history
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. Read More >>

design
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. Read More >>

design
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. Read More >>

design
The Problem With the Chair

"A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier." — Mies van der Rohe. Read More >>

architecture
The Stubborn “Nail Houses” That Refuse to Get Demolished

In 1914, the government of New York City took ownership of a Manhattan apartment building belonging to one David Hess. The city used a legal power called eminent domain, allowing governments to seize private property for public use—in this case they wanted to expand the subway system. Hess fought them and lost, and when all was said and done, his building was torn down, and he was left with a triangle shaped piece of property. It was about the size of a large slice of pizza. Read More >>

design
The Secret Ways Airports Tell Us Where to Go

As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Signage goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire where they constructed "milestones" along their roadways. Read More >>

architecture
The Weird, Eerie World of China’s Knockoff Cities

The best knock-offs in the world are in China. There are plenty of fake designer handbags and Rolexes but China's knock-offs go way beyond fashion. Read More >>

art
A Rare Look at the Graffiti-Covered History of NYC’s Subway

In just about every movie set in New York City in the 1970s and '80s there's an establishing shot with a graffiti-covered subway. Read More >>

design
How a Simple Design Error Could Have Toppled a NYC Skyscraper

When it was built in 1977, Citicorp Center (later renamed Citigroup Center, now called 601 Lexington) was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world. You can pick it out of the New York City skyline by its 45-degree angled top. Read More >>

design
The Untold History of Where Barcodes Come From

When George Laurer goes to the shops, he doesn't tell the check-out people that he invented the barcode, but his wife used to point it out. "My husband here's the one who invented that barcode," she'd occasionally say. And the check-out people would look at him like, "you mean there was a time when we didn't have barcodes?" Read More >>

design
The Uni Student Who Built a Secret Tunnel Underneath the Berlin Wall

At its peak, the Berlin Wall was 100 miles long. Today only about a mile is left standing. Compared with other famous walls in history, this wall had a pretty short life span. Read More >>