Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nerd History: The Toynbee Tiles

One of my favorite weird mysteries (and I have many) are the weird "Toynbee Tiles" that are all over the place in major cities worldwide. It's tough to say exactly what's going on with these, but here's what we know:

All indications are that the first sightings of these happened in the early 1990s. On a street in Philadelphia, a tile was inserted into the street with the text "Toynbee Idea in Kubrick's '2001' Resurrect Dead on Planet Jupiter." The statement itself has some logic to it - Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey implies rebirth on Jupiter, there are some cultural connections between the religious historian Arnold Toynbee and 2001, but the tiles are more of a mystery because of what they are - tiles applied to busy streets without anyone noticing, often with crazy conspiracy theories attached to them.

Obviously, there's not a ton more to say about them. A lot of people have tried to figure out authorship, and a documentary was released this year about them, but for a holiday week, it's a good diversion. More at Wired, Damn Interesting, and NPR.

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