Review: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan

“…[H]owever much the rational and sane majority airily dismiss tales of fire-breathing dragons, strange creatures from outer space or beasts that inhabit the depths, there is still buried in most of us that reflex that can’t help, on a dark night, walking along a lonely country lane, wondering, “What if there’s something out there?” And when we do, the collective cultural baggage of these tales of ghosts, ghouls and griffins is usually sufficient to make us put our hands over our eyes to block out what may just be lurking out there. But, then, we still peep….” (Telegraph).

The 25 Least Visited Countries in the World

Travel Guides

“Are you up for going on that unique trip that almost no one has done before you? The problem might just be finding the right destination. The least visited country in the world may not be the one you would think.I am currently conducting research through visits to all 198 countries of the world. The reason? To figure out where I eventually want to go on proper holiday. I have been to 190 countries so far and I often wondered which countries are the very least visited ones. Remoteness, visa regulations, governments, available travel information and how many visitors I see on my travels give me a certain idea, but what do the statistics say? If they even exist. And where can I find such official statistics?” (Migrating Mania).

I have been to just one of the countries on this list. How about you?

Chelation Therapy: What To Do With Inconvenient Evidence

of chelating iron. Created using ACD/ChemSketc...

“What do we do with inconvenient evidence? Imagine studying a seemingly absurd practice that is used to an alarming extent by those who believe in it despite the lack of evidence – and finding that the intervention improves outcomes. And imagine that the people conducting that trial are famous scientists with impeccable credentials who have extensive experience with this type of investigation. Imagine that the practice is so out of the mainstream that the investigators cannot even posit how the treatment could reduce patient risk?

We live in a world of evidence-based medicine, where we are urged to base our medical recommendations and decisions on clinical studies. We base our guidelines on the medical literature and evaluate our practices by how well we adhere to the evidence. But what should we do with inconvenient evidence?” (Forbes).

Store Charging Patrons $5 For ‘Just Looking’

To make up for pesky competition from the Internet, the owner of an Australian retail store is charging patrons $5 for “just looking”, in order to offset losses from shoppers who browse and then buy online. “If you’re going to be asking bucketloads of questions, you’ve got to pay for the information,” said Celiac Supplies owner, Georgina, to the Brisbane Times, who asked that her last name not be published, after her store’s policy inadvertently went viral and led to Internet infamy.

On her window, she posted the following notice:

According to the Times, 4 people have coughed up the $5, meaning her policy has earned a solid $20, which I’m sure is more than enough money to make up for harassing most of the customers who walk through her door.


5 Revenge Products


The Revenge of the Shadow King

A Buyer’s Guide for Psychopaths: “Are you sick of product reviews that don’t cover the issues that matter to you? Most product review sites are all “reliability this” and “functionality that,” when all you really want to know is “Will this product assist me in fulfilling an elaborate and lifelong revenge mission?” Well, finally, I’m here to supply you with the answers you need. Today, we’re going to profile five products for the discerning modern psychopath. Our review will take place in two parts: First, an introduction and quick rundown of each product, then a practical real-life field test where I will attempt to use each one to help unleash my cunning vengeance on an unsuspecting world.” (Cracked)

Why Gay Parents May Be the Best Parents

Funny Children Safety Sign

“…[I]n some ways, gay parents may bring talents to the table that straight parents don’t.

Gay parents “tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents,” said Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts who researches gay and lesbian parenting. Gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50 percent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals, Goldberg said. “That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.”

And while research indicates that kids of gay parents show few differences in achievement, mental health, social functioning and other measures, these kids may have the advantage of open-mindedness, tolerance and role models for equitable relationships, according to some research. Not only that, but gays and lesbians are likely to provide homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system, studies show. (Of course, this isn’t to say that heterosexual parents can’t bring these same qualities to the parenting table.)…” (LiveScience, via @stevesilberman)

F.A.A. May Loosen Curbs on Fliers’ Use of Electronics

“According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones.One member of the group and an official of the F.A.A., both of whom asked for anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about internal discussions, said the agency was under tremendous pressure to let people use reading devices on planes, or to provide solid scientific evidence why they cannot.” (NYTimes).

Who are the Jesuits, exactly?


The Economist explains:  “The election of Pope Francis on March 13th was surprising for several reasons. He is the first pope from South America, making him the first non-European since the 8th century. He is also the only pope to take the name Francis—evoking the humility of St Francis of Assisi, a 12th century Italian monk. Most surprising of all, he is the only member of the Society of Jesus, a religious order dating from the 16th century, to become a pope. But just who are the Jesuits, exactly?” (The Economist).

The Brains of the Animal Kingdom

english:Common Chimpanzee hebrew:שימפנזה מצוי ...

“New research shows that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Primatologist Frans de Waal on memory-champ chimps, tool-using elephants and rats capable of empathy.” (

The Cicadas Are Coming!

Crowdsourcing An Underground Movement : “Back in 1996, a group of baby cicadas burrowed into soils in the eastern U.S. to lead a quiet life of constant darkness and a diet of roots. Now at the ripe age of 17, those little cicadas are all grown up and it’s time to molt, procreate and die while annoying a few million humans with their constant chirping in the process.

We know that when 8 inches below the surfaces reaches 64 degrees F those little buggers will be everywhere, but we don’t know when that’ll be. That’s why WNYC is asking “armchair scientists, lovers of nature and DIY makers” for your help to predict the emergence of cicadas.

Here’s what to do: Go to WYNC‘s website and follow the directions to create your own temperature sensor. When things start to warm up, report your temperature findings to the station. As the results come in, WNYC will map out the findings and share them online.” (All Tech Considered : NPR).

Richard Nixon’s treason

According to recently declassified tapes of President Johnson’s phone conversations, Richard Nixon sabotaged the Vietnam peace talks for fear it would scuttle his reelection. Johnson did nothing about it. (BBC News).

Mosh Pit Math: Physicists Analyze Rowdy Crowd

A mosh pit, uploaded from flickr

“Physics and heavy metal don’t seem to have a lot in common, but Matt Bierbaum and Jesse Silverberg have found a connection. Both are graduate students at Cornell University. They’re also metal heads who enjoy going to concerts and hurling themselves into mosh pits full of like-minded fans.” (NPR [thanks, Rich!])  Article comes with built-in mosh pit simulator.

Wish George W. Bush a Happy Iraq War Day: Here is His Private Email Address

George W. Bush

“As we mentioned earlier, a hacker calling himself or herself Guccifer has penetrated the electronic worlds of George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and a number of other political figures. Screengrabs of various email conversations that Bush, Clinton, and others have participated in have been floating around the internet. And it has come to our attention on this, the day of the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq on the orders of George W. Bush, that one of those screengrabs credibly displays Bush’s private email address. It is: Please let him know that you’re thinking of him today.” (Gawker)

Scientists briefly revive extinct frog from dead cells

Gastric-brooding frog

“The Rheobatrachus silus frog has been extinct since 1983. This unusual Australian creature was known for swallowing its eggs and then releasing the young from its mouth. That’s way too awesome to just let the animal be resigned to the biological history books.

Australian researchers have spent five years conducting experiments using somatic-cell nuclear transfer, a technique for creating a cloned embryo. Appropriately enough, it’s called the Lazarus Project. The scientists took donor eggs from a related frog and replaced the nuclei with dead nuclei from the extinct frog. Some of the eggs then began to grow.” (CNET).

Bat-Eating Spiders: The Most Terrifying Thing You’ll See Today

English: Australian garden orb weaver spider (...

“The incidence of spiders eating bats could be more widespread than initially suspected, reports a study published March 13 in PLoS ONE. To reach this conclusion, the authors spoke with scientists, conducted an extensive scientific literature review, dug through the blogosphere, and looked for pictures of spiders eating bats on Flickr.

The search turned up 52 reports of bat-eating spiders, less than half of which had been published before.

The authors report that bat-munching spiders live on every continent except Antarctica. Most catch bats in webs, like the giant golden silk orb-weavers (Nephilidae). As adults, these spiders’ leg spans can be 10-15 centimeters across, and they weave webs more than a meter in diameter. Bats have also been observed in the webs of social spiders, such as Parawixia. But a minority of spiders, like huntsman and tarantulas, forage for prey without a web, and have been spotted munching on bats on forest floors.” (Wired Science)

Art of neurological conditions: seeing things differently

‘Most of us can gather, process and synthesise stimuli from the world around us. Walk into a gallery, admire a painting, and we’re able to observe and respond to it, then share our reactions with others in a way they understand.

But that simply isn’t true for a minority of people who suffer from neurological conditions. Be it dementia, synaesthesia or something incredibly rare like agnosia – where the brain can’t tie physical stimuli to concepts – some people experience the world in ways that most of us can’t begin to appreciate.

With that lack of understanding, sadly, comes a natural, but nonetheless damaging, stigma. “There’s a coarse level of understanding of neuropsychology outside of academia, which means people are sometimes scared of neurological conditions,” points out Glyn Humphreys of the University of Oxford, who’s been involved with the organisation of Affecting Perception, an exhibition of work by artists who suffer from a variety of neurological conditions.’ (New Scientist CultureLab)

Who Domesticated Whom?

“Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.

Friendliness caused strange things to happen in the wolves. They started to look different. Domestication gave them splotchy coats, floppy ears, wagging tails. In only several generations, these friendly wolves would have become very distinctive from their more aggressive relatives. But the changes did not just affect their looks. Changes also happened to their psychology. These protodogs evolved the ability to read human gestures.” (National Geographic).

First mind-reading implant gives rats telepathic power

‘The world’s first brain-to-brain connection has given rats the power to communicate by thought alone.

“Many people thought it could never happen,” says Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Although monkeys have been able to control robots with their mind using brain-to-machine interfaces, work by Nicolelis’s team has, for the first time, demonstrated a direct interface between two brains – with the rats able to share both motor and sensory information.’ (New Scientist).