Tag: WTF

Doubts Raised on Book’s Tale of Atom Bomb

A new book claims that the Hiroshima bomb was ‘a dud’, its destructive power cut in half by an accident that occurred while arming it. But it appears the author was duped by relying on an ‘eyewitness’ who wasn’t even there. (New York Times ).

Feeling animals’ pain

PETALUMA, CA - JUNE 26:  Dawn Goehring (R) of ...

‘Jonathan Balcombe believes that we have allowed intelligence to become the measure with which we determine how well to treat animals when what we should be using is how they feel.’ (New Scientist)

Saluting Cops with One Finger

Legal, Not Advised: ‘…[An] Oregon man is suing suburban Portland cops (.pdf) over his use of the gesture, claiming civil rights violations. Twice he flipped them off for no apparent reason while driving and was pulled over each time — resulting in what he said was a “bogus” traffic citation that was later dismissed, and a tongue lashing he still remembers.

“The guy flew into a road rage,” Robert Ekas, a retired Silicon Valley systems analyst, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Lawrence Wolf, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, said there was no law against flipping off cops. And in most instances when it leads to an arrest or conviction, the charges are dismissed. But the gesture invites police confrontation, he said.

“It’s certainly not the smartest thing one can do,” Wolf said.

American University legal scholar Ira Robbins has written a definitive paper on flipping the bird: “Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law.” (.pdf)…’ (Wired)

24 Shakes

Title page of Shake-Speares Sonnets''

Wellesley College Tries to Read Complete Works of Shakespeare in 24-Hour Marathon. “On Friday, March 5, at 3 pm the students will launch “24 Shakes,” an all day and night literary adventure, as they read aloud all of Shakespeare’s works:14,000 lines, 154 sonnets and 39 plays. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Shakespeare House, the small Tudor cottage by the Davis Museum and Cultural Center on Wellesley’s campus.”

Huge Garbage Patch Found in Atlantic Too

The Atlantic Ocean.

‘Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the Texas-size trash vortex in the Pacific, scientists say.

“Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic.”

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia…’ (National Geographic)

The Chile Earthquake Deformed The Earth And Shortened Our Days

“Megathrust quakes like Chile’s are so huge, and cause such a giant release of energy, that they change the shape of the Earth. In the case of Chile’s subduction quake, the planet became slightly denser and more compact. Mass was pulled closer to the Earth’s center as one plate was thrust under the other. And that affected the Earth’s spin. It made the planet spin slightly faster, to be precise, and shortened the length of the Earth day” (io9)

Carl And Ann’s Ultimate Mix Tape Of The Human Experience

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‘…[H]ow do you decide what to put on the ultimate mix tape of the human experience? What do you do if you have one shot at describing humanity to an unknown life form? That was the charge of Carl Sagan — astronomer, astrophysicist and famed popularizer of science. Of course, Sagan had a lot of help, including the creative director of the project, Ann Druyan.

“It was a chance to tell something of what life on Earth was like to beings of perhaps 1,000 million years from now,” Druyan says. “If that didn't raise goose bumps, then you'd have to be made out of wood.”

For Druyan, though, the summer of 1977 and the Voyager project carry a deeply personal meaning, too. It was during the Voyager project that she and Sagan fell in love.’ (Radiolab: NPR).

The Philosophy of Punk Rock Mathematics

Euclid, Greek mathematician, 3rd century BC, a...

“It is this:

1) People use the average Joe’s poor mathematics as a way to control, exploit, and numerically fuck him over.

2) Mathematics is the subject in which, regardless of what the authorities tell you is true, you can verify every last iota of truth, with a minimum of equipment.

Therefore, if you are concerned with the empowerment of everyday people, and you believe that it’s probably a good idea to be skeptical of authority you could do worse than to develop your skills at being able to talk math in such a way that anyone can ask questions, can express curiosity, can imagine applying it in the most weird-ass off-the-wall ways possible.

This does not entirely mesh well with the actual practice of learning mathematics, because that is mostly time spent alone or in small groups being very very confused almost all the time, but it’s still the bullseye I keep in mind.” — Tom Henderson (Technoccult).

The Surreal World of Chatroulette

Una webcam

Image via Wikipedia

“Nothing can really prepare you for the latest online phenomenon, Chatroulette. The social Web site, created just three months ago by a 17-year-old Russian named Andrey Ternovskiy, drops you into an unnerving world where you are connected through webcams to a random, fathomless succession of strangers from across the globe. You see them, they see you. You talk to them, they talk to you. Or not. The site, which is gaining thousands of users a day and lately some news coverage, has a faddish feel, but those who study online vagaries see a glimpse into a surreal future, a turn in the direction of the Internet.” (New York Times )

80 Extreme Advertisements

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Of course, an industry that survives only if it captures your attention almost instantaneously will have its extremes. These are ads that conceptually or visually shock. Since the ad industry are today’s de facto experts in the collective unconscious, this can be read as a catalogue of many or most* of the dominant categories of revulsion and offensiveness to which we respond. (*To my knowledge, no one has used goatse imagery in advertising…) (Onextrapixel).

Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead

“The Grateful Dead Archive, scheduled to open soon at the University of California at Santa Cruz, will be a mecca for academics of all stripes: from ethno­musicologists to philosophers, sociologists to historians. But the biggest beneficiaries may prove to be business scholars and management theorists, who are discovering that the Dead were visionary geniuses in the way they created “customer value,” promoted social networking, and did strategic business planning.” (The Atlantic, March 2010).

In case you thought V-Day was just about hearts and flowers

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 12: Playwright Eve Ensler ...

V-Day is a global movement [founded by writer and performance artist Eve Ensler] to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation FGM and sexual slavery.Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, and screenings of V-Day’s documentary Until The Violence Stops, to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. 2009 V-Day events had the option to introduce a new V-Day theatrical event, Any One Of Us: Words From Prison, which reveals the connection between women in prison and the violence that often brings them there. This new event brings forth raw voices of fierceness and honesty written by women from prisons across the nation and performed by local women. In 2009, over 4200 V-Day benefit events took place produced by volunteer activists in the U.S. and around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

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Feckless Hypocrisy Dept.

United States President Barack Obama signs int...

Are GOPers Deliberately Lying About the Stimulus? “At the White House this week, the main narrative in the press room was this: Has President Barack Obama lost the message war over the $862 billion stimulus? Noting the one-year anniversary of the enactment of that legislation, reporters again and again asked press secretary Robert Gibbs some version of this question. What could the guy say? Especially when the answer is yes. He’s not going to concede the White House got its clock cleaned by the feckless congressional Republicans on this front — even though public opinion polls apparently show that there’s only person in the entire United States of America who believes the Recovery Act has created jobs. So Gibbs repeatedly said that it’s understandable that at a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment most Americans are skeptical that Obama’s stimulus package did much good — no matter that economists widely credit it for spurring part of the recent economic growth and that it’s darn obvious that the package did fund private sector projects that spawned jobs and that it prevented teachers, firefighters, cops, and others from being canned.

Still, Gibbs couldn’t escape the journos who were fixated on this political story and who wanted to squeeze an admission of defeat out of the White House. There’s nothing wrong with a who’s-up/who’s down story. After all, a White House is responsible for implementing and promoting its policies. But there was a bigger story at hand: not who won the battle of the stimulus, but who was right?” (Politics Daily)

People treat one another better in nice-smelling rooms

Visions. Mason's Wife.  Surrealism . Nellie Vin

New Research: “The mere scent of a clean-smelling room can take people down a virtuous road, compelling them to choose generosity over greed and charity over apathy. Meanwhile, the darkness of a dimmed room or a pair of sunglasses can compel people towards selfishness and cheating.” (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Democrats and Republicans Can Be Differentiated by Their Faces

WASHINGTON - APRIL 28:  U.S. Sen. Arlen Specte...

Abstract: “Here we found that individuals’ political affiliations could be accurately discerned from their faces. In Study 1, perceivers were able to accurately distinguish whether U.S. Senate candidates were either Democrats or Republicans based on photos of their faces. Study 2 showed that these effects extended to Democrat and Republican college students, based on their senior yearbook photos. Study 3 then showed that these judgments were related to differences in perceived traits among the Democrat and Republican faces. Republicans were perceived as more powerful than Democrats. Moreover, as individual targets were perceived to be more powerful, they were more likely to be perceived as Republicans by others. Similarly, as individual targets were perceived to be warmer, they were more likely to be perceived as Democrats.” (PLoS ONE).

R.I.P. Fred Morrison

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Creator of Frisbee Dies at 90: “Walter Fredrick Morrison, who at 17 sent the lid of a popcorn tin skimming through the air of a California backyard and as an adult remade the lid in plastic, in the process inventing the simple, elegant flying disc known today as the Frisbee, died Tuesday at his home in Monroe, Utah. He was 90.” (New York Times obituary)

Phil Agre found

In November, I wrote about his disappearance. As someone who was a participant in and subscriber to his ‘Red Rock Eaters’ mailing list for the duration, I wanted to repost the missing person’s alert about him to spread the word. He was certainly someone who would know how to drop off the grid if he wished to, but I worried, as did many, that something more dire had happened to him.Now the UCLA police dept. posts this update (pdf).

Why the Haiti quake killed so many

Tectonic plate boundaries, showing the plate m...

‘In 1988, the Spitak magnitude-6.9 earthquake in Armenia took more than 25,000 lives. By contrast the magnitude-7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake in California in 1989 caused only 63 deaths. “The difference in the numbers of fatalities illustrates the huge effect that high building standards can have in saving people’s lives,” says DeMets.

The multi-storey concrete buildings that made up much of Port-au-Prince proved to be death traps when the earthquake struck. “The buildings were brittle and had no flexibility, breaking catastrophically when the earthquake struck,” says Ian Main, a seismologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

And the disaster was compounded by the earthquake’s shallow source. “With deep earthquakes the primary waves arrive first, giving you a bit of warning before the shear waves [responsible for shaking the ground from side to side] arrive,” says Uri ten Brink, an expert on earthquakes in the Caribbean from the US Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In Haiti the epicentre was so close to the surface that the primary and shear waves arrived almost at the same time.’ (New Scientist)

‘Don’t give money to Haiti’

Map of Haiti with Port-au-Prince shown

This is not your Pat Robertson rant about Haiti deserving to go under because of its pact with the Devil. What do you think of this argument?

‘…For one thing, right now there’s very little that can be done with the money. There are myriad bottlenecks and obstacles involved in getting help to the Haitians who need it, but lack of funds is not one of them. For the next few weeks, help will come largely from governments, who are also spending hundreds of millions of dollars and mobilizing thousands of soldiers to the cause. But with the UN alone seeking to raise $550 million, it’s going to be easy to say that all the money donated to date isn’t remotely enough.

The problem is that Haiti, if it wasn’t a failed state before the earthquake, is almost certainly a failed state now — and one of the lessons we’ve learned from trying to rebuild failed states elsewhere in the world is that throwing money at the issue is very likely to backfire.

What’s more, charities raising money for Haiti right now are going to have to earmark that money to be spent in Haiti and in Haiti only….

…It’s human nature to want to believe that in the wake of a major disaster, we can all do our bit to help just by giving generously. And if there’s a silver lining to these tragedies at all, it’s that they significantly increase the total amount of money donated to important charities by individuals around the world. But if a charity is worth supporting, then it’s worth supporting with unrestricted funds. Because the last thing anybody wants to see in a couple of years’ time is an unseemly tussle over what happened to today’s Haiti donations, even as other international tragedies receive much less public attention…’ — Felix Salmon (Reuters opinion)

The vast left-brain conspiracy

A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London

‘I use the term “neuro-enthusiasta” for those given to excessive excitement over what brain science teaches. I have been warning, often in these pages, of its mostly amusing excesses and its tendency to produce newspaper headlines exclaiming that the brain “lights up” when people think and feel various things.

Still, I did not foresee “neuro-” becoming a universal prefix. We have neuro-economics, neuro-theology, neuro-aesthetics and now, if Iain McGilchrist is to be believed, neuro-history.’ — Owen Flanagan (New Scientist)

One-Liners Of The Decade

The short quips, phrases and exclamations that defined the '00s.

How many can you identify?:

  • “Wassup?”
  • “The Tribe has spoken.”
  • “The American people have now spoken. But it’s going to take a little while to determine exactly what
  • they said.”
  • “Holy Fucking Shit.”
  • “There are known knowns… we also know that there are known unknowns… There are also unknown unknowns.”
  • “Shock and awe.”
  • “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”
  • “Wardrobe malfunction.”
  • “He’s just not that into you.”
  • “Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you’ve got a market bigger than the hits.”
  • “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
  • “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
  • “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
  • “What are you doing?”
  • “F—-ing Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”
  • “An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator: These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.”
  • “Leave Britney alone!”
  • “Yes, we can.”
  • “I drink your milkshake.”
  • “The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”
  • “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • “You lie!”
  • “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, I’m sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”

For the attributions, go here. (Buzzfeed via walker)

[Are you as glad as I am that that decade’s done?]

The Strange Consensus on Obama’s Nobel Speech

Barack Obama, President of the United States.

“Obama puts a pretty, intellectual, liberal face on some ugly and decidedly illiberal polices. Just as George Bush’s Christian-based moralizing let conservatives feel good about America regardless of what it does, Obama’s complex and elegiac rhetoric lets many liberals do the same. To red state Republicans, war and its accompanying instruments (secrecy, executive power, indefinite detention) felt so good and right when justified by swaggering, unapologetic toughness and divinely-mandated purpose; to blue state Democrats, all of that feels just as good when justified by academic meditations on “just war” doctrine and when accompanied by poetic expressions of sorrow and reluctance. When you combine the two rhetorical approaches, what you get is what you saw yesterday: a bipartisan embrace of the same policies and ideologies among people with supposedly irreconcilable views of the world.” — Glenn Greenwald (Salon)

Living Off Found Money

“For the past 10 years, Jesus Leonardo has been cleaning up at an OTB parlor in Midtown Manhattan, cashing in, by his own count, nearly half a million dollars’ worth of winning tickets from wagers on thoroughbred races across the country.

During his glorious run, Mr. Leonardo, 57, has not placed a single bet.

“It is literally found money,” he said on a recent night from his private winner’s circle. He spends more than 10 hours a day there, feeding thousands of discarded betting slips through a ticket scanner in a never-ending search for someone else’s lost treasure.

“This has become my job, my life,” he said. “This is how I feed my family.”

Leonardo, who favors track suits and wears his graying hair and bushy beard in long ponytails, is what’s known in horse racing parlance as a stooper — a person who hangs around racetracks and betting parlors picking up tickets thrown away by others. Most tickets are losers, but enough are winners to make it worth his while.” (New York Times [thanks, abby])

Ever Dream This Man?

Every night throughout the world hundreds of people dream about this face.

In January 2006 in New York, the patient of a well-known psychiatrist draws the face of a man that has been repeatedly appearing in her dreams. In more than one occasion that man has given her advice on her private life. The woman swears she has never met the man in her life.

That portrait lies forgotten on the psychiatrist’s desk for a few days until one day another patient recognizes that face and says that the man has often visited him in his dreams. He also claims he has never seen that man in his waking life.

The psychiatrist decides to send the portrait to some of his colleagues that have patients with recurrent dreams. Within a few months, four patients recognize the man as a frequent presence in their own dreams. All the patients refer to him as THIS MAN.

From January 2006 until today, at least 2000 people have claimed they have seen this man in their dreams, in many cities all over the world: Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Tehran, Beijing, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, New Dehli, Moskow etc.

At the moment there is no ascertained relation or common trait among the people that have dreamed of seeing this man. Moreover, no living man has ever been recognized as resembling the man of the portrait by the people who have seen this man in their dreams.” [Read more (http://www.thisman.org)]

Do the Math

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Photo by my friend Abby (thanks!) from Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth NY.

‘Stoned wallabies make crop circles’

‘Australian wallabies are eating opium poppies and creating crop circles as they hop around “as high as a kite”, a government official has said.

…Rick Rockliff, a spokesman for poppy producer Tasmanian Alkaloids, said the wallaby incursions were not very common, but other animals had also been spotted in the poppy fields acting unusually.

“There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles,” he added.’ (BBC )

Zombie Neurobiology

A participant in a zombie flash mob event in C...

“Dr. Steven C. Schlozman is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a lecturer at the Harvard School of Education. He is also an avid sci-fi and horror fan – and, apparently, the world’s leading authority on the neurobiology of the living dead. He has even drafted a fake medical journal article on the zombie plague, which he calls Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome, or ANSD (the article has five authors: one living, three “deceased” and one “humanoid infected”).

Schlozman’s foray into necro-diagnostics began when he volunteered to give a talk for the “Science on Screen” lecture series at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. He conducted extensive research by talking with George Romero and immersing himself in genre literature and memorabilia – which is why the alternate title for his lecture is “A Way Cool Tax Deduction for a Bunch of Cool Books, Action Figures and a Movie.”

Soccer Mom Zombie

So yes, Schlozman’s lecture is actually quite funny, and liberally sprinkled with other pop culture references including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. But the underlying science is serious. His lecture is a tour of the human brain, using the living dead as a narrative theme.

According to Dr. Steven C. Schlozman, this is your brain on zombies…” (io9 )

Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer

Cattle grazing near Campti

Grazing and resting cattle and deer orient themselves toward magnetic north, according to analysis of satellite images. This has apparently never been noticed by herdsmen or hunters, the researchers say. via PNAS.

Now, as to why in the world this might be…

Flammable Water

So much natural gas leaks into a Colorado couple’s water that they can light it on fire. Via WCBS-TV.

The Scientifically Engineered Worst Song in the World

“We just listened to the track in full, and it’s not bad per se – that is, provided you dig batshit, emotionally jarring music, where children sing about Easter shopping at Walmart. It also features plenty of oompah horns and bagpipes, so at least it’s multiculturally offensive. (That’s not even mentioning the Dracula organ dirges, either.)” via Houston Press.

India: Cow Urine Soft Drink, Gau Jal, To Be Launched As Coke Alternative

A cow [15/365]

“India’s Hindu nationalist movement is working on creating a new soft drink to rival Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The main ingredient? Cow urine.

The Times Online explains the development of the beverage by the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS):

Om Prakash, the head of the department, said the drink – called “gau jal”, or “cow water” – in Sanskrit was undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched “very soon, maybe by the end of this year”.

“Don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too,” he told The Times from his headquarters in Hardwar, one of four holy cities on the River Ganges…” via Huffington Post.