16 April 2014

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

Embryonic sharks cannibalize their littermates in the womb. "While 12 littermates may start out the journey, all but one is devoured by the biggest in the pack. That strategy allows sand tiger sharks to have much larger babies at birth..."

An op-ed piece at Salon comments on the "curse of beauty" and the unnecessary risks of plastic surgery.

Clothing that incorporates carbon fibers can make the wearer "taser-proof."  Even if a taser needle penetrates as far as your skin, the electrical current will pass through the carbon fibers, not through you.

"Unpaired words" are ones for which the opposite is nonexistent or rarely used.

The Teleporter will take you to a random place on earth.  Then switch to "map" mode and zoom out to see where you are.

An optical illusion demonstrates color reversal in retinal after-images.

"Harvesting winter" is an interesting article at Edible Geography that documents the age-old practice of saving winter ice for year-round food storage at "the only commercial ice house on the National Register of Historic Places to have stored naturally frozen ice harvested in the traditional way from a nearby pond."

The average man's sperm count is falling.  A Telegraph article discusses possible explanations, with a focus on exogenous estrogens in the enviroment.

A video at Laughing Squid explains why automobile key fobs work from a greater distance when they are applied to your head.

The Trampe is a "ski-lift for bicycle riders," assisting them in ascending hills.

"Twenty is Plenty" is a cleverly-titled campaign in urban New York and the U.K. seeking to lower speed limits on roads to 20 mph.

Parts of an 800-year-old monk have been found.  The embedded image shows his femurs protruding from an eroding cliff in South Wales.  (Photo: Wales News Service)

If you are adorned with a tattoo, or are interested in such, The Appendix has a long article on the history of tattoo removal.  In ancient times soldiers were tattooed to prevent desertions and slaves were tattooed for ownership, so removal was of critical rather than cosmetic importance.

This gif shows how to use ice-cream sandwiches to make a cake.

Paul Ryan (R-Wis) played fast-and-loose with the truth when he cited a story about a child who wanted a lunch in a brown paper bag.

A recommendation FOR keeping PIN numbers in your wallet (but not the correct ones).

A video that will be of interest only to those who lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in the 1950s - 1980s.

A rare blue diamond has been discovered in South Africa.

In a masterful Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbi explains how the rigging of Libor rates was the biggest price-fixing scandal of all time.
You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets."
Photos of what are said to be the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The Vatican Library is online and is aggressively digitizing their material.  You can access some incunabula here.

This test will tell you if you're "tone deaf." (it's ridiculously easy if you're not).

How do ants walk?  Think about it...  If I told you that first they move three legs, then they move three other legs, would that sound nonsensical?  But it's true, and the linked gif shows why it is totally logical and practical.  They are basically using moving tripods.  You learn something every day.

The photo is our first butterfly of the year.  Mourning Cloaks (Camberwell Beauties) (Nymphalis antiopa) are typically the first because they are able to overwinter through the sub-zero temperatures.  They come out with ragged wing edges (from last autumn's adventures) and hungry.   Since no nectar sources are available in Wisconsin in April, they seek tree sap (or overripe fruit at the homes of butterfly enthusiasts).

(The title is the opening line to one of my favorite novels)


  1. The Paul Ryan story appears to be missing its link. After searching around it looks like he appropriated, without attribution, a story that was also appropriated and modified, also without attribution, by someone testifying to congress. Is it to much to ask speech writers to check their stories and, even better, use real ones from your politician and not fourth hand ones that come, mangled, from unrelated interviews. Ugh.

  2. I didn't know there actually was such a thing as an ice cream sandwich.

    I wish people would stop mis-using the term "tone deaf". The term "tone deaf" properly describes someone who has difficulty modulating the pitch of tones they produce to match the tones they hear. It does not describe someone who has difficulty discerning the difference in pitch between two heard tones.

    (The average person uses it in the first sense, but it is occasionally co-opted into the second sense -- usually, it seems to me, by people who think of themselves as authorities and are engaged in a cheap point-scoring exercise.)

  3. It is also one of my favorite books! You made me remind I desire to read it again for a long time, and I think now is a good a time to start.

    1. It's a great loss. Perhaps this will stimulate me to explore some of his writing other than his novels. Any suggestions where I should start? I've requested Of Love and Other Demons from the library.

    2. That's a great idea, I will join you for sure.

      After "The open veins of Latin America" by Eduardo Galeano I tried to put my hands on "Chile, el golpe y los gringos" but never could. "Yo no vengo a decir un discurso" seemed like a great idea for me when it was published - I often go to soirees, it's the kind of thing one might read out loud... my copy arrives tuesday.

  4. The story on explaining how the range of a keyfob is extended by the water in your brain or in a jug is well off-base. A keyfob will have an extended range if it's held higher in the air, and/or if it's oriented differently than the way one normally holds it, but water and brains have nothing to do with it.

    When I first saw a story like this a couple of years ago, the explanation attached centred around how if you hold the fob under your chin the fob frequencies are focused by the shape of your skull, like a dish antenna. Also inaccurate. The earliest reference to the under-the-chin trick I found is 2002.

    There's research on fobs, antennas and distance available online, much related to work focused on improving the fob lock systems in cars. Different cars, for example, have different antenna number and placement, so you may find that what works best for one doesn't work as well on a different make or model.

    I would note that every time he held the fob up to his head or the water he changed not just the elevation of the fob but also the orientation. Controlling variables in an experiment is basic.

  5. Huh, I'd been about to post how the under-the-chin was working for me while I waited for new batteries.

    Anyway, those "20 is plenty" people might be right for New York but they'd better not come for rural and suburban Wisconsin where traffic is light, the drivers are responsible and we have places to go.

  6. That teleporter looks suspiciously like something else.

  7. It's one of my favorite novels too!

  8. I have no better word for your use of the title than premonition. I'm surprised no one noticed.

    1. I was gobsmacked when I heard the news tonight. Perhaps I'd better be careful whom I cite for a title for my next linkdump...

  9. I was very pregnant when I read 100Years of Solitude, and I just couldn't handle the baby being carried away by ants. Still a wonderful book, though.

  10. Dave Moore as Bruce Kwatrain, bwahahahaha!


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