NPR Diversions

This is your brain making things up.

What you see isn't really there.

Even if I tell you "this isn't what you think," you'll think it anyway — until I make a simple move, and suddenly — you know.

In case you haven't fallen for its charms yet, there's a video of three fun guys from Utah and their friends jumping into the "world's biggest pile of leaves" that's getting lots of views these days.

You can see their high jinks here.

I'm going to take you somewhere, but before I do, I should warn you that there's something not quite right about what you'll see. This place I'm going to show you will be astonishingly beautiful. It will be cold. It will be wet. But it will also be a touch — more than a touch — mysterious. So watch carefully.

Red Bull Stratos / Associated Press

More than 7 million people were watching as Felix Baumgartner sat at the edge of his space capsule yesterday 24 miles off the ground and got ready to jump, in what was known as the "Red Bull Stratos" project, better known as the "space jump."

The Associated Press

ROSWELL, N.M. ­– Extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner has canceled his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall into the New Mexico desert because of high winds.

On Oct. 8, Felix Baumgartner is going to strap himself into a specially pressurized capsule, ascend 120,000 feet into the air above New Mexico using a helium balloon, open the door - and jump out.

Don't worry, he's been practicing.

This past weekend was an odd one on the campaign trail. First, as NPR's Don Gonyea reported on Morning Edition, a muscled pizza man was so excited to see President Obama, he hugged him and picked him up a full foot off the ground.

Then there's Vice President Joe Biden who, um, canoodled with a biker lady at a Seaman, Ohio, diner.

The picture captured by Carolyn Kaster of The Associated Press is priceless:

On-air challenge: Answer riddles from The Amusing Puzzle Book, published circa the 1840s:

  • I know a word of letters three, add two, and fewer there will be.
  • Without a bridle or a saddle, across a thing I ride astraddle. And those I ride, by help of me, though almost blind, are made to see.
  • What is that which has been tomorrow and will be yesterday?
  • Clothed in yellow, red and green, I prate before the king and queen. Of neither house nor land possessed, by lords and ladies, I'm caressed.

Sometimes we all need a break from the serious news. There's no better way to accomplish that today than to tell you that two cheetah cubs are making their public debut at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

As the National Zoo reports, their journey is an improbable one. They were born April 23 by c-section and were abandoned by their mother. But they were hand-raised by zoo staff and today, they were out for world to see them.

This photo looks like two images stitched together; above is a normal forest, and below, a strange, Martian one. But it's a single image from a single place and time — the hills of western Hungary, six months after a devastating industrial accident.

Here's what got Nagai Hideyuki excited. Hideyuki lives in Tokyo. He's now 21. This photo was taken on the other side of the world, somewhere in Europe. What you see here is a street and a plain stone bench, both partially covered by a chalk drawing. The drawing disappears in places and at one point seems to bump into a metal pole.

Here's what it looks like when about 18-minutes worth of professional fireworks all go up at once.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune says, the "city's big kaboom ka-bombed on Wednesday night."

The Associated Press

Maybe you're planning your summer vacation and want something totally impractical to worry about (just to keep your mind off of real problems ... like money, say). And, we've still got more than a month to go to Discovery Channel's 'Shark Week', but ...

Great white sharks have been seen off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass; and on e off the coast near San Diego.

Mark Dermul is a serious Star Wars fan. He was just 7 years old in 1977 when the original movie hit the theaters. As soon as the huge Star Destroyer flew across the opening scene, he was hooked.

"It hasn't left me," he says. At 42, Dermul now guides tours throughout North Africa, visiting sites that were featured in the blockbuster films.

On one 2010 trip back to planet Tatooine — OK, Tunisia — he and his tour group noticed that Luke Skywalker's boyhood home was decaying. They jumped into hyperspace — OK, the Internet — to save it.

First chess, now this:

Here's a robot from Ishikawa Oku's physics lab at the University of Tokyo that plays rock, paper, scissor and always beats the human, every single time. Because the team that built it gave it a superpower.

This tweet from the National Weather Service caught our attention, today:

"More than 80% of lightning victims are male. Be a force of nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example"

Eighty percent seemed to us pretty significant, so we turned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and asked, "Why?"

We all have them: Days when we just want to take it down a notch, even as others around us burst with energy.

David, alpha-male chimpanzee at Fongoli in Senegal, had a morning like that recently. While other males vocalized (pant-hooted) with gusto, a perfectly hale and hearty David ... just couldn't be bothered, as this video bit shows.

Whether or not you realize it, you see Dan Winters' photos all the time: Brad Pitt on the cover of Wired magazine, Elijah Wood on Esquire, etc.

Here's a nightmare come true: a group of Indian villagers were gathered for a festival last month when they were attacked by a swarm of large, biting spiders. They're hairy, have fangs, and apparently latch on when they sink their teeth into their prey.

Calling Peter Parker.

No, the Unabomber won't be attending his 50th class reunion at Harvard this week.

But Ted Kaczynski has updated his former classmates about what he's been up to all these years.

We've all been there: Banging the back of a glass ketchup bottle, begging it to give you a dollop of the good stuff or battling with a plastic bottle coercing it into giving up the last of its contents.

Maybe that will be a thing of the past.

Six MIT researchers say they've solved that problem as part of an entrepreneurship competition. The result is a bottle coated with "LiquiGlide," a nontoxic material so slippery that the ketchup or for that matter mayonnaise just glides out when you turn it over.

The TV show Mad Men has won fans for breathing life — and a heavy whiff of bourbon — into the fictional advertising world of 1960s New York. But surely no American company has such a liver-pickling culture in this day and age, right?

A ship sinks. A hundred years pass. What remains? Look down, down to your feet while I tell you this tale.

Yesterday, we took a look at invisible winds suddenly made visible, streaming across the Earth. This being the blustery season, I've got more wind today, this time streaming across the sea, but looking uncannily like a van Gogh sky.

A woman in Boston saw something white fall past her second floor window Wednesday afternoon "and ran to see what it was," according to the Boston Globe.

The sudden national fame for 85-year-old North Dakota newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty because she wrote last week that the new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks is "impressive ... welcoming ... [and] is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating" in the city reinforces two things for this blogger:

1. Almost everyone loves a story about someone who seems to be just so darn nice and who's still going strong at an age when many of us will just be glad to still be around.

Live stream videos at Ustream

By Linda Holmes / NPR

Discovery's series Frozen Planet, the latest BBC co-production in the same series as Planet Earth and Life, premieres on March 18. But they've already found the best promotional tool imaginable.

Penguins.

Photographer Piotr Naskrecki presented a hypothetical: "If someone said, 'We have a dinosaur in Central Africa!' — would you consider that worthy of conservation? If so, why?"

That was his way of putting me in place for asking why anyone would care about a creepy grasshopper in South Africa.

We'll get back to the serious news soon enough. But first, a video that, as The Awl tells us, is blowing up out on the Internet. We're not sure what it says about sheep, herding dogs or rabbits, but there's probably no need to over think this, so just watch:

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