Watch Now France vs Australia Why ramen is so valuable in prison


Instant ramen noodles have become like cash among inmates in the US.

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Cash is illegal in prisons. And that means everything from tuna to stamps to cigarettes have their own unique value in a trade and barter market.

But ramen has quickly taken over as the most in demand products the prison system offers.

Watch this video to see how ramen took over prison economies and why it’s the default item for trade among inmates.

The Goods by Vox explains what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.

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Watch Now France vs Australia How IKEA gets you to impulsively buy more


IKEA has mastered the “Gruen effect.”

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Researchers estimate that 50 percent of purchases are unplanned. These purchases, especially impulse buys, present an opportunity for retailers who can entice consumers to deviate from their shopping lists.

One of the most effective ways to influence this is through a store’s architecture. In the 20th century, the architect Victor Gruen, who pioneered the first American shopping malls, used light and space to dramatically stage goods in storefront windows. His designs were meant to capture the attention of passersby — and convert them into customers. This conversion became known as the “Gruen effect.”

Watch the video above to learn how Ikea has mastered the Gruen effect with a carefully designed store layout that gets customers to travel further distances… and buy more.

For the curious, here are a few links:

Read Jeffrey Inman’s research on unplanned spending:

Watch a video from University College London Professor Alan Penn, who breaks down Ms. Kazim’s research in greater detail:

And finally, I recommend reading Victor Gruen’s biography, “Mallmaker” by Jeffrey Hardwick. You can also learn more by listening to this 99% Invisible podcast episode that features Hardwick and details the history of the Gruen effect:

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels empty


What makes a fictional universe good? In this requested episode of Overrated, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the past and present of fictional universes to try to figure it out.

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Want to read more? Check out Sean Howe’s book about Marvel:

And explore Tommy’s Universe:

Fictional universes and crossovers have been around long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Green Hornet radio show had a crossover with the Lone Ranger that kicked off the trend. In comics, the Marvel Universe started long before Stan Lee was at the helm.

But these crossovers have a problem: They can privilege business relationships ahead of storytelling immersion and really interesting universes. As the Tommy Westphall Universe shows, crossovers often become a map of business decisions rather than of integrated fictional stories, and that leads to worse stories.

This problem plagues the MCU as well. When Marvel engineers crossovers, they aren’t thinking about a universe transformed by superheroes — they just want more quips, explosions, and cash. Or at least that’s Edwards’s argument — do you think the MCU works?

Overrated is a series that takes a look at the things we all know — the books, the trends, and the ideas that have become iconic — and answers the question: “Why is this so famous”?

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why the US celebrates Columbus Day


Should Columbus Day be Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

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In past decades, Christopher Columbus has gone from unquestioned US hero to problematic figure. For centuries, the destruction and disease he ushered into the Americas have been set aside, allowing the myth of a pioneering sailor who discovered America and proved the world was round to embed itself in US culture. But as this myth has been increasingly confronted with brutal historical facts, things have started to change.

While Columbus still has a national holiday in his honor, complete with parades and celebrations, there are many people fighting to dismantle the myth that surrounds him and choosing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.

Watch this video to understand how Columbus became a US icon over time and why his status is in question today.

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Watch Now France vs Australia How Jackson Pollock became so overrated


There’s an overlooked reason for Pollock’s fame. Even if you love him, you might not know the name of the man who made him famous.

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Jackson Pollock is one of the 20th century’s most famous artists. But do you know the critic who made his reputation?

Clement Greenberg is a well-known name in the art world, but not necessarily to art fans. However, he earned a reputation as one of the most influential art critics in the 20th century, whose legacy included the canonization of Jackson Pollock.

Abstract expressionist art needed vocal champions to support challenging, unique work, and Greenberg was the most powerful and vocal in his defense of the art and, in particular, Jackson Pollock. Greenberg went from tie salesman to intellectual in less than a decade, thanks to strongly worded arguments for a new artform. Jackson Pollock was one of his favorite artists, and the two spent time together socially as they simultaneously climbed in the art world.

Is Clement Greenberg the reason that Jackson Pollock is so famous? He’s definitely a part of it — and understanding the role of Greenberg and critics like him can be a useful tool to understanding art in the 20th century.

Overrated is a series that takes a look at the things we all know — the books, the trends, and the ideas that have become iconic — and answers the question: “Why is this so famous”?

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why colleges tolerate fraternities


Frats are… fratty. Why do colleges keep them around?

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In this episode of Overrated, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the history of frats.

The history of fraternities has a lot of ups and downs — and stretches all the way back to America’s founding fathers. Beyond the hazing and beer chugging, there’s a story that includes changes in higher education and even national politics.

So why do colleges keep fraternities on campus? The reason is a web of incentives that make fraternities allies to administrators — despite the negatives they sometimes present.

Overrated is a series that takes a look at the things we all know — the books, the trends, and the ideas that have become iconic — and answers the question: “Why is this so famous”?

Watch the previous episode of Overrated:

Watch Season 1 of Overrated here:

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why the Ouija board became so famous


This is where Ouija boards came from. And it might surprise you.

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In this episode of Overrated, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores what Ouija means, from a historical and cultural perspective.

The Ouija game and Ouija movies permeate our culture. But their origin might be surprising. Before this board game was a staple, it emerged from the spiritualist movement in the United States in the mid-1800s and an aggressive entrepreneur who believed he could make a buck off of it.

Ouija’s overrated — it’s not real and it’s just a piece of cardboard. But it’s also a way for people from the past to speak to us (through history, at least).

Overrated is a series that takes a look at the things we all know — the books, the trends, and the ideas that have become iconic — and answers the question: “Why is this so famous”?

Watch the more Overrated videos:

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why this Gucci knockoff is totally legal


Knockoffs are everywhere in fashion. So is the controversy they inspire.

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Allbirds says Steve Madden copied their sneakers. Gucci says Forever 21 ripped off their green-red-green stripes. Adidas says Zara knocked off their Yeezys.

In the Constitution, Congress has the power to stop copying by giving authors and inventors “the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

But there’s a catch. These protections must “promote the progress” of creative industries.

Conventional wisdom holds that copying kills innovation and hurts industry progress. But within the fashion industry, experts like New York University law professor Christopher Sprigman say the ease of copying is actually good for creativity.

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Watch Now France vs Australia Pinball isn’t as random as it seems


Hint: Go for the flashing lights.

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When you look at a pinball machine, you might think it’s nothing more than a bunch of flashing lights. Many people think the game is random, but it’s actually carefully laid out in groups of targets that correlate to specific objectives, called modes.

These modes, along with the multiball, are the key to achieving higher scores in the game. Once you learn to control the ball using the flippers, start aiming for the targets that are lit – that means they are activated. Once hit, the game will light something else to tell you what to aim for next.

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Watch Now France vs Australia Inside Hong Kong’s cage homes


When houses are the size of parking spaces.
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Hong Kong is the most expensive housing market in the world. It has been ranked as the least affordable housing market on Earth for eight years in a row, and the price per square foot seems to be only going up. The inflated prices are forcing Hongkongers to squeeze into unconventionally small spaces that can affect their quality of life.

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers are living in spaces that range from 75 to 140 square feet. To put that in perspective, the average parking space in the US is about 150 square feet. And in the most extreme cases, Hongkongers have resorted to homes the size of a coffin.

I spent some time exploring the living situation in Hong Kong to find out why housing has become so expensive and spaces so tight.

To understand how Hong Kong’s housing market turned out this way and see how it’s affecting people’s lives, watch the final episode of Borders Hong Kong.

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Watch Now France vs Australia The decline of Hong Kong’s iconic neon glow


Neon is fading.
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Explore neon culture through this local museum project:

Master Wu started making neon signs in the ’80s and has been filling Hong Kong’s streets with bright neon signs ever since. But recently, Master Wu has seen his business slow down as brighter-burning and more energy-efficient LED signs emerge. In addition to getting fewer requests, Hong Kong’s iconic neon landscape is also losing thousands of signs per year, ushering in the end of the city’s neon era.

As Hong Kong’s neon lights start to fade, I spent some time with Master Wu at his neon shop, where he showed me how he makes neon signs, and took a look at Hong Kong’s changing cityscape.

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Watch Now France vs Australia How feng shui shaped Hong Kong’s skyline


Hong Kong’s superstitious skyline.
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Hong Kong’s famous skyline is known for its colorful lights and modern buildings, but a closer look reveals some unique designs inspired by feng shui. Like the gaping holes in the middle of buildings to let dragons fly through or cannon-like structures installed to deflect bad “qi” (pronounced chi).

The main belief in feng shui is that destiny is bound to the environment, so good fortune and harmony can be invited in and bad energy can be warded off by arranging objects and buildings around us. It’s an ancient Chinese practice that has come to define Hong Kong’s skyline.

In this episode of Borders, we explore feng shui principles, explain the circumstances that allowed it to flourish in Hong Kong and take a look at the unique designs around the city.

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Watch Now Peru vs Denmark China is erasing its border with Hong Kong


The border has an expiration date.
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With original music by Tom Fox

When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Chinese leaders agreed that Hong Kong would be able to keep its economic and political systems, including some of the civil freedoms denied to China’s citizens on the mainland, for the next 50 years.

Although Hong Kong still has nearly 30 years of semi-autonomy left, China has started tightening its grip, and many believe it is chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms. In this episode, I explore how Hong Kong is dealing with the looming deadline and China’s premature moves.

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Watch Now France vs Australia What a conductor actually does on stage


It’s more than just dancing around.

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If you’ve ever seen an orchestra perform you’ve probably had a difficult time looking away from the person dead center on the stage – the conductor. It’s hard to miss someone as they swing their arms around pointing at the musicians that seem to be focused instead on their music stands. So what exactly is the conductor doing?

We decided to ask James Gaffigan – a conductor who recently guest conducted the New York Philharmonic in Central Park – just what it is that makes a conductor so necessary and how their actions shape the performance.

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why the US national anthem is terrible — and perfect


Vox’s Estelle Caswell and Joss Fong debate “The Star Spangled Banner”

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When Francis Scott Key attached his poem about the War of 1812 to a popular British song called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” he kicked off over 200 years of painfully bad singing by patriotic Americans. The Star Spangled Banner became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931, but it had been used by the Army and Navy for decades before that and was popular from the start. One big problem? The melody wasn’t exactly written for the masses, but for trained soloists.

Commentators pointed out early on that it was exceedingly difficult for most people to sing, suggesting that “America the Beautiful” might be a better alternative. Critics have noted that the music requires a uniquely wide vocal range, it’s full of tricky intervals, and the lyrics are confusing and uninspiring.

But if you look at the national anthem as a sport, where we get to watch performers at the top of their game tackle the gauntlet that is the Star Spangled Banner, you may come to appreciate it. In this video, we debate whether the difficulty of the Star Spangled Banner is a feature or a bug for a national anthem.

Further reading:

Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem

Star Spangled Music:

Slate: Proudly Hailed

Emily Cope:

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Watch Now France vs Australia It’s not you. Date labels on food make no sense.


Food labels don’t mean what you think they mean.

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When people clean out their fridge, they look at whatever date is on the label and throw it in the trash if it’s past that date. But the chances are that you’re throwing out tons of perfectly good food because date labels on food are often really confusing.

Food labels can mean many different things and often don’t give you any indication of whether the food is safe to eat or not. Many people assume that they’re federally regulated, but baby formula is the only product required to have consistent date labels. For everything else it’s up to the states to decide.

This creates a confusing state-by-state patchwork of labels with everything from “use by” to “freshest before” to “sell by” to “packaged on.”

And all this confusion causes us to waste tons of food every year. All the uneaten food waste costs Americans over $200 billion each year, and two thirds of that comes from households.

If we came up with a unified, easy to understand date label system we could save money, food, and help the environment, all just by changing how we put date labels on the things we eat.

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men)


We’ve got a theory, and it involves the soccer wars.

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Watch the SB Nation video about the 1999 US Women’s World Cup team here:

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In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards puts forth a theory about terrible American men’s soccer.

There are a lot of reasons Americans suck at soccer – but if you look at the history, you’ll find a surprisingly compelling explanation for why American soccer never took off. In the 1920s, soccer was a surprisingly successful sport in the US, with massive matches and a robust league. What went wrong?

American soccer and English football first diverged in the 1800s, when American colleges like Harvard and Yale started playing a more rugby-like game. But America quickly caught up with soccer in the 1920s, attracting large crowds and even stealing away European players.

Then the soccer wars happened. Constant battles in the 1920s between the ASL – American Soccer League – and USFA — United States Football Association — carved up American soccer’s cash, fans, and talent. By the time the depression hit, American soccer was so weakened that it couldn’t rebound as well as European and South American soccer culture did. The subsequent half-century of sports build up gave Americans a permanent handicap when it came to building a robust soccer culture.

It’s a theory — but the success of the US Women’s National Team bears out the idea that something is specifically wrong for the men. And it just might be the case that 1920s soccer wars are the reason.

Read about the own-goal that made the US Men’s National Team miss the 2018 World Cup:

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why 350°F is the magic number for baking


Turns out there’s a lot of chemistry in cooking.

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Ever notice the first step for baking a cookie is almost always to preheat the oven to 350 degrees?

Even when you’re baking something else, an oven with a digital temperature reader typically defaults to 350. What’s so magical about this number and why is it that so many recipes call for it?

I spoke with longtime pastry chef and Institute of Culinary Education creative director Michael Laiskonis and found that – as with most “magical” things – it’s actually science.

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