Instagram idiocy, marshmallows or the moon, and some very tricky knots in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks
jeff van camp

Jeff Van Camp: Wii U today or Moon trip tomorrow?

In 1972, researchers at Stanford University studied deferred gratification on 600 young children. The kids were put alone in a room with a single marshmallow. They could either eat the marshmallow or wait a few minutes with the promise of many more marshmallows. For the first time, I can understand what those hungry children were going through. I’ve got one big delayed gratification test on my hands.

A company called Golden Spike is planning to launch a commercial travel service to the moon. I really want to go to the moon … very badly. It would be a good story to tell my friends – you know, over a round of beers, or something. Here’s the problem: Ticket prices to the moon will start at a budget price of $700 million dollars apiece, which means that I can either get a Wii U now and re-enter my life as head of the Mushroom Kingdom, or start saving up cash.

Math: The Wii U costs about $350, which leaves a little less than $699,999,650 to win, earn, or steal over the next eight years. I can either play Mario now, or begin my structured, multiyear plan to make $700 million. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but if I’m able to sell several organs, win a few lotteries, steal a bunch of blood diamonds (very bloody), hedge some complex derivatives, file absurd software patents, sue huge corporations with said patents, become real close with Mitt Romney, rob the homeless, and invest in whatever John McAffee’s next venture is, I might be able to squeak by, assuming there’s no taxes on moon trips. Good plan, right? If you have any other ideas, let me know. I think I can hold out for the moon. I mean it’s just eight years, and that is one hell of a marshmallow.

andrew coutsAndrew Couts: A gallery of life lessons

There are just some things in life that you just need to know how to do. Like how to quickly fold a shirt, the four standard ways to properly tie a tie, or how to properly read other people’s emotions. Luckily for all of us, some anonymous do-gooder has put together a comprehensive gallery of useful infographics that explain dozens of nifty life tips. Sure some of them – like how to build a military-grade incendiary grenade – might not be exactly practical. But then again, it never hurts to know how to whip up a 4,000-degree flame, just in case. To get you started, I highly recommend this Google Cheat sheet, this primer on organized crime, and this handy reminder to always infuse your pancakes with bacon.

google cheat sheet

Jennifer BergenJen Bergen: It’s pronounced ‘Jiff,’ not ‘GIF’

Turning 25 this year, GIFs have been around for a long time. Though the GIF is slightly younger than me, it wasn’t until today that I learned the proper way to pronounce the word. Yes, GIF is actually pronounced with a soft G – like the peanut butter brand Jiff – and not with a hard G. After a quick poll of some of the Digital Trends staff, I can attest I’m not the only one making this mistake. Thankfully, Legs Media’s Sean Pecknold created a video that regales us with the tale of the GIF. From its birth in 1987, the GIF has had an interesting history, helping creepy babies dance on Ally McBeal in 1998, fizzling out a little in the early 2000s, and coming back in a triumphant renaissance in recent years with countless animated GIF Tumblrs. In fact, we even named 2012 the Year of the animated GIF. There’s a GIF for everything, and if you’re not familiar, we suggest you take two minutes out of your life to watch this stop-motion-animated video about the Graphics Interchange Format.

A Short History of the Gif | Moving the Still from LEGS MEDIA on Vimeo.

ryan flemingRyan Fleming: To live and die, and die, and die in Australia

Australia is apparently an incredibly dangerous place. So much so that the government seemed to feel the need to warn its citizens not to accidentally kill themselves by doing stupid things like poking a grizzly bear with a stick or lighting their hair on fire.

In order to warn people of the dangers of, well, life I guess, Metro Trains in Australia created this adorably horrifying public service announcement. The main goal is to educate people not to be idiots around a train, but while they were at it, they must have figured that it was a good time to address certain key danger areas plaguing humanity. Things like hiding in a dryer, or keeping a rattlesnake as a pet.

In all fairness, the song – written and performed by Tangerine Kitty – is cute and clever, and it will stick in your head. Like a virus. In fact, we should probably apologize for that right now, since it has a great chance of getting stuck in your head. But with over 31 million views and counting, there may be a few people that are now aware of the foibles of diving genitals first into a stream of piranhas.

instagram idiocy marshmallows or the moon and staff picks les shuLes Shu: The Dark Side of the Planet

Forty years ago, on December 7, 1972, the crew of the Apollo 17 took a photo of Earth as they headed toward what would be the last manned mission to the moon. The “Blue Marble,” as it is known, has become one of the more famous photos of our planet. According to NASA’s first caption draft for the image, “this translunar coast photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap.”

While NASA has released updated editions of the “Blue Marble” every few years, the U.S. space agency has just launched a new series called “Black Marble,” which captures the Earth in darkness. According to Pop Photo, the image is captured using the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, which went into orbit earlier this year. The sensor is strong enough to detect the glow provided by a single ship at sea.

NASA writes, “Unlike a camera that captures a picture in one exposure, the day-night band produces an image by repeatedly scanning a scene and resolving it as millions of individual pixels. Then, the day-night band reviews the amount of light in each pixel. If it is very bright, a low-gain mode prevents the pixel from oversaturating. If the pixel is very dark, the signal is amplified.”

Whether seen in day or night, images of Earth will never cease to amaze.

natt garunNatt Garun: We’re all guilty of these Instagram tropes

I hate to admit it, but Instagram is a pretty self-indulgent little app. You use it to show off the awesome meals you’re eating, cats you’re playing with, and how awesome the sunset looks from your office window. You can’t go anywhere without wanting to slap a little Valencia filter on that pint of beer before telling everyone what bar you’re hanging out in. It’s pretty shameful, but the process is so damn addictive. We live for the Likes and Hearts that show up on our phones’ notification centers.

So consider me fascinated when College Humor unveiled “Look At This Instagram,” a parody song based off Nickelback’s “Photograph.” Everything in this music video is so on point with every Instagrammers I’ve ever known, it’s almost kind of sad. Sadder, of course, is the catchiness of the song, given the Nickelback reference. Just give the video a watch and try your best not to Instagram a reactionary portrait.

Emerging Tech

A Fitbit for your cat shit: Automatic litter box tracks your kitty’s health

It may look like a sci-fi teleportation chamber, but Footloose is a high-tech litter box that promises to be the most cutting-edge way for your kitty to take a dump. Here's how it works.
Music

How much is Spotify Premium, and how can you get it at a discount?

Having access to millions of songs comes at a price -- albeit, a pretty small one. Before you figure out how much is Spotify Premium going to cost you, you will want to see if you qualify for a discounted (or even free) subscription.
Mobile

Pixel 3 XL vs. Pixel 2 XL vs. Pixel XL: Which XL is best for you?

A Google Pixel XL is the best phone to get if you want the perfect Android experience on a big screen. However, with the release of the Pixel 3 XL, you have more choices then ever. Which Pixel XL should you buy?
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Mobile

Here are our favorite wireless phone chargers for Android devices and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Death from above? How we’re preparing for a future filled with weaponized drones

Drones are beginning to enable everything from search & rescue, to the delivery of medicines to hard-to-reach places. But they are also being used as cheap, and deadly flying bombs. How can we defend ourselves?
Emerging Tech

This 3D-printed house made of earth and rice husks costs less than an iPhone

Italian 3D-printing company WASP has just demonstrated the 3D printing of a hut structure using a combination of 3D-printed concrete and a mud-based material. All for around $1,000.
Emerging Tech

Scientists want to bore holes through clouds using lasers from satellites

Researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have proposed a plan to use ultra-hot and ultra-short laser beams to punch through cloud layers and transmit information from satellites to Earth.
Emerging Tech

Behind the unsettling sci-fi landscapes of Simon Stalenhag’s ‘Electric State’

The narrative artbook follows the journey of a young traveler, Michelle, and her robot, Skip, as they head west to the Pacific coast through an alternative America torn apart by civil war and the trappings of military-grade virtual reality.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.
Emerging Tech

Get one of the best cheap drones you can buy, and cry less when you crash

Want to get in on all this hot drone action, but don't want to spend half a paycheck to make it happen? There are actually lots of feature-packed budget options. Check out this list of the best drones under $500.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: AI-powered cat toys, wallets, and food containers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Here are the best (and least likely to explode) hoverboards you can buy

With widespread reports of cheap, knock-off Chinese hoverboards exploding, these self-balancing scooters may be getting a rough reputation. They're not all bad, though. Ride in style with our picks for the best -- and safest -- hoverboards