05 February 2012

Super Bowl-of-links XXXXXI

After calling my first 50 linkdumps "smörgåsbords," I wanted to come up with a new name, but I haven't been able to do so yet.  For this week a wordplay on the "Super Bowl L" post will have to do.  And since this is #51, I'll put in 51 links.  Here we go...

Everything you've ever wanted to know about the retail business of ripening bananas is in a post at Edible Geography.

A list (and explanation) of 50 internet memes.

Six members of Walmart's Walton family have a combined net worth as great as that of the bottom 30 percent of all Americans.

A woman who was opposed to Obama's healthcare plan posts a public apology after she develops breast cancer and has to arrange payment for her treatments.

Craniopagus twins can see through each other's eyes.

Matt Taibbi discusses the UC Davis pepper-spray incident.

If there is a pandemic, Homeland Security is empowered to restrict internet access (also here).

Raw cookie dough is not safe for human consumption (because of E. coli, and about half of those affected require hospitalization).  Thankfully, however, cookie dough in ice cream is safe.

All of the most NSFW (not-safe-for-work) and NSFL (not-safe-for-life) links have been assembled in one post.  Not only do the links go to offensive material, but the description of the content of the links is also NSFW/NSFL.  Do not click unless you know you can handle the worst imaginable internet material emotionally.

Obama appears to have broken his promise to veto a bill that puts Americans at risk for indefinite detention without trial.

An interesting essay about Christopher Hitchens.

You can actually buy Soylent Green crackers.

In Michigan, Homeland Security grant funds were used to buy Sno-Cone machines - thirteen of them, at $900 each.

The history of SKYNET.

A truly remarkable weather photograph.

A woman's body was found in a Massachusetts public swimming pool two days after she had died.  The Mitford sisters would have been amused.

A column at Salon discusses how federal grant funds have been used to militarize American domestic police forces.  And, in a related story, FBI agents use a chainsaw to rip down the side of a house during a drug raid... on the wrong house (more examples at the link).

Thousands of artificial hip implants are failing (not being rejected, but mechanically failing).

A prediction that the Eurozone's single currency will collapse this year.

Stallion semen is being sold as an energy drink.  It costs $7.60, and is available in several flavors.

A gallery of incredible sand sculptures.

Time-lapse video of Moscow.

The International Children's Digital Library is a gateway to online books for children.

A child pulls out her little brother's loose tooth.  Quite a common experience; in the old days it was done by tying the tooth to a doorknob, then slamming the door.  This girl does it by tying a string to the tooth, then getting on her mini-motorcycle, then...

Millionaire Newt Gingrich explains that he's not "rich."

Mitt Romney has lots of "endorsers," at least 35 of whom received contributions from Romney's super-PAC.

A photo of a bizarre and decidedly grotesque body modification.

An Atlantic column reviews music site Pitchfork's listing of the top music singles for 2011, and examines the geography of where the music originated.  Joining New York, London, Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle et al at the top of the charts was the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and controlling for population, Eau Claire takes the top spot, with 1.2 hits per 100,000 population.  Madison, Wisconsin was #3 (Copenhagen in between, San Francisco #4, then New York and other cultural runners-up.)

If you have post-polio syndrome, or know someone who does, Post-Polio Health International has a useful website.

The stages of development from an egg to a chicken (photo set via the link at the top, for those unfamiliar with Reddit).

The dangers of genetically modified foods.

An unidentified woman planned to detonate a bomb in Moscow on New Year's Eve, but her plans went disastrously awry (for her), when a spam message on her mobile phone triggered her suicide belt.

Pix of the "crooked forest" at Gryfino, via a Google-translated page.

Security footage captures a US postal service worker throwing a package containing an old cuckoo clock over a fence.

A report that the theme music from the movie "Titanic" was playing on board the Costa Concordia when it ran aground. [has this been verified?]

In an effort to deter vandalism at remote sites, British authorities are pondering the use of bees as security devices (allowing beekeepers to keep hives at the locations).  Makes sense, though I would worry about the beehives.

I am unable to explain Hollis' paradox.  Anyone?

Roger Ebert offers what he considers to be the best films of 2011.

"Fathermucker" has been proposed as a term to replace "househusband" for a stay-at-home-father.

A judge rules that Americans can be forced to decrypt their laptops for police inspection.

Do not swallow Buckyballs.  The magnetic ones.  Doing so can be lethal if a couple attract each other across the walls of the intestines.

There is now a website entitled Dogs Against Romney, originating from an incident in which he reportedly transported a family dog in a carrier on top of the family car.

Another extreme example of body modification: Mexico's "Vampire Woman."  With video.

A basketball player who is 7'5" tall.  In high school.

A man in Chile has been arrested for stealing a glacier (bit by bit).  It's not a joke, actually.

A TSA agent stole $5,000 in cash from a passenger's jacket; the TSA counters that they hold their personnel to very high standards.

An explanation that using higher-than-recommended-level octane gasoline in your car not only doesn't get you better mileage, it may actually worsen performance.

"Nightline" reports that new performer James Deen has led to a "deeply disturbing trend" of teenage girls watching online porn.

How many stars can you name (other than the sun)?  The link goes to a list of about a hundred of the brightest ones, and they all have names.


  1. Regarding Hollis' paradox, I may be wrong, but it seems to me that an error occurs here: "But once we’ve established that, then it’s equally clear that neither of us can have chosen 2, for the same reason.” This would only be true if 2 were the lowest value available, which was not the case when B makes his pronouncement.

    1. No, I can reason that far. Neither of us can have 1 - obviously. So if I have 2, then I would know I have the lowest number (because we can't have the same number). So I can't have 2 (and neither can he). And that logic would then be applied to 3...

      Apparently that same logic can be extended forever.

    2. I think this is effectively the same as the paradox of the 'surprise exam': http://www.wischik.com/lu/philosophy/surprise-exam.html
      If that's right, then there isn't an accepted answer, though philosophers have been thinking about it for a while.

    3. This is not a paradox. It is simply a fact. It is no more a paradox than the statement, "When I deal one card face down you will unable to tell me what its value is. Further, if I deal four cards, you will still be unable to tell their values even one of them is turned up." The fact is that there is no relationship between the information provided and the information required for the answer. Knowing that the number cannot be a one, or two, or three,.... does not set a parameter for the problem. There is no problem. The man has simply made a correct statement. Due to the facts at hand, it is impossible to guess each other's number. This is not a paradox. It is just a fact.

    4. Yeah, I don't get why it's a paradox either. My question is whether the "logic chain" was taken into consideration by the two people when they chose their numbers, OR applied after-the-fact.

      If it was taken into consideration, then they wouldn't have actually chosen any numbers- they would be thinking ever-increasing numbers for eternity (or until they died at least.)

      In that case, it's not a paradox.

      If it's applied after the fact... then it doesn't alter what numbers were chosen. If person A wasn't making the same logic-chain then they could easily choose 1.

      Maybe I'm not parsing it right, but I don't see the paradox.

    5. The 'Tug of War' paradox link that's on that post seems to explain the paradox. The problem is that you can have rational steps that lead to an abyss. The idea that something is rational is in itself groundless without being rooted in something concrete. Because you are caught in an endless cycle of assumptions about what someone else would do based on rational decision making, the connection to what was supposed to be the concrete thing you were making a decision about is lost.

      I think there's a version of this paradox in the Old Testament somewhere, where someone is trying to reason with God that if you'd condemn somebody for killing a fly, what about two flies, how about a million, or how about all flies... it's not that but something along those lines.

    6. I think I can explain why the word "paradox" is used. The argument is that no one could have chosen the number 1, for obvious reasons. Therefore, by logical extension, no one could have chosen the number 2. Or three, etc. If you extend that logic, then no one could have chosen the number 157 - which was the number the person in the problem chose.

      The paradox, then, would be that "no one could have chosen" the number "that someone did choose."


    7. No it's not that I don't think...actually I think the whole thing is set up not very well, since of course we could never deduce what number the other guy picked even if there wasn't a paradox. We're better off just thinking about the other two paradoxes the article links to, in particular the Tug of War. It's all the same error, which is that rational assumptions lead to an irrational result. It makes my head hurt to think about, but maybe that's good to do some brain calisthenics.

    8. Related to Hollis' Paradox and the Surprise Exam is the unexpected hanging paradox. They all rely on the use of mathematical induction coupled with some other invariant that contradicts it (e.g. "it must be a surprise" or "neither of you can deduce which is larger")

  2. Tack så mycket, for these lists. It takes a lot of time to soak up all of the information, but, it is a lot of fun.

  3. On the subject of higher octane fuels and mileage, most arguments (including the one at Reddit) fail to factor in the switch over to ethanol in the last few years. Ethanol has a lower energy content than straight gas, so switching from today's typical low octane ethanol blend to a straight premium gas can definitely make a difference

    After having to rebuild my motorcycle carburetor to get the rust off the needles valves (caused by the water in ethanol), I stopped using ethanol blends in my cars and their mileage went up more than enough to justify the extra cost even though that wasn't the reason for the switch. I'll continue to use the premium if for no other reason than to prevent rust from clogging up my injectors.

    1. Rust on your carb needles is completely different from there somehow potentially being rust in your car's injectors. A fuel tank has moisture in it all times no matter what kind of fuel you use. The logic laid out in those responses still stands.

      Also, please explain how you know the ethanol caused the rust on your needle valves. Some places in the country you can search out E0, E5, etc... others you just know the gas can legally contain up to a certain percentage. Nothing you can really do about it.

    2. It's rather simple DubyaD. Water is soluble in ethanol and a gas ethanol blend, whereas it is not soluble in straight gas. This lets water molecules reach all parts of your fuel system rather than pooling at the bottom of your tank, filter, or carburetor bowl as the older cars were designed to do. The simple fact is that any part of your fuel system with exposed iron molecules can and will rust when exposed to ethanol over a period of time.

      There's absolutely no dispute that cars get fewer miles per gallon on E85, and the lower mileage is caused by E85 only having 82% of the energy content of straight gas. E90 (the blend in my state) only has 88% of the energy content of straight gas, so why in the world would you expect it not to make a difference?

      I'm more than happy to pay an extra 5% at the pump to get those extra 12% of BTUs...and helping to prevent future maintenance costs is the icing on the cake.

    3. Ok, I get what you are saying. But doesn't rust still need free oxygen to form? Not sure when air would be in the injectors.

      Since they don't really use it around here, I'm confused by your ethanol numbers... I thought E85 was 85% ethanol, and you need a car specifically made to accept it. But then you say your state has E90? 90% ethanol? And it has more energy than E85?

      And I never denied that ethanol in the gas has less energy than straight gas, but higher octane gas also has less energy than lower octane gasoline. So I guess you are saying that high octane in your state has less ethanol?

      With all gas being equal (additives, ethanol content), you still don't need high octane if your car is not designed for it. It only hurts.

  4. I can never quite wrap my head around what it means for the euro to "collapse". It has certainly been a boon for many countries. It seems hard to imagine them all going back to individual currencies. This map shows "credit-worthiness" by country.

    Certainly if several major European powers default on euro-valued debts those euros will suddenly disappear and with less money supply deflation will set in. If more money is not printed to compensate then perhaps the currency will become undesirable since countries using it will become trapped in a deflationary spiral.

    But I would hope they would have more sense than that. I imagine the likely outcome is a somewhat reduced Eurozone with its center firmly rooted in stable northern European economies.


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