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,...
144- There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Hanging in the garage of Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, there’s a small, pear-shaped light bulb. It is glowing right now. This lightbulb has been glowing, with just a couple of momentary interruptions, for 113 years. You can see … Continue...
143- Inflatable Men
You see them on street corners, at gas stations, at shopping malls. You see them at blowout sales and grand openings of all kinds. Their wacky faces hover over us, and then fall down to meet us, and then rise … Continue reading →
142- And The Winner Is
There’s a little trophy shop called Aardvark Laser Engraving down the street from our office in Oakland. Its small but bustling, and its windows are stuffed to the brim with awards made of all kinds of materials and in any … Continue reading →
141- Three Records from Sundown
This week on the show we’re presenting one of our favorite radio features, “Three Records from Sundown,”about singer Nick Drake. The documentary, by producer Charles Maynes, retraces the roots of Drake’s legend through interviews with Drake’s...
Vexillologists—those who study flags—tend to fall into one of two schools of thought. The first is one that focuses on history, category, and usage, and maintains that vexillologists should be scholars and historians of all flags, regardless of their...
139- Edge of Your Seat
“A Chair is a difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier.” —Mies van der Rohe. The chair presents an interesting design challenge, because it is anobject that disappears when in use. The person replaces the chair. So chairs need to … Continue...
The Ouija board is so simple and iconic that it looks like it comes from another time, or maybe another realm. The game is not as ancient as it was designed to look, but thosetwo arched rows of letters have … Continue reading →
137- Good Bread
The first print advertisement for Wonder Bread came out before the bread itself. It stated only that “a wonder” was coming. In a lot of ways, the statement was true. Wonder Breadwas the perfect loaf. “Slow food” advocates havepronounced industrial …...
136- Lights Out
On July 13th, 1977, lightning struck an electricity transmission line in New York City, causing the line’s automatic circuit breaker to kick in. The electricity from the affected line was diverted to another line. This was fairly normal and everything...
135- For Amusement Only
Everyone has tried it at some point. The authorities started turning a blind eye years ago, but it wasn’t officially legalized until the summer of 2014. Finally, after more than 80 years of illegitimacy, the City of Oakland has legalized…pinball …...
134- The Straight Line Is A Godless Line
Straight lines form the core of our built environment. Building in straight lines makes predicting costs and calculating structural loads easier, since building materials come in linear units. Straight lines might be logical, predictable, and...
133- Port of Dallas
There’s a photograph we have tacked to our studio at 99% Invisible HQ. The photo, taken 1899, shows three men, all looking very fashionable, suspended mid-air on the lifted arm of a giant dredging machine. There are plenty of images … Continue reading...
132- Castle on the Park
On the southwest corner of Central Park West and 106th Street in New York City, there’s an enormous castle. It takes up the whole east end of the block, with its red brick cylindrical turrets topped with gleaming silver cones. … Continue reading →
131- Genesis Object
In the beginning, there was design. Before any other human discipline, even before the dawn of mankind its self, design was a practice passed down from generation to generation of early humans. Today, everything that has been designed–space ships,...
Around 2005, a Seattle neighborhood called Ballard started to see unprecedented growth. Condominiums and apartment buildings were sprouting up all over the community which had once been mostly single family homes and small businesses. Around this...
Cities, like living things, evolve slowly over time. Buildings and structures get added and renovated and removed, and in this process, bits and pieces that get left behind. Vestiges. Just as humans have tailbones and whales have pelvic bones, cities...
128- Hacking IKEA
IKEA hacking is the practice of buying things from IKEA and reengineering—or “hacking”—them to become customized, more functional, and often just better designed stuff. The locus of the IKEA hacking movement is a website called IKEAhackers.net. It’s a...
127- The Sound of Sports
Way back in October 2011 (seeepisode #38,true believers!), we broadcast a short excerpt of a radio documentary produced by Peregrine Andrews about faking the sounds of sports on TV broadcasts. It was one of our most popular and provocative programs …...
126- Walk This Way
As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Sam Greenspan went on a wayfinding tour with Jim Harding in the Atlanta airport. Harding is one of the … Continue reading →
- San Francisco, CA