05 March 2015

"A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation" - H. H. Munro (Saki)

If you bookmark links and don't blog them, they multiply like coathangers in a closet.  Time to clean out a month's worth...

If the legendary romance of hopping railroad trains appeals to you (or to your child), browse the photo gallery at the top of this Reddit thread.

An article in Detroit News emphasizes that computers in cars can be wirelessly hacked.  "Markey cited studies showing hackers can get into the controls of some popular vehicles, 'causing them to suddenly accelerate, turn, kill the brakes, activate the horn, control the headlights, and modify the speedometer and gas gauge readings...'"  Jalopnik provides an example of a 14-year-old doing so using equipment he bought for $15 at Radio Shack.

"...16-year-old Maxwell Marion Morton of Jeannette, Pa., fatally shot 16-year-old Ryan Mangan in the face before taking a photo with Mangan’s body and uploading it to Snapchat..."

An op-ed piece at Jezebel asserts that "Adults should not be drinking milk."  

Nissan has demonstrated a glow-in-the-dark body paint for cars.   Video at the link.

An elephant with an elastic ribbon illustrates Samuel Butler's adage that "All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it."

Technology is significantly changing the experience of consuming marijuana.  "While refining marijuana requires skill, caution, and an elaborate setup, concentrates will likely prevail. They’re simply a more economic THC-delivery system."

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore really REALLY loves thundersnow.

Diane Rehm, host of a nationally-broadcast NPR program, adds her remarkable voice to the right-to-die debate after her husband, unable to get medical assistance to die, starved himself to death.  “I feel the way that John had to die was just totally inexcusable,” Rehm said in a long interview in her office. “It was not right.”

The image at right is a graphic portrayal of an analysis of 1.3 trillion hands of Texas hold-em poker.  Details at the link, where the process is interactive.

Divers are retrieving a historic typeface from the bottom of the Thames, where it was dumped a century ago.

A carnivorous plant has been identified in 40-million-year-old amber.  It had not developed digestive enzymes, relying instead on a symbiotic relationship with an insect.

A hoard of thousands of gold coins in in different denominations has been found in the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.

Video of a man sliding down a mountain on his butt while being chased by his snowmobile.

From the Boston Globe, a gallery of 35 photos of the record snowfall in New England.

Oliver Sacks has written an article about his discovery that his ocular melanoma is metastatic and therefore terminal:
"I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.  This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future."
Rebuttal of the claim that climate-change data was falsified.

While in jail, a man punches himself in the face to get black eyes in attempt to claim that he was beaten by police; his self attack is captured on video.

A lucid explanation of the Roswell incident.

An article about a planned upgrade of the Panama Canal.  And a reminder that when you sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the canal, you are traveling east, not west (a good pub-quiz question).

A "lost Sherlock Holmes story" has been found.  It's not all that great, but enthusiasts will want to read it (fulltext at the link).

A man looking at watches in a Goodwill store in Arizona paid $6 for one that he was able to sell for $35,000.

Full sunlight provides about 10,000 lux of illumination.  Human eyes can see in light as dim as 1 lux.  Cats = 0.125 lux.  Tarsiers = .001 lux (and shame on people who photograph them with flash illumination).  A BBC article lists three creatures with even more sensitive eyes (able to see at illumination levels of .000063 lux).

Some people object to their neighbors putting up Little Free Libraries.  "Americans with Little Free Libraries are acting in that venerable tradition. Those exploiting overly broad laws to urge that they be torn down are a national disgrace."

Here's a good website:  Old and Interesting.  Go look for yourself.

I find John Oliver's sense of humor to be sometimes annoying, but one can't deny the power of some of his arguments, especially this discussion of how American judges are elected.

The graph at right depicts penis size based on 15,000 measurements of men around the world.  It's an awkward depiction; I think if the data were regraphed, it would be more understandable as a bell-shaped curve.  And when the article states that "In reality, only 2.28% of the male population have an abnormally small penis... and the same percentage an unusually large one," that's because "normality" is defined in that way - to include 95% of the population.  More discussion here.

Deep injection of wastewater causes earthquakes.

A useful webpage from the University of Minnesota discusses how to prevent and how to treat a frozen septic system.

In an embarrassing attempt to get better positioning for postseason play, two high-school girls basketball teams tried to lose a game, missing free throws on purpose, failed to cross the half-court line in time, even pointed out to the officials that they were violating the 3-second rule in the lane.  Both schools were banned from the playoffs.

Here is the full-text lyrics of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  I didn't know there was a 100th verse: "No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer.
Go to the store and buy some more, 99 bottles of beer on the wall."  (p.s. there is some movie where a character (Chevy Chase?) gets revenge on a bus or van driver by teaching the children about this song.  Does anyone remember the name of that movie?)

Hakim Emmanuel, an amateur bowler in Brockton, Massachusetts, rolled a perfect 900 series.  Video of his final frame at the link.

How conservative was Ronald Reagan?  Compared to 10 of today's Republican presidential hopefuls - not very.  He would only be in 5th place.

Some parents try to treat their children's autism by "giving the children enemas, using a dangerous industrial solution used for bleaching wood pulp... Miracle Mineral Solution is the brainchild of Jim Humble, who quit the Church of Scientology to form the Genesis II Church of Health & Healing in order to promote his “miracle” cure..."

"Strawpedoing" (image left) is how students guzzle beer without creating a vacuum in the bottle.  It looks  like the straw is coming out his nose, but it's just bent at his lips,

A record drought is drying up the water reservoir for São Paulo.

"Kalaripayattu is considered to be the oldest fighting system, and the urumi — a flexible whip-like sword — is its most difficult weapon to master. An urumi wielder requires great agility and knowledge of the weapon simply to avoid self-injury." (video at the link)

A freshman basketball player for Florida State scored 30 points in the final 4:38 of a game.  "Rathan-Mayes scored 26 consecutive Florida State points without missing a shot."  His team still lost.

A police officer does not always have to show you his identification.   Exceptions include if it would jeopardize an investigation, hinder a police function, or if safety is involved.

In 2004 the New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection initiated a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for $8.9 billion in damages for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters.  The suit has been quietly settled by the state for around $250 million. Also "If the settlement is completed, it is possible that some or even none of the money would go toward environmental costs in the Exxon case: An appropriations law in New Jersey allows money beyond the first $50 million collected in such cases in the current fiscal year to go toward balancing the state budget."

LARP is "live action role playing."

The United States may have an oversupply of people with PhDs.  "...only one in five PhDs in science, engineering and health end up with faculty teaching or research positions within five years of completing their degrees." One reason: postdocs are cheap labor for research labs.

A discussion thread asks truck drivers "what town or city do you refuse to stop in?"

If you are ordering airline tickets online for international travel, read this link about how to secure lower fares.

Video of 80-year-old Natalie Trayling giving a remarkable 30-minute impromptu performance on a library piano of a piece of music she made up on the spot.

A photo gallery of regrettable tattoos.

"St. Pauli pinkelt zurück."  Video explains how the application of superhydophobic materials to walls causes streams of urine to rebound onto the malefactor.

How women have used cannabis in years past to ease childbirth, to treat swollen breasts, for migraine, and for menstrual pain (Queen Victoria in the latter category).

The United States' policy of birthright citizenship encourages "maternity tourism" by Chinese women.

Use this site to "play with gravity."  Each click generates a center of gravity that affects the moving points.  Gravity sites close together will coalesce.  If all the moving points coalesce in the gravity site, it "explodes."

The top image is a modern reworking of a classic Normal Rockwell painting.


  1. Hmm, the gravity thing is fun to play with, but it doesn't accurately represent orbital behavior. In reality, the center of gravity would lie in one of the foci of the elliptic orbit, rather than in its center as seems to be the case here. I personally like this one better. You can choose particles of different sizes from the menu on the bottom left, or create a "proto disk" and see how it slowly evolves into a stable system. Another neat simulator is My Solar System.

    1. In the first simulator you link to, a good sense of achievement is to be had by getting an object into a stable secondary orbit -- that is, a small object orbiting a larger object which in turn orbits a still larger object. Have you ever done that? Here's proof that it's possible. (There's a trick to it, which I'll give away if asked, but for now I don't want to spoil anyone's fun.)

    2. I did get some occasional moons sometimes, but they developed randomly out of the proto disk, not out of my own design. Looks neat! I'll give it a try.

  2. I haven't taken the time to look into the Sherlock Holmes story because the issue doesn't really interest me, but I'm under the impression that it's not regarded as having been written by Doyle. There's this http://www.ihearofsherlock.com/2015/02/conan-doyle-didnt-write-lost-sherlock.html#.VPkyA-Hcgr0 but again, I've not taken the time to analyse it properly.

    More comments may follow when I've browsed more links.

  3. > If the legendary romance of hopping railroad trains appeals to you

    the people in those fotos look like street people commonly known as 'crusties'.


  4. > how students guzzle beer

    if it is students, then the 'beer' has some variant of the word 'light' associated with it, in which case it really is not beer, is it?


    1. In this country, "light" in a beer label typically refers to caloric content, not alcoholic potency. The beer-swilling students I know of are not particularly concerned about their weight.

    2. thanks for reminding me of the worst beer i ever drunk - bud light platinum.


  5. Gotta disagree with the Jezebel article. I'm one of the 40% weirdos who can digest milk with no ill after effect . At 36, I still enjoy drinking a glass of milk at least a few times a week. It's my second favorite non-alcoholic drink, coffee being the first.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I would note that the person in question "has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work."

      Had I done the same during my academic career, my papers would have been withdrawn from the journals in which they were published.

    2. Stan, I pulled my comment because I misunderstood where the actual rebuttal ended. The break line and immediately following text led me to believe that the author had changed topics.

      As to that person accepting money from fossil fuel companies, the fossil fuel companies for several years (if not even now were contributing money to many 'green' efforts. I would be shocked if those green enterprises that accepted the money go around touting their acceptance of the money. In addition, there is nothing un-tainted about people or groups accepting money (almost all government money) for the green side of the arguments. Why should only the non-green contributions be tainted? That is a double standard in a land where freedom of speech is lauded and protected by law. In addition, the total amount provided by (mostly governmental) various agencies for the green side of this debate vastly, vastly outnumbers the amount given to the skeptic side. And those people do not go around listing their donations and grants every time they write an article or paper.

      Academic papers often DO put in a disclaimer, professing no conflicts of interest. I do not know if all of them consider government funding a conflict of interest or not. But I think that when the government comes down fully on one side of the discussion, then such conflicts DO exist.

    3. Steve, I certainly didn't mean to imply that only corporate support needs to be cited. When I worked for the Veterans Administration, my publications would cite my VA grants; when I did research on smoking, I cited support from the Tobacco and Health Research Institute. Failing to publicly acknowledge one's financial support is considered reprehensible in medical research; I don't know the standards in other fields.

  7. "Use this site to "play with gravity."

    I don't think the underlying code to that gravity thing works properly. Points seem to take straight lines, even when passing very close to the gravity points; they SHOULD be deflected (ala Einstein and his light bending effects in Relativity). And new points do not seem to have the gravitational effects of the original ones.

  8. The larp article states at the beginning: "...visited the Knudepunkt conference in Denmark, the most influential larp gathering of its kind."
    Which I find kind of misleading, as it seems to be maybe the most influential larp gatherin *in Denmark*. The sentence sounds a bit as if it's meant "in general" (the world?). For example in Germany we have larps that have up to 6000 to 9000 (thousand!) players. I think it's a fairly popular Hobby by now in germany, there are around 500 to 600 larps a year. I know quite many larpers, but that might just be my "scene" (gothic/roleplaying/nerds).
    And just now I learned that the first german larp was probably helt 1992 (I was 12 :) ) very close to my hometown! Actually it was the town next to the town I went to school. Ah, interesting :) I also started playing roleplaying games (pen&paper) around that age.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...