3 GREAT STORIES: Starring popcorn, Xerox, & night hockey

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Why popcorn also jumps (2/17/15, New York Times): I have not done any research to see what other videos exist online of popcorn popping.

I will only say: I have never seen one this breathtaking.

The video is a supplement to an article from New York Times science writer James Gorman, who also narrates and appears in it. He reports on how French scientists have discovered why popcorn kernels don’t just pop; they also jump, ever so briefly, vaulting in the air as they spring to life.

The article is perfectly interesting, if short, but the video brings it home. Credit the Times team for investing in whatever equipment was needed to get these pristine shots. The popcorn here looks like it is pirouetting in the air.

How the photocopier changed the way we worked and played (March 2015, Smithsonian Magazine): I am a big fan of stories that use the past to inform the present.

Welcome to this article, where Clive Thompson at Smithsonian looks at the current hubbub about 3-D printers and grounds it in the 60-years-earlier context of 2-D copy machines.

I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of this story. Thompson makes thorough comparisons between the rise of Xerox machines and the current questions about 3-D printers, and he provides enough research and anecdotes to make a reader feel smarter by the end of the piece. For example:

For centuries, if you weren’t going to the trouble of publishing an entire book, copying a single document was a slow, arduous process, done mostly by hand. Inventors had long sought a device to automate the process, with limited success. Thomas Jefferson used a pantograph: As he wrote, a wooden device connected to his pen manipulated another pen in precisely the same movements, creating a mechanical copy. Steam-engine pioneer James Watt created an even cruder device that would take a freshly written page and mash another sheet against it, transferring some of the ink in reverse. By the early 20th century, the state of the art was the mimeograph machine, which used smelly ink to produce a small set of copies that got weaker with each duplication. It was imperfect.

Night hockey highlighted with unique puck (2/20/15, Fox Connecticut): This piece is imperfect … and irresistible.

Fox Connecticut reporter John Charlton and photographer Shawn Sienkiewicz seem to tell two stories in one here. The first two minutes capture the joy of pond hockey in the New England states — particularly when played at night. But then Charlton does a stand-up and pivots the story to its bright center: the Comet Puck.

It is a lit-up, battery-powered puck that will remind any hockey fan — as Charlton notes — of the FoxTrax puck of the 1990s.

The piece runs a bit long, but it is entertaining throughout. Perhaps I am biased as a hockey fan, but I appreciated the human touches and stunning photographic artistry that carry this story from start to finish.

Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.

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