Visual Taxonomy of Terror

‘Written by the U.S. Army Training And Doctrine Command in 2009, this 60-odd page document PDF was designed to function, in the words of its creators, as “a hip pocket” reference book for soldiers in the field. Categorized by geography, it groups the logos and insignia of “insurgents, terrorists, paramilitary, and other militant groups worldwide.” That includes everything from photos of Russian mafia tattoos to Hezbollah logos, as well as a thorough auxiliary list of branding from the “media wings” of each group.’ (Gizmodo).

The One True Cause of all disease

All 52 of them: ‘A few years ago, Harriet Hall googled “The One True Cause of all disease”, just to see what the Internet would come up with. She counted 67 One True Causes before she got bored (52 of them made it into the handy chart above).

Besides making for an amusing anecdote, this little exercise also helps illustrate why there’s a problem with ideologically driven medical treatments — the sort that comes from people who are pushing a lifestyle or a philosophy along with ostensible healthcare. It’s both intriguing and convenient to think that, if we just open the right secret door, we can find the thing that’s actually causing all our problems. The truth, unfortunately, seems to be that our bodies and the world they inhabit are complicated and messy and that lots of of things can lead to disease (doctors typically learn to divide these things into nine different categories, Hall says). In fact, a disease we think of as a single entity can have its roots in more than one thing. All of this is pretty obvious but it’s the kind of obvious that’s worth rubbing our noses in on occasion. If somebody tells you that everything from obesity to bipolar disorder to allergies to cancer all stem from the same root and can be treated or prevented with the exact same treatment, there’s probably good reason to question what they’re telling you.’ (Boing Boing).

Ban the sale of ivory in the United States

‘The United States is one of the largest markets in the world for ivory sales – and it’s killing elephants. There’s a complex and confusing set of laws that criminal networks can easily manipulate to sell ivory from the African elephants who are being slaughtered in droves right now.

Tell the Obama Administration: Lead the global charge to ensure a future for elephants. Ban the sale of ivory in the United States.’ (Wildlife Conservation Society).

Skydiving into a Rocket Launch

‘On June 7, 2007, a Delta II rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Knowing full well this event was taking place, Air Force Staff Sergeant Eric Thompson, an instructor with the 532nd Training Squadron, figured he knew a place that might provide a better view than usual.’ (Bad Astronomy).

How Existing Drugs Could Fight Resistant Bugs

‘By applying what the authors dub “collateral sensitivity cycling,” doctors could kill resistant bacteria by switching to an antibiotic they have become more vulnerable to because of their resistance to the first drug, Sommer explains. The idea of cycling antibiotics dates back to the 1950s, he says, but fell out of favor after the boom in drug development.’ (Wired Science).

These Are Some of the Most Otherworldly Creatures You’ll Find on Earth

Bobtail squid from East Timor.
Bobtail squid from East Timor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘It’s said that we know more about the surface of the moon than our own oceans, and the same may be true of the lifeforms that inhabit them. Cold seawater and unfathomable pressures create alien landscapes populated by creatures as strange as they are beautiful. They swim through a star-studded sea where, instead of supernovae exploding, the ominous glow of anglerfish lures blink on and off, portending death for a wayward fish; and instead of glimmering stars splashed across the sky, bioluminescent plankton turn the sea a brilliant, twinkling blue.’ (Wired Science).

Say It Aint So!


The Movement to Kill the Apostrophe: ‘Today is the 10th annual National Punctuation Day, a high holiday on nerd calendars across these great United States. Its stated purpose is to be a celebration of underappreciated, misused marks like the semicolon and “the ever mysterious ellipsis.” But a better-known piece of punctuation has been getting some apocalyptic press and deserves attention on this day of celebration: the apostrophe.’ (

With Just 107 Words, Bernie Sanders Obliterates Ted Cruz’s 21 Hour Fake Filibuster

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

“I think what everybody needs to know is that on their 43rd try Republicans will not be successful in defunding Obamacare, and most importantly, we are just beginning, just beginning to catch up to the rest of the industrialized world that guarantees healthcare to all people as a right. Cruz is quite right that once people begin to see that healthcare is a right for human beings. You know what? They like it, and they want more of it. And they do not want to endanger their children, their families. and themselves when an illness comes. Healthcare is a right, and we’re beginning to make some progress.” (Politicus USA).

Looking for Bigfoot?

“Reported sightings of Bigfoot the legendary apelike creature that’s been a favorite of cryptozoologists for decades have abounded for decades. Now, for the first time, someone has created a map showing the places where alleged Bigfoot sightings have occurred.”

Fox News

Mama Mia, Mama Mia!


A Canadian Bohemian Rhapsodizes About String Theory :  This is brilliant! 23 y/o musician and budding physicist Tim Blais explains string theory and the quantum theory of everything, a cappella. Robert Krulwich opines:

‘Let me confess right off that I didnt understand anything Tim Blais sings in this video, except that its hard — very hard — erase-the-blackboard-constantly-in-frustration hard — to find a mathematical theory that explains everything in the universe. Thats OK. Im not a physicist, so this isnt my problem. But when Tim produces an Albert Einstein sock puppet having a high-tenor tantrum, I found myself doing a little happy dance.With no apologies to Queen, this is Tims “A Capella Science” take on String Theory set to Bohemian Rhapsody. He calls it “Bohemian Gravity.” Hes 23. He wrote this. He sang this. He designed this. Hes amazing.’

(Krulwich Wonders… : NPR).

CDC Threat Report: ‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era’

‘The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just published a first-of-its-kind assessment of the threat the country faces from antibiotic-resistant organisms, ranking them by the number of illnesses and deaths they cause each year and outlining urgent steps that need to be taken to roll back the trend.The agency’s overall — and, it stressed, conservative — assessment of the problem:Each year, in the U.S., 2,049,442 illnesses caused by bacteria and fungi that are resistant to at least some classes of antibiotics;Each year, out of those illnesses, 23,000 deaths;Because of those illnesses and deaths, $20 billion each year in additional healthcare spending;And beyond the direct healthcare costs, an additional $35 billion lost to society in foregone productivity.“If we are not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, said in a media briefing. “And for some patients and for some microbes, we are already there.” ‘ (Wired Science).

Northampton clown strikes again with another spooky visitation

‘The sinister clown that has been appearing on Northamptons streets made another visitation last night.He was pictured in his trademark white make-up and red wig on St Michaels Road waving forlornly with a clown teddy hanging from his other hand.The appearance came after a posting on the Facebook page Spot Northamptons Clown promised the clown would be in town.He said: “To prove im real to all the lovers and doubters, ill see you in town today. Keep those eyes peeled.” ‘ (Northampton News via Boing Boing).

Tom Vanderbilt: the counterintuitive science of traffic

Cover of "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way W...
Cover via Amazon

‘If I had a chauffeur, I’d want it to be Tom Vanderbilt. I have no idea if Tom is a good driver, but he has a wealth of compelling, curious, and provocative knowledge about the psychology and science of our lives behind the wheel. He’s the author of the bestselling book Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) that has enlightened everyone from transportation policy groups to road safety consortiums to those of us who just insist that no matter what lane we’re in, the other one is moving faster. Tom gave a fantastic talk at Boing Boing: Ingenuity, our theatrical experience last month in San Francisco, where he imparted wisdom on late merging, the demographics of honking, and highway hypnosis.’ (Boing Boing).

No More Night?

 The Meaning of the Loss of Darkness: ‘For Earth’s first 4 billion years of existence, light and dark followed a predictable 24-hour cycle. Across an ever-increasing amount of Earth’s surface, that’s no longer the case. With the advent of artificial lighting came the ability to transform night — inside buildings, under streetlights and neon signs, and in those vast areas where night’s simply not so dark as it used to be.

For journalist Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, one such place his family’s lakeside camp in rural Minnesota. Thirty years ago the nights were pitch-black, the starscapes incandescent. Now there’s a glow at the edge of the horizon, a growing dullness to the stars.“That firsthand experience of a child, standing out on a dock and staring at the Milky Way, stays with you,” said Bogard. “That’s one of the biggest things we’re losing, or have lost, for our kids. More and more people have no idea what it’s like.

”It’s not only lost starscapes that he laments, but darkness itself. WIRED talked to Bogard about what this could mean for humanity’s existential and even physical health.’ (Wired Science).

Voyager 1 Has Left the Solar System

‘NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.

New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our sun are still evident. A report on the analysis of this new data, an effort led by Don Gurnett and the plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, is published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.’ (NASA Science).

Strength of gravity shifts – and this time it’s serious

‘Did gravity, the force that pins us to Earths surface and holds stars together, just shift? Maybe, just maybe. The latest measurement of G, the so-called constant that puts a figure on the gravitational attraction between two objects, has come up higher than the current official value.

Measurements of G are notoriously unreliable, so the constant is in permanent flux and the official value is an average. However, the recent deviation is particularly puzzling, as it is at once starkly different to the official value and yet very similar to a measurement made back in 2001, not what you would expect if the discrepancy was due to random experimental errors.

It’s possible that both experiments suffer from a hidden, persistent error, but the result is also prompting serious consideration of a weirder possibility: that G itself can change. That’s a pretty radical option, but if correct, it would take us a step closer to tackling one very big mystery – dark energy, the unknown entity accelerating the expansion of the universe.’ (New Scientist).

Silicon Valley’s Worst Buzzword

“It’s the most pernicious cliché of our time: Sometimes buzzwords become so pervasive they’re almost inaudible, which is when we need to start listening to them. Disruptive is like that. It floats in the ether at ideas festivals and TED talks; it vanishes into the jargon cluttering the pages of Forbes and Harvard Business Review. There’s a quarterly called Disruptive Science and Technology; a Disruptive Health Technology Institute opened this summer. Disruptive doesn’t mean what it used to, of course. It’s no longer the adjective you hope not to hear in parent-teacher conferences. It’s what you want investors to say about your new social-media app. If it’s disruptive, it’s also innovative and transformational.” (New Republic)

Ocean’s Most Disturbing Predator

‘This is Eunice aphroditois, also known as the bobbit worm, a mix between the Mongolian death worm, the Graboids from Tremors, the Bugs from Starship Troopers, and a rainbow — but it’s a really dangerous rainbow, like in Mario Kart. And it hunts in pretty much the most nightmarish way imaginable, digging itself into the sea floor, exposing a few inches of its body — which can grow to 10 feet long — and waiting.

Using five antennae, the bobbit worm senses passing prey, snapping down on them with supremely muscled mouth parts, called a pharynx. It does this with such speed and strength that it can split a fish in two. And that, quite frankly, would be a merciful exit. If you survive initially, you get to find out what it’s like to be yanked into the worm’s burrow and into untold nightmares.’ (Wired Science).

Earth now has one of solar system’s biggest volcanoes

‘Scientists have discovered a staggering colossus that once spewed fire but now slumbers deep in the Pacific Ocean,… a volcano with a footprint comparable to Olympus Mons on Mars, the largest volcano in the solar system. Covering an area of 120,000 square miles, which makes it about the size of New Mexico or the British Isles, the formation dubbed Tamu Massif is one of the biggest ever found, according to a study led by University of Houston professor William Sager.

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, is taller than Tamu Massif but has only about 2 percent of its area… Tamu’s summit is roughly 6,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. Most of the formation is thought to be in waters that are nearly 4 miles deep.’  (Crave – CNET).

Death by Higgs rids cosmos of space brain threat

‘The Higgs boson may have the right mass to wreck the universe – hurray! Death by Higgs is the simplest way to do away with a paradoxical menagerie of disembodied intelligent beings that shouldn’t exist, yet remain in the best cosmological models.

What’s more, the end is a comfy 20 or 30 billion years off. “That’s quite a few billion; it’s not like we should rush out and buy life insurance,” says Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who put forward the idea along with Kimberly Boddy, also at Caltech.

The paradox arose a decade or so ago, when physicists realised their models led to a future filled with Boltzmann brains: fully formed conscious entities that pop out of the vacuum. It sounds bizarre, but there’s nothing to stop matter sometimes randomly arranging itself in just the right way for this to occur. The problem arises when you add in the universe’s accelerating expansion.

This provides limitless time, space and energy for Boltzmann brains to form, even after life as we know it has winked out, causing them to eventually outnumber ordinary consciousnesses. But that would make the brains’ experience of the universe more typical than ours, which is a problem as our understanding of the cosmos assumes that we are typical observers…’ (New Scientist).

Happy Fiftieth Birthday to the Lava Lamp

‘In the mid 1960s, they made their first TV appearance on the set of Doctor Who. Another sci-fi series, The Prisoner, followed and in 1980 Hollywood called – the Craven Walkers were asked to deliver bespoke models to the set of Superman III.

“When did we realise things were going really well? The day a store in Birkenhead phoned to say that Ringo Starr had just been in and bought a lava lamp,” said Ms Baehr.

“Suddenly we thought, ‘Wow, we have hit it.'” ‘ (BBC News).

The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary

English: Trúður

‘There’s a word— albeit one not recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary or any psychology manual— for the excessive fear of clowns: Coulrophobia.Not a lot of people actually suffer from a debilitating phobia of clowns; a lot more people, however, just don’t like them.

Do a Google search for “I hate clowns” and the first hit is, a forum for clown-haters that also offers vanity emails. One “I Hate Clowns” Facebook page has just under 480,000 likes. Some circuses have held workshops to help visitors get over their fear of clowns by letting them watch performers transform into their clown persona. In Sarasota, Florida, in 2006, communal loathing for clowns took a criminal turn when dozens of fiberglass clown statues—part of a public art exhibition called “Clowning Around Town” and a nod to the city’s history as a winter haven for traveling circuses—were defaced, their limbs broken, heads lopped off, spray-painted; two were abducted and we can only guess at their sad fates.

Even the people who are supposed to like clowns—children—supposedly don’t. In 2008, a widely reported University of Sheffield, England, survey of 250 children between the ages of four and 16 found that most of the children disliked and even feared images of clowns. The BBC’s report on the study featured a child psychologist who broadly declared, “Very few children like clowns. They are unfamiliar and come from a different era. They dont look funny, they just look odd…” ‘ (Smithsonian Magazine).