7 Interesting Things You Can Say to Change the Subject When Someone Starts Talking About the Olympics

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How about those Olympics? Everyone's talking about them! Which is great, unless you happen to have no interest in or knowledge about international sporting competitions turned megamarketing boondoggles.

Sprinters this and medals that. Swimmers, divers, pentathletes! Who can keep up with it all?

So, here are seven vaguely related interesting conversational levers you can use to politely steer the conversation away from London and to something, anything else. (You're welcome.)

Them: "So-and-so won a bronze medal!"
You: "That's fascinating. Did you know bronze is composed of roughly 88 percent copper and 12 percent tin? Its melting point is about 1742 degrees Fahrenheit."

Them: "I wonder how London's dealing with the Olympics."
You: "That's fascinating. More fascinating is how London dealt with World War II aerial bombardment. Working people basically forced their way into the tube stations during the Blitz, where they slept on the platforms."

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Them: "Michael Phelps is amazing. I wonder how he's gonna do this year."
You: "That's fascinating. Elizabeth Phelps, the NYU neuroscientist, has shown you can defuse and even erase fearful memories just by thinking about them in very specific ways."

Them: "Danny Boyle is directing the Olympics opening ceremony!"
You: "That's fascinating. He also once directed a short called Alien Love Triangle, which starred 'Kenneth Branagh, Heather Graham, and Friends' Courtney Cox, who plays a male alien in a female body.' It remains unreleased."

Them: "In the medal race, I think China's going to come out ahead."
You: "That's fascinating. Speaking of heads, the actress Hedy Lamarr also designed a secret communications system for the American war effort. It relied on frequency-hopping, which is now a key foundational technology for some cell phone networks like Sprint's."

Them: "Peter Sagan is a big underdog in the men's road race. Still, I hope he wins the gold."
You: "That's fascinating. Carl Sagan put together a golden record for the Voyager spacecraft, which is about to become the first humanmade object to leave our frigging solar system. He included whale songs, Beethoven, Chuck Berry, thunder, greetings in a bunch of languages, and 116 images."

Them: "Some athletes are wearing shoes that were 3D printed by Nike!"
You: "That's fascinating. These guys 3D printed a gun."

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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