fight Club for Lock Picking

After exchanging some pleasantries, retrieving an iced tea from the cashier, and settling in, Eric Michaud clicks a standard issue handcuff around my left wrist. We’re sitting at a two-top upstairs in a small café, and the table before us is blanketed with metal. Pin-tumbler locks, like key in knob cylinders, pad locks, Mortise locks as well as several lock picking sets (some of which he’s testing and some of which he owns) have been taken from a Michaud’s black backpack and placed before us. My hand, heavy with metal and social baggage, rests there as well.
I have no idea what our neighbors think of this display because I’m too distracted by the gasp-laughter escaping from my mouth. At least something is escaping; my hand is not.Although I didn’t anticipate this exact predicament, I did anticipate that we’d be toying around with locks. I was looking forward to it, even. Eric Michaud is many things—a physical security expert, a hacker-space founder, a runner—but today he’s here to talk to me about using the pick in place of the key. As the co-founder of the US branch of The Open Organisation of Lockpickers (TOOOL), Michaud’s not only an expert lock picker, but he was also on the front lines as a small collection of enthusiasts that turned their picking passion into a full blown movement.

Naturally, it’s embarrassing in such company and to be failing the first lesson.

Check out the rest at

Saving a History of Invention From the Shredder

Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft and cofounder of the patent holdings company Intellectual Ventures, has a cutaway illustration of a “Type-Writing Machine” hanging in a clear plastic frame on his office wall. It is a lithograph of the original patent, produced a hundred and twenty-four years ago, when the United States Patent and Trademark Office first approved the idea. The paper is now the color of flan.

The lithograph, a sheet describing United States Patent No. 416,257, was a reference document that had once been stationed in the P.T.O.’s vast library of intellectual-property records; it had banked more than a century of service and, like many of the library’s oldest documents, may have passed through thousands of hands. It also did a short stint in another location: the recycling bin. In 1994, the P.T.O. began digitizing its records. In August of 2001, the office announced it would stop maintaining its traditional libraries. Its paper records, aside from those destined for the National Archives or examiners’ offices, were doomed, bound for a recycling facility.

Read the rest over at The New Yorker.