Via The Atlantic: ‘From Berlin to Beijing, it seems just about anywhere is a bit like New York’s hippest borough….’
Via Salon.com: ‘The monster hunter isn’t quitting.
Do not believe the news reports that pinged around the world last month faster than the flick of a dragon’s tail.
Steve Feltham, full-time professional seeker of the Loch Ness Monster, holder of the Guinness World Record for longest continuous vigil for “Nessie,” has reached no conclusions about the cryptid that may or may not inhabit this freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands.
He has not determined that Nessie is a giant catfish. He has not ended his search. He is not walking away from his dream.
“I’m not leaving Loch Ness,” Feltham, 52, says in a video filmed inside the van where he lives and posted to his website. “Never have intended to. Never will, until we solve this mystery.”..’
Via Salon.com: ‘Mike Huckabee. Scott Walker. Ben Carson. Each candidate’s grasp of basic biology is more tenuous than the next’s..’
Via Independent.UK: ‘Put simply, Danish researchers behind a new study believe that without humans, most of northern Europe would be home to bears, elephants and rhinoceroses: areas where they were historically hunted to extinction by Homo sapiens…’
Via Matti Viikate – Newsvine: ‘Synthetic marijuana, also referred to as ‘replacement cannabis’, ‘K2’, and ‘Spice’, is a lab-produced mind-altering drug that aims to mimic the effects of marijuana, but is known to have unpredictable and sometimes dangerous effects, despite its marketing as a safe, legal alternative to marijuana. New York City’s police commissioner, William Bratton, recently said that the drug, which he referred to as “weaponised marijuana” is of “great and growing concern” to the city’s police force, which has seen a spike in hospitalisations from the drug..’
Via IFLScience: ‘After the heartbreaking tale of the famous lone Grand Canyon wolf, the first one in the area for 70 years, that was shot dead around Christmas last year, it’s time we had some good news. A pack of wolves has managed to establish itself in California…’
Via Antonia Malchick – Aeon: ‘For decades, Americans have been losing their ability, even their right, to walk. There are places in the United States – New York City, for example – where people walk as a matter of habit and lifestyle, commuting in ways familiar to residents of London or Paris. But there are vast blankets and folds of the country where the ability to walk – to open a door and step outside and go somewhere or nowhere without getting behind the wheel of a car – is a struggle, a fight. A risk…’
Via Walter Glannon – Aeon: ‘New brain implants can restore autonomy to damaged minds, but can they settle the question of whether free will exists? …’
Via IFLScience: ‘Forget LSD: eyes are the new high. Of course, we’re not talking about consuming them, but rather staring intensely into a pair for a prolonged period of time. Apparently, this can make people enter into an altered state of consciousness.
This intriguing discovery was made by vision researcher Giovanni Caputo from the University of Urbino in Italy, but it isn’t his first staring contest study. A few years ago, the scientist recruited 50 volunteers and got them to gaze upon their reflections in a mirror for 10 minutes in a dimly lit room. For many of them, it took less than one minute to start experiencing something trippy.
Their faces began to warp and change, taking on the appearance of animals, monsters or even deceased family members; a phenomenon imaginatively named the “strange-face illusion.” But it seems the bizarre effects are even more dramatic when the mirror is swapped for another person…’
Via National Geographic: ‘On International Orangutan Day, we take a look at these lovable tree-dwelling apes, whose numbers are plummeting fast due to deforestation.
Solitary and intelligent, the orangutan is the only great ape native to Asia—but it’s possible the continent may soon have none. That’s because orangutan numbers are dwindling as the animals are driven from their habitats by deforestation for palm oil plantations.
The island of Borneo may house only 54,000 of the endangered animal, and on Sumatra (map), just 6,600 remain, according to WWF. That’s a drop from possibly 230,000 of the primates a century ago.
But there’s one bright spot for this fiery-furred ape: Many companies have committed to only using palm oil from areas that weren’t destroyed by logging…’
Via IFLScience: ‘In what is sure to be highly controversial research, a new study claims to be able to predict a person’s risk of committing suicide with over 90% accuracy, using only a blood test coupled with a questionnaire.
According to the researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine, they have developed a simple test that looks for 11 biomarkers in a patient’s blood. When they coupled this with an app-based questionnaire, they say they were able to predict which individuals in a group of patients already being treated for psychiatric disorders would go on to develop suicidal thoughts over a period of two years…’
Via Quanta Magazine: ‘The physicist James Bullock explains how a complicated “dark sector” of interacting particles may illuminate some puzzling observations of the centers of galaxies…’
Via National Geographic: ‘After a Yellowstone grizzly with cubs killed a hiker, the park’s chief faced an agonizing decision—whether to let the bear go free or put her down…’
Via Motherboard: ‘A remotely operated underwater vehicle owned by BP was doing a routine check near one of its rigs off the coast of Angola when it stumbled across a giant glob of No Thank You…’
Via io9: ‘The Perseids is my favorite meteor shower of the year, and this year is likely to be the best one in recent memory. Here’s when, where, and how to watch it—and just what is going to make this year so spectacular…’
Via The Awl: ‘“A new report from Facebook into how users express laughter shows that ‘haha’ and its variants are by far the most common terms used on the social network. They accounted for 51.4 percent of mirth in the anonymized comments and posts looked at by Facebook’s data team, with laughter emoji claiming 33.7 percent, and ‘hehe’ and its cognates 13.1 percent. The once-mighty ‘lol’ only appeared in 1.9 percent of the text sampled by Facebook — a pretty staggering fall for an expression that was once synonymous with online txt speak. Although not surprising for such a venerable term, ‘lol’ proved slightly more popular with older users. Differences between generations were not heavily pronounced, but it was emoji that were most popular with users with the youngest median age, while ‘haha,’ ‘hehe,’ and ‘lol’ were favored by progressively older individuals.”..’
Via Neuroskeptic: ‘Meta-analyses are systematic syntheses of scientific evidence, most commonly randomized controlled clinical trials. A meta-analysis combines the results of multiple studies and can lead to new insights and more reliable results.
However, according to Italian surgeon Giovanni Tebala writing in Medical Hypotheses, meta-analyses are becoming too popular, and are in danger of taking over the medical literature.
…Why is this? Tebala suggests that researchers are turning to meta-analyses to bolster their CVs:
Randomized controlled trials require hard work and financial commitment, whereas meta-analyses and systematic reviews can be relatively easy to perform and often get published in high impact journals. Many researchers might decide to devote themselves to the latter approach.
…Tebala doesn’t actually spell out why the glut of meta-analyses is a problem for science; he seems to be concerned at the unfairness of meta-analysts getting credit for their work with “someone else’s data”.
Nonetheless I think there is a scientific problem, which is that as the ratio of meta-analyses to actual data increases, the scientific literature becomes dominated by interpretation and analysis resting on a limited amount of evidence. Put simply, the risk is that science will get “top heavy”…’
Via IFLScience: ‘We’re all screwed. Well, if you’re planning to stick around for a few more billion years.
Researchers have found that galaxies are losing energy at a rather alarming rate, and confirm that all energy in the universe will eventually dissipate into nothingness. A study of 200,000 galaxies found they had lost half their energy in just two billion years. “The universe is slowly dying,” a statement from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) somberly says.
The theory that the universe is dying through an increase in entropy is not new, but this is the most extensive analysis yet of what’s going on. The energy output of a large portion of space containing the galaxies was measured more precisely than ever before. It was studied in 21 wavelengths, from ultraviolet to the far infrared, and all were found to be decreasing…’
Via Gizmodo: ‘A Los Angeles County child is recovering from the plague, and public health agencies are searching the wilderness for the source of the infection.
It’s the third case of plague this year in the U.S. The first two both happened in Colorado, and both were fatal. Earlier this week, an adult in Pueblo County, Colorado, died of the plague, and back in June, the disease killed a Larimer County high school student.
There are about 7 cases of plague in the U.S. every year, mostly in the West, where the disease is endemic among wild mammals, especially rodents, in rural or wilderness areas…’
Via Gizmodo: ‘The Moon may be Earth’s kid brother, but Saturn’s moons seem more gnats on an elephant in this incredible image captured by the Cassini probe.
Pictured here are Saturn’s moons Mimas (right) and Dione (left) staring up at their behemoth of a planet, with the unilluminated side of the rings angled about one degree from the ring plane. They’re certainly large enough to be spotted, but at 240 and 698 miles across respectively, Mimas and Dione are quite a bit smaller than Earth’s moon (2160 miles across). And they’re total pipsqueaks on the scale of the Saturn system: The gas giant itself measures 75,400 miles across, and its ring system extends more than a thousand fold further out into space.
We all grew up learning that the gas giants are massive, but images like this really help put the numbers in perspective….’
Via Big Think: ‘In his final soliloquy, Stewart offered a three-part analysis of the bullshit being slung in America today, along with a warning….’
Beginning with the Manhattan Project’s first nuclear device detonated near Los Alamos, New Mexico, the number of explosions starts slowly at first and then quickly speeds up right through to Pakistan’s own nuclear tests in 1998.
Each explosion corresponds to a beep and a flash of color, with the totals for each country rapidly stacking up. It is especially poignant given that today is the 70th anniversary of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, “Little Boy”, at the end of World War Two.
Hashimoto created the animation in 2003, which is why more recent nuclear tests such as those by North Korea in 2006, 2009 and 2013 are excluded.’
For the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The New Yorker has published online the full text of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” to which the magazine devoted the entire editorial space of its August 31, 1946 issue. “It does so in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon,” wrote the magazine’s editors, “and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use.”
Via IFLScience: ‘Picture the Arctic and you’re probably imagining vast expanses of pure, white ice or enormous cliffs of jagged glaciers surrounded by icy waters. However, the ice sheets of the Arctic are melting so quickly and in such large amounts that maps of the world must reflect these momentous changes. Atlas of the World makers National Geographic announced last year that there would be major changes made to the 10th edition of its map. In his announcement of plans to fight global warming, President Obama referred to these changes in a speech given at the White House. “Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart,” Obama said….’
Via IFLScience: ‘It’s pretty hard to fathom just how big some things in the universe are, but this possible feature is so large that it borders on the ridiculous.
Astronomers think they have found a ring of nine gamma ray bursts (GRBs) inside galaxies that, together, measure 5 billion light-years across. For a comparison, that’s about 50,000 times bigger than the Milky Way, or more than one-ninth the size of the observable universe. The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
A GRB is an intense flash of gamma rays caused by a supernova, the dramatic death of a fiery star, and thus their detection indicates the presence of a galaxy – suggesting all nine of the GRBs are in separate galaxies. They are the brightest electromagnetic events in the universe, releasing more energy in a few seconds than the Sun in its entire 10 billion-year lifetime, and thus they can be used to detect distant galaxies.
While it is not one physical whole structure, the Hungarian-American team who made the discovery think the nine galaxies are gravitationally bound to each other – just as our Local Group contains the Milky Way and a few dozen other galaxies.
In this case, all the GRBs studied by a variety of observatories are about 7 billion light-years away from Earth, suggesting that we are seeing the structure “face on.” Alternatively, we may be seeing a projection of a “sphere.”
But there’s one problem. The structure, if confirmed, would break our current models of how large things can be; a previous theoretical limit stood at 1.2 billion light-years. On large scales, the cosmos should be uniform and not have structures like this….’
Via Public Radio International: ‘While the graying Hiroshima Generations who survived the atomic bomb attack seven decades ago are struggling to pass their memories to the younger generations, much of the world has allowed that fateful morning on Aug 6, 1945 to slip from their minds.
About 66,000 people, mostly civilians, perished, according to a report prepared by the US Army one year after the attack. Another 69,000 were injured and tens of thousands more were affected by radiation disease.
But how to show the damage more clearly? We’ve developed an application that allows you to visualize the damage of the same atomic bomb on another location in today’s world, such as your hometown. You may be surprised at the extent of the damage….’
Via Big Think: ‘A vaccine that did not exist a year ago has proven 100 percent effective at preventing people who are at extremely high risk of infection from contracting the Ebola virus.
The recent trial took place in Guinea, a West African nation that, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, was hit hard by an Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 11,000 people since December 2013…
The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, is composed of “an attenuated livestock virus engineered to produce an Ebola protein…
Still, the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine is considered a first-generation tool, especially since it must be stored at –80° C and it protects against a limited number of species of the Ebola virus. Researchers are already hard at work developing second-generation iterations….’
Via Gizmodo: ‘When hitchBOT the hitchhiking robot started his journey in Boston two weeks ago he wanted to see the entire country. Unfortunately, he never made it out of the Northeast. The researchers who built hitchBOT announced today that they need to stop the experiment because hitchBOT was vandalized in Philadelphia.
From the researchers who built hitchBOT:
hitchBOT’s trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question “what can be learned from this?” and explore future adventures for robots and humans.
The goal of the hitchhiking trip was to see how humans would interact with hitchBOT. And apparently the answer was “not well.” HitchBOT has been around the world, including trips across the entirety of Canada and Germany without major incident. But America is clearly a hard land for our robot brothers and sisters….’
Via io9: ‘Schulz, the author of the New Yorker piece, feels safe enough to continue spending her summers in the Northwest, the area that will be affected by the earthquake. In her follow up bit about survival advice, she strongly suggests that readers avoid spending even one night in the tsunami inundation zone.
“Of the almost thirteen thousand people expected to die in the Cascadia event, one thousand will perish in the earthquake,” Schulz writes. “The others will be killed by the tsunami—and they amount to nearly one in five people who are in the zone when the water arrives. That’s a grim enough figure that it changed my own beach-going behavior in the Northwest. Go to the coast by day, for sure. But if you’re staying overnight, book a vacation rental, hotel room, or campsite outside the inundation zone.”…’
Via Gizmodo: A former robotics researcher who helped develop military robots says they cannot do anything for which they were not programmed. And besides, the bad guys don’t play by the rules. Make any sense??
‘Future president Lindsey Graham declares victory in the war with Iran he’s probably (definitely) going to start…’
I recall seeing De Düva at the late lamented Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge in the early ’70’s. After twenty minutes or so, a member of the audience suddenly stood up in the front row, threw his arms heavenward, and shouted out to the audience, “My God! I’m so stoned I can understand Swedish!”
A De Düva lexicon, via The New York Times:
Skå she vinska, you godda set her freesk: If she wins, you must set her free.
Me yoost haf dis schmatte waschen: I just had this clothing washed.
Phalliken zymbol: Cigar…’
ViaThe New York Times: ‘While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.
“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction….’
Via Gizmodo: ‘Utter the words—and we don’t suggest you do—“charge my phone 100 percent” to Siri, and your iPhone will try and call the emergency services, after a five-second grace period in which you can cancel it. But why?
It might be a bug. Or, as The Verge suggests, it could be a feature that allows you to secretly call the police if you’re in trouble. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened (like a woman getting in touch with Pizza Hut to save her from a knife attack). So far Apple is yet to confirm why it’s a thing. Any ideas?…’
Gull in harrying pursuit after eagle grabs one of its mates out of a nest Guess who won?
Via io9: ‘For its size, the coffee berry borer makes your caffeine consumption look almost laughably manageable, downing an amount that relative to its body mass would be like a person taking 500 shots of espresso in one day—and its habit is becoming a real threat to coffee supplies….’
Via io9: ‘After restarting to run at higher power than ever, the Large Hadron Collider has made its first proper discovery. Today, a team of scientists announced that they’ve found a new class of sub-atomic particles known as pentaquarks.
Quarks are a series of charged sub-atomic particles that come together to form larger particles—such as protons and neutrons, which are each made of three of the things (a class of particle referred to as baryons). First proposed in 1964 by American physicist Murray Gell-Mann, their existence changed the way people thought about particle physicists.
But quarks can come together to form other entities, too. For a long time, people have speculated that another class of quark ensemble, called the pentaquark, could in theory exist. The pentaquark is, perhaps unsurprisingly, supposed to be made up of five smaller entities—four quarks and an anti-quark. Now, for the first time, researchers working on the LHCb experiment at the Collider have found evidence for their existence….’
Via Vox: ‘— and he will be a particularly towering figure in the history of American progressivism….’
Via Vox: ‘Iran hawks displeased with the nuclear deal struck between Iran, Russia, China, the United States, and the European Union have an awful lot of complaints. But if you look closely at what they are saying, you’ll notice something funny. They don’t actually have any arguments about what Obama has done wrong or how a different administration would park the situation in a better place. What they have instead are a lot of talking points, MacGuffins, red herrings, and distractions that aim to divert attention from the core issue — hawks’ desire to avoid diplomacy and have a war….’
Via Vox: ‘The political battle over the Iran deal is going to be the biggest foreign policy fight of Obama’s presidency. Congress has the power to destroy the deal, and Republicans will do their damnedest to try to use it, however unlikely it is that they’ll succeed.
But this is more than just a policy dispute, and that’s why the fighting is taking place in more than just Congress. Cable news is spinning itself into a froth over whether the Iran deal is a horrifying catastrophe or a golden day in global progress. Odds are good that you’ve already gotten sucked into, or at least worked to avoid, an argument on Facebook over this.
People have strong feelings about this deal — very strong feelings. Maybe that’s partly because they are just that emotionally invested in the details of arms control agreements, or in the triangulations of American Middle East policy. Or maybe there’s something more going on here….’
Via National Geographic: ‘A new study makes the case for building a supersize space telescope that would create images five times sharper than Hubble’s….’
Via IFLScience: ‘In the wake of World War II, the United Sates military was suddenly worried about and keen to test out the threats posed by biological warfare. They started experiments looking into how bacteria and their harmful toxins might spread, only using harmless stand-in microbes. They tested these on military bases, infecting soldiers and their families who lived with them, but eventually they stepped things up a notch. Disclosed in 1977, it turns out that the U.S. military carried out 239 secret open-air tests on its own citizens….’
Via Boing Boing: ‘A mama bear with two cubs made a habit of sneaking into a mobile home in British Columbia, Canada and raiding the freezer. On one of these visits, conservation officer Bryan Casavant was ordered to kill all three bears. But after putting down the mama bear, he didn’t have the heart to kill the babies.
For his good deed, Casavant is now suspended from his job and under investigation. Fortunately, he’s got a lot of public support for his heroic act….’
Via 3quarksdaily: ‘Prosopagnosia is a neuropsychological condition that impairs the sufferer’s ability to recognize faces. It’s also known as face-blindness, and those who are afflicted lack a skill that comes naturally to most humans, forcing them to find ways to work around this deficit….’