## 21 April 2017

### Divertimento #125

The 125th linkdump becomes the first "gifdump".

Deep-frying rice vermicelli noodles.

Avalanche rescue dog having fun.

Gorilla vs. Canadian goose.  You can guess who wins that one.

Local sports hero.

Vietnamese SWAT team tactical training.

A group of wild turkeys marching in a circle around a dead cat.

The "master of disguise" is not the one you expect.

Dog and rabbit are BFF.

The Pope getting a pizza delivered to his vehicle.

When a video camera's shutter speed synchronizes with a helicopter's rotors, the resulting video is unnerving.

Baby bottle robot prototype - unsuccessful.

Unsuccessful attempt at bank robbery.

Windy day.   This one went viral last week.  She holds on to her tablet like a champ.

"Living the dream."

Kinetic wood sculpture.

Tree stump removal.

Hot water and Skittles.

A dog swimming with a breaststroke, not a dogpaddle.

This woman not only counts money faster than you, but faster than you can even imagine.

Fluid dynamics of a drip-free wine-bottle lip.

An astronaut aboard the ISS demonstrates the Dzhanibekov Effect.

This was labeled "bubble gum" but it's probably slime (about which more later this week).

Lightning striking a car.

Rescuers offer a King Cobra water (note the size of this magnificent creature).

Donald Trump signs his "energy independence Executive Order."

A man tries to kick a dog.  Karma ensues.

Girl annoys dog at beach.  Karma ensues.

Every dot in this video moves in a straight line only.

A little bird is ecstatic about receiving pats.

Kingfisher breaching after a successful dive (the minnow can be seen wiggling in his gullet).

This is a "power broom."  Very cool.

A high-definition night vision camera looks like daylight until you realize the stars are visible.

I can't describe this remarkable baseball play.  Just watch.

Throw a lighted cigarette butt in a hole in the sidewalk.  WCGW ?

A "deceased spirit" is set free at a funeral.  WCGW?

HMB while I skimboard across a pool.  WCGW?

Red panda vs. rock.  We'll call it a tie.

Bow down before the awesome power of a crocodile's tail

Polyox is a self-siphoning gel.

Donald Trump being reminded to be patriotic.

Hydrophobic sand.

A runaway tire.

What to do when a baby elephant has a stuffy nose.

The Daily Show interviews a man on the street re Obama's role in 9/11.

The smile of a Syrian girl who survived a suicide bombing.

This is an armadillo's defense.  And this is the feline version of the same thing.

I found the pix in the subreddit on Unstirred Paint.  (There seems to be subreddit for everything).

## 19 April 2017

### Seraphine (2009)

I encountered this trailer for Seraphine while watching the DVD of A Man Called Ove and decided to give it a try.  Here's the blurb:
Based on a true story, SÉRAPHINE centers on Séraphine de Senlis (Moreau), a simple and profoundly devout housekeeper whose brilliantly colorful canvases adorn some of the most famous galleries in the world. German art critic and collector Wilhelm Uhde (The Lives of Others Ulrich Tukur) - the first Picasso buyer and champion of naïve primitive painter Le Douanier Rousseau - discovers her paintings while she is working for him as a maid in the beautiful countryside of Senlis near Paris. A moving and unexpected relationship develops between the avant-garde art dealer and the visionary outsider artist. Martin Provost's fictionalized and poignant portrait of Séraphine is a testament to creativity and the resilience of one womans spirit.
That's an accurate summary.  It's not a cheerful movie, but it is extremely well acted and filmed, scoring 89% on Rotten Tomatoes; it received these César Awards in 2009:
If you can't find the DVD at your library, the full movie is online here.

## 18 April 2017

### (left)

Photo (and title) credit to this PoliticalHumor subreddit post.

## 17 April 2017

### It's sad that this is basically true

Source (where you can click through all the Dilbert cartoons).

### Canine freestyle

This is better than some of the ones I've seen presented at Crofts.   I can't begin to imagine the countless hours these two have spent together developing this routine.

Via Neatorama.

### Normal

Normal child's skull (with some overlying bone dissected away) to show the relationship of the baby teeth to the unemerged adult teeth.

Image cropped for size from the original via.

### The Zanclean flood

According to this model, water from the Atlantic Ocean refilled the cut-off inland seas through the modern-day Strait of Gibraltar. The Mediterranean Basin flooded mostly during a period estimated to have been between several months and two years. Sea level rise in the basin may have reached rates at times greater than ten metres per day (thirty feet per day).  Based on the erosion features preserved until modern times under the Pliocene sediment, these authors estimate that water rushed down a drop of more than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) with a discharge of up to  2×108 m3/s (7.1×109 cu ft/s), about 1,000 times that of the present day Amazon River. Studies of the underground structures at the Gibraltar Strait show that the flooding channel descended in a rather gradual way toward the bottom of the basin rather than forming a steep waterfall.

Not all scientific studies have agreed with the catastrophistic interpretation of this event. Some researchers have estimated that the reinstallment of a "normal" Mediterranean Sea basin following the Messinian "Lago Mare" episode took place in a much more gradual way, taking as long as 10,000 years.
Related: flooding of the Black Sea basin.

I do hope someone invents time travel soon, because I'd like to go back and watch this.

### Bowler, 1937

Via Sloth Unleashed.

### Beware of buglers

At common law, “burglary” was the crime of breaking into a house at night with intent to commit a felony. These days the time and type of building usually don’t matter...  Say it. Burglar. The verb form is “burgle,” or “burglarize,”... the adverb used to be “burglarily” (e.g. “evill disposed person or persons, attempting to murder, rob, or burglarily to breake mansion houses” (1533)), which was bad enough, but the modern form seems to be “burglariously..."

A “bugler,” of course, is one who bugles. “Bugle” is also French, although that word apparently comes from back when the noise was made with the horn of a wild ox (bugle, in French)... But the OED just blew my mind by telling me that there’s no such word as “buglery.” Surely “buglery” is the art of playing the bugle? Nope, not there. One can certainly “bugle,” or engage in “bugling.”.. But at least as far as the OED is concerned, “buglery” is not a word.
Image cropped for size from the original at Crossing The Bar.

### Questioning the Passover story

From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, an op-ed piece questions whether Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt, and whether the Passover story is a myth.
"Even if we take the earliest possible date for Jewish slavery that the Bible suggests, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt a good three hundred years after the 1750 B.C. completion date of the pyramids. That is, of course, if they were ever slaves in Egypt at all...

...one of the biggest events of the Jewish calendar is predicated upon reminding the next generation every year of how the Egyptians were our cruel slave-masters, in a bondage that likely never happened... I'm talking about real proof; archeological evidence, state records and primary sources. Of these, nothing exists.

It is remarkable that Egyptian records make no mention of the sudden migration of what would have been nearly a quarter of their population... Furthermore, there is no evidence in Israel that shows a sudden influx of people from another culture at that time.

...let us enjoy our Seder and read the story by all means, but also remind those at the table who may forget that it is just a metaphor, and that there is no ancient animosity between Israelites and Egyptians. Because, if we want to re-establish that elusive peace with Egypt that so many worked so hard to build, we're all going to have to let go of our prejudices."

"This is the ancient site of Dubrovnik's metal forge, re-discovered by archeologists only about a decade ago. Before then this corner of the city had been a pile of construction rubble and ruins. The basketball court is actually the rooftop of a climate-controlled museum that has preserved the entire excavated site. See that sunken door on the right side of the court? That's the museum entrance. Walk in there and a Croatian archeology doctorate candidate will lead you on an hour-long guided tour through the catwalks suspended over the dig site.

I was there last summer with my girlfriend and two friends of ours and we decided to check out the museum out of curiosity, ended up being one of the most interesting parts of the whole trip. The ancient metalworks were extensive and the guide did a great job of explaining via his broken English exactly how each step of the process worked."
"We went on this tour too and it was excellent. The guide said he doesn't get many folks through the door because it is well hidden, so if you see this thread, go visit!... name of museum is The Foundry Museum (Gornji Ugao)."
A gallery of photos in the museum is here.   Photos and comments from the discussion thread at the MildlyInteresting subreddit.

### The "mamas" and the "papas"

"Before I knew anything about language acquisition, I assumed that babies making these utterances were referring to their parents. But this interpretation is backwards: mama/papa words just happen to be the easiest word-like sounds for babies to make.  The sounds came first – as experiments in vocalization – and parents adopted them as pet names for themselves."
Presented at Sentence First in a post introducing a new crowdsourced language project (details at the links).

### Movie scenes filmed in Iceland

A surprising number of well-known movies.

### Field trip, 1947

Post-War Field Trips

Minneapolis school children from Hay and Willard Elementary schools, as well as a South St. Paul group, wait at the Great Northern railroad station to board a train for St. Paul. Schools around the city have started taking field trips again after ceasing during war-time. As many as 450 children a day are touring farms, trains, zoos, industries, and historic sites.
-- Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 25, 1947
From the Stuff About Minneapolis tumblr.

I have fond memories of field trips from my childhood, when a day spent touring a factory was deemed as important to education as a day in a classroom.  I think it's important for young children to see - in person, not on film - a working assembly line, an animal barn, a railroad train etc etc etc.

I don't know to what extent such trips are undertaken nowadays (readers...?).  I would concede that it must be a headache for a businessperson to host dozens of unrestrained fourth-graders, but I think if such ventures are not taken, a learning experience is omitted.

### Are leggings trousers?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, yes.
We define leggings as ‘tight-fitting stretch trousers, typically worn by women or girls’.

A key concept in a dictionary entry is the ‘genus term’ – the part of the definition which answers the question ‘what type of thing is it?’. The genus term is a broader category into which the word being defined fits, and can be used to place closely related words into groups, or semantic categories. Our entry for leggings, therefore, uses the genus term ‘trousers’, firmly placing them in that group alongside jeans, cords, and culottes. And they certainly seem to fit our definition of trousers: ‘an outer garment covering the body from the waist to the ankles, with a separate part for each leg’.

Some critics however, have an issue with leggings as an ‘outer garment’.... (more at the link)
Photo credit: American Eagle Outfitters.

### Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

I'll meet you over at the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Image via No Brash Festivity.

### "Dog-whistle editing" explained

For the English majors reading this blog...
English, in its superabundance, has many multiples of words and phrases that overlap contentiously in meaning. These confusables are the bread and butter of usage manuals: imply and infer, disinterested and uninterested, careen and career, defuse and diffuse, convince and persuade, militate and mitigate, refute and reject, and flaunt and flout.

Some of these pairs are worth distinguishing; others are not. Part of editing well – and writing well – is knowing which distinctions to preserve and which to disregard. Examining over versus more than, John E. McIntyre refers to dog-whistle editing: ‘the observance of nuances that only copy editors can hear, and thus a waste of time’.

Knowing the difference between flaunt and flout is not, for now, a waste of time. But the prospects are not promising. In a post at Language Log yesterday, Geoffrey Pullum says it ‘may be a lost cause’ – a gloomy diagnosis prompted by a BBC Radio 4 report that referred to politicians who were ‘supposed to impose party discipline, rather than flaunt it’. It should have been flout.

To recap: flaunt means to show off or display ostentatiously. One flaunts wealth or fancy clothes. Flout means to brazenly disobey or disregard. One flouts the law by openly ignoring it. The two are often confused: partly, we can assume, because they’re spelled similarly.
The discussion continues at Sentence First.

## 13 April 2017

### A modern equivalent of death by crucifixion

This unfortunate lethal accident was reported in the Washington Post:
Judith Permar drove to a clothing drop-off box at about 2 a.m... According to police, she stood on the stepladder so she could reach the top of the box. She rummaged through the donated items, even taking some out... After allegedly removing several bags filled with clothes and shoes, she slipped as the stepladder collapsed, her arm catching in the door...

The fall broke her arms and wrists, which were trapped in the box. Her feet, meanwhile, didn’t quite touch the ground, leaving her hanging. There she dangled until 8:30 the next morning, when she was finally found. Bags were scattered around her, and the Hummer’s engine was still running.

The temperature had dropped to 21 degrees that night, according to Weather Underground. Permar was pronounced dead at the scene. The county coroner James F. Kelley listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma and hypothermia.
For practical purposes, the cause of death listed by the coroner is adequate, but the pathophysiology of this lady's death is considerably more interesting.  Neither minor fractures nor freezing temperatures would kill her in six hours.  For a deeper understanding we need to look at the cardiovascular and pulmonary implications of her situation.

EMTs are trained to recognize and treat suspension trauma, which typically happens to construction workers in harnesses.  The Journal of Emergency Medical Services and the United States Department of Labor webpages have detailed explanations of the cardiovascular aspects - intravascular fluid pooling in unsupported legs, leading to impaired cardiac output and cerebral hypoperfusion. Special harnesses that support one leg (as in the embedded image at right) may be lifesaving.

I'm going to focus instead on the pulmonary problems of unsupported suspension.  Notice the worker in the suspended harness has support at the pelvis; the abdominal viscera remain in approximately normal position, as does the diaphragm, and ventilatory gas exchange can proceed normally.

Now let's look at historic crucifixion.  This lady's death was not crucifixion, because there was no "crux" (cross), but her cause of death may well have been similar to that experienced by Christian martyrs.

Crucifixion was not principally designed as a method of execution; there are faster and simpler methods to achieve that end.  Rather it was intended to be slowly lethal, thus incorporating torture as punishment and shame as part of a prolonged public display.  The component of suffering is implicit in our modern use of the derived word "excruciating."

In a normal breathing cycle, inhalation requires active motion by the diaphragm, while exhalation is passive.  When a person is suspended, the dependence of the body moves the chest wall toward a full inspiratory position; exhalation then becomes an active rather than a passive process, requiring lifting the body by pushing with the feet and lifting with the arms, a process made more painful by
the nailing of the feet.

To prolong the crucifixion for perhaps days until inanition and dehydration develop, support for the lower body needs to be supplied with a crude seat (a sedile or sedulum) affixed to the cross, and/or a small plaform to support the feet (nails through the feet would serve the same function).  This feature is evident in some artistic portrayals of crucifixion, where the knees are shown to be flexed (embed at the right: a crux simplex without crossbar).

If the authorities (or bystanders) wished to offer a modicum of mercy and effect a more rapid death to end the suffering, one means to do so was to deliver a blow that would break the legs below the knees (crurifragium or skelokopia).

There is a lot more to discuss regarding positional asphyxia.  It is relevant to deaths that occur during restraint by law enforcement officers, to deaths in nursing homes when elderly persons become entangled in bedclothes and bedrails, to "Santa Claus" deaths of burglars entrapped in chimneys, and to the deaths of beached whales and thousands of participants at the battle of Agincourt.   Later.

### Grand mal seizure in a snake

The snake is a Black Racer, photographed in Naples, Florida by the sister of reader Ron Rizzo, who forwarded it to us to share. During the first half of this brief video the snake exhibits only some purposeless writhing on the side of a road.  Then it launches into full-blown grand mal seizure activity, which according to the photographer was a pre-terminal event.

Any animal with a brain is susceptible to motor seizures, which are a manifestation of uncontrolled electrical activity in the neurons.  If I had to guess at an etiology, the roadside occurrence would suggest to me that the snake had previously incurred head trauma from a passing vehicle, which eventually led to cerebral edema or intracranial bleeding.  Alternatively it may have encountered a poison or a neurotoxic venom.  In any case, it's a interesting activity to observe.

### "Desert varnish" explained

Most readers are familiar with the existence of "desert varnish" - a hard encrustation that develops on rocks exposed to the elements in a dry desert.  I had always assumed that the process was a slow oxidation of surface minerals, so a hat tip to reader David Laidlaw for sending me a link that explains that the process is a microbiological one.
Desert varnish is a thin coating (patina) of manganese, iron and clays on the surface of sun-baked boulders. Its origin has intrigued naturalists since the time of Charles Darwin. According to the classic paper by Ronald I. Dorn and Theodore M. Oberlander (Science Volume 213, 1981), desert varnish is formed by colonies of... bacteria living on the rock surface for thousands of years. The bacteria absorb trace amounts of manganese and iron from the atmosphere and precipitate it as a black layer of manganese oxide or reddish iron oxide on the rock surfaces...

Several genera of bacteria are known to produce desert varnish, including [the extremophiles] Metallogenium and Pedomicrobium... the remarkable hardness of desert varnish, which is almost as hard as quartz (nearly 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness)... perhaps 10,000 years are required for a complete varnish coating to form in the deserts of the southwestern United States... For thousands of years Native Americans have used desert varnish for their rock carvings.
Image via Wikipedia.

## 12 April 2017

### Phototropism - updated

This past week I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Pope Farm Conservancy in Middleton, Wisconsin.
Pope Farm Conservancy is 105 acres that sits on top of three recessional moraines in the Town of Middleton, Wisconsin, where three different watersheds come together.

Six different Prairie Restoration projects and seven different crops including a field of sunflowers provide tremendous synergy that attracts wildlife to the conservancy. Forty interpretive signs follow the historical aspects of the land. They start with the Glaciers and land formation, followed by the Native Americans, settlers, the CCC project in the 1930’s, to today’s methods of erosion control.

All of this, combined with eight miles of walking trails and picnic areas provide the visitor with an unforgettable experience.
I chose to visit now because of the spectacular bloom a half a million sunflowers (and I wasn't the only one...).

I'll use this occasion to raise a question about phototropism.   These sunflowers were all facing east when I photographed them in mid-morning.  During the day they will track the sun as it moves across the sky.  But what happens during the night?  Are they programmed to turn back toward the east in anticipation of the next sunrise, or does it require the first beams of morning light to trigger them to swivel back toward the east again?

I could probably look this up, but I need to do something else now, and I suspect some reader with knowledge of plant biology will be able to supply the answer for us.

Addendum #2:  Two tips of the blogging cap to readers Rob from Amersfoort and to Patty, both of whom back in August (I'm a bit behind in my blogging), provided links to the research of Stacy Harmer at UC Davis, who has studied phototropism in sunflowers.

As the plants grew from young seedlings into mature, yellow-headed adults, the researchers found that the sun-tracking movements of the plant became less and less noticeable, until they stopped altogether.

“A really common misconception is that mature sunflowers follow the sun. Actually, they do not,” Harmer said. “Mature sunflowers always face east.”...

Using a time-lapse camera, they were able to see that the east side of the stem grew longer during the day, turning the plant’s head to the west. At night, the reverse was true — the west side elongated, causing the plant to face the east...

The scientists report that even when the plants were grown under constant, fixed overhead lighting, they maintained the same head-turning rhythms they displayed in the field for several days... these results suggest that the sunflowers’ movements are regulated by something other than simple growth toward the sun. Some kind of circadian clock was also controlling the plants’ twists and turns...

The authors found that east-facing sunflowers attract up to five times the number of pollinators compared with those that were rotated in their pots so that they were facing west. Yet another experiment showed that this is almost certainly because east-facing sunflowers are more effectively warmed by the morning sun than sunflowers that are facing west.
More at the Los Angeles Times.  Fascinating research.

### Tanks for the gold

As reported by Popular Mechanics:

### "Super-silk" produced by graphene-fed caterpillars

From Scientific American:
To make carbon-reinforced silk, Yingying Zhang and her colleagues at Tsinghua University fed the worms mulberry leaves sprayed with aqueous solutions containing 0.2% by weight of either carbon nanotubes or graphene and then collected the silk after the worms spun their cocoons, as is done in standard silk production. Treating already spun silk would require dissolving the nanomaterials in toxic chemical solvents and applying those to the silk, so the feeding method is simpler and more environmentally friendly.

In contrast to regular silk, the carbon-enhanced silks are twice as tough and can withstand at least 50% higher stress before breaking. The team heated the silk fibers at 1,050 °C to carbonize the silk protein and then studied their conductivity and structure. The modified silks conduct electricity, unlike regular silk. Raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy imaging showed that the carbon-enhanced silk fibers had a more ordered crystal structure due to the incorporated nanomaterials.

### Movie villain dermatology

As reported in JAMA Dermatology:
Dichotomous dermatologic depictions between heroes and villains date back to the silent film age and have been used to visually illustrate the contrasting morality between these character types. Classic dermatologic features of villainous characters include facial scars, alopecia, deep rhytides, periorbital hyperpigmentation, rhinophyma, verruca vulgaris, extensive tattoos, large facial nevi, poliosis, and albinism or gray-hued complexions. These visual cues evoke in the audience apprehension or fear of the unfamiliar and provide a perceptible parallel to the villainous character’s inward corruption...

These portrayals have ignited the formation of advocacy groups aimed at diminishing the perpetuation of existing discrimination by discouraging the use of degrading stereotypes in film. Notably, the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) has protested the portrayal of people with albinism as villains, although with limited success...
The all-time top 10 American film villains and heroes were obtained from the American Film Institute 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains List.
Six of the all-time top 10 American film villains (60%) have dermatologic findings, all of which are located on the face and scalp and are persistent in presentation. Dermatologic findings include cosmetically significant (Norwood-Hamilton stage ≥3) alopecia (30%), periorbital hyperpigmentation (30%), deep rhytides on the face (20%), multiple scars on the face (20%), verruca vulgaris on the face (20%), and rhinophyma (10%). Three of the villains (30%) have gray-hued complexions or unnatural skin color. Excluding cosmetically insignificant androgenic alopecia (Norwood-Hamilton stage ≤2), single facial scars, and transient lacerations or ecchymoses, none of the all-time top 10 American film heroes have significant dermatologic findings. All heroes have natural, non–gray-hued complexions. The top 10 villains have a higher incidence of significant dermatologic findings than the top 10 heroes (60% vs 0%; P = .03). Two villains (20%) and 2 heroes (20%) have red hair.
Detailed discussion at the link.   And a related article at The Guardian ("Disfigured heroes like Deadpool help people like me fight prejudice."

Rhytides clarified.

## 07 April 2017

### Who you gonna call ?

Image cropped for emphasis from the one found here.

### Butterfly poacher apprehended

From The Guardian:
An insect enthusiast who illegally captured and killed specimens of Britain’s rarest butterfly, the Large Blue, has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence...

Police later raided his terraced home in Cadbury Heath, near Bristol, and found a large number of mounted butterflies, including two large blues...

Michael Hartnell, defending, said: “He accepts the enormity of what he has done. He only had one from each site, but he accepts that if everybody did that they would die out.  [N.B. I am so delighted to see someone using the word "enormity" in the proper context.]
Here's one reason it's endangered:
In Victorian times the large blue was highly prized by collectors because of its wonderful colour and its rarity, as its unusual life circle means it cannot be bred in captivity.
The remarkable life cycle of the large blue means it can only thrive in very particular habitats. Eggs are laid on the flower buds of wild thyme or marjoram. The larvae burrow into the flower heads and when they are about 4mm long drop to the ground and wait to be found by foraging red ants, attracting them with sweet secretions from a “honey” gland. The ants place them in their brood chamber and the larvae feed on ant grubs. They turn into butterflies, crawl above ground, and fly in midsummer.
Pugh said there was a market still for butterfly specimens. “People buy up old labels and cases and add in newly killed specimens.” The magistrates who sat at Cullen’s trial were told large blues can fetch £300 each.
The morphology and the life cycle of the Large Blue are very similar to the Karner Blue, found in the United States.

## 06 April 2017

### The butterfly effect

This small white butterfly was found pressed between the pages of an eighteenth-century book.

It could - in theory - be the reason Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

### Bejeweled skeletons

As reported by Smithsonian:
On May 31, 1578, local vineyard workers discovered that a hollow along Rome’s Via Salaria, a road traversing the boot of Italy, led to a catacomb. The subterranean chamber proved to be full of countless skeletal remains, presumably dating back to the first three centuries following Christianity’s emergence, when thousands were persecuted for practicing the still-outlawed religion. An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 souls—mostly Christians but including some pagans and Jews—found a final resting place in the sprawling Roman catacombs...
The Catholic Church quickly learned of the discovery and believed it was a godsend, since many of the skeletons must have belonged to early Christian martyrs...

The holy bodies became wildly sought-after treasures. Every Catholic church, no matter how small, wanted to have at least one, if not ten...

Nuns were often renowned for their achievements in clothmaking. They spun fine mesh gauze, which they used to delicately wrap each bone. This prevented dust from settling on the fragile material and created a medium for attaching decorations. Local nobles often donated personal garments, which the nuns would lovingly slip onto the corpse and then cut out peepholes so people could see the bones beneath. Likewise, jewels and gold were often donated or paid for by a private enterprise. To add a personal touch, some sisters slipped their own rings onto a skeleton’s fingers.

### Desalination using a sieve

A sieve that will entrap molecules of salt, letting water through:
Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, show how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide.

Isolated and characterised by a University of Manchester-led team in 2004, graphene comprises a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Its unusual properties, such as extraordinary tensile strength and electrical conductivity, have earmarked it as one of the most promising materials for future applications...

When common salts are dissolved in water, they always form a "shell" of water molecules around the salt molecules. This allows the tiny capillaries of the graphene-oxide membranes to block the salt from flowing through along with the water.

"Water molecules can go through individually, but sodium chloride cannot. It always needs the help of the water molecules. The size of the shell of water around the salt is larger than the channel size, so it cannot go through," said Dr Nair.

### Urbanization on steroids

I'll save you the counting.  That's approximately 50 lanes of cars narrowing down to 25 tollbooths, and then funneling into a smaller highway thereafter.

Photo via a Guardian article reporting that China plans to build a new city de novo that will be three times the size of New York City.

## 03 April 2017

### It's April, and it's raining...

Conflation sources here and here for the culturally deprived.

From the archives of The New Yorker.

### GE College Bowl epic battle (Princeton vs. Agnes Scott)

I've just spent an enjoyable half hour walking down memory lane, watching an episode of General Electric's College Bowl. This quiz bowl series ran on U.S. television from 1959 to 1970.
The most dominant team was the University of Minnesota, which had teams appear in 23 of the 68 broadcast matches. The 1953-55 series had a powerful appeal because it used remote broadcasts; each team was located at their own college where they were cheered on by their wildly enthusiastic classmates. The effect was akin to listening to a football game, but this type of excitement evaporated in later versions, in which both teams competed in the same room.
One of the most memorable upsets in the history of the show occurred in 1966, when an all-woman team from tiny Agnes Scott College [Atlanta], took on the defending champions from Princeton University.

Agnes Scott fell behind 185-130 with less than two minutes remaining. You can see the final segment of the show in the embedded video above. (Although if this subject matter interests you, it's more fun to watch the first ten minutes here, and the second ten minutes here. The videos also incorporate the original advertising that ran in 1966.)

One particularly poignant aspect of the contest was pointed out recently by Robert Earle, who was moderator of the program. The last bonus question was answered by Karen Gearreald with about one second left in the game. "That young lady, by the way, was the only person in the theater who could not see the clock," Mr. Earle wrote. "She is blind."

And here's the final question: "For twenty points, what were Balmung and Durandal?"

For the answer, watch the video. It's more fun than Googling the answer.

(via Metafilter)

Reposted from 2009 to accompany the next two posts.

### Mastermind

When I was on sabbatical in London many, many years ago, Mastermind was my favorite program to watch on the telly in my rented room in Turnham Green.

Originally posted by some guy over at Neatorama.

### University Challenge

I had no clue on some of these questions.

### Balsam bough and birch tree thieves

One of the classic sensual pleasures of the holiday season is the scent of balsam permeating a home or place of business. Balsam trees, wreaths, and swags are used to decorate living rooms, doors, windows, and mantelpieces. In doing so, we probably never question where the balsam comes from; if we give it any thought, we assume it is harvested from commercial tree farms or represents a reuse of forestry waste products.

This fall I visited a lot (in a platted subdivision) where I’ve been clearing brush in preparation for building, and encountered two young men with a pickup truck. I thought they were hunters, but when I greeted them and saw no guns they told me they were searching for “balsam balls” (which I interpreted as “witches brooms”). I told them they were on private property, and cordially suggested that in the future they make use of a plat book to ascertain which properties were public and private. They indicated that they would continue searching, but wouldn’t disturb anything near the driveway, and they headed into the woods.

When I returned the next day I was shocked by the devastation they had wrought on the property. About a dozen balsam trees - all within a few yards of the driveway - had been stripped of branches. After a moment’s reflection I realized that they had been hunting “balsam boughs” for the holiday decoration trade.

Perhaps more disappointing than the theft itself was the technique they had used:

This wasn’t a matter of pruning a few branches from each tree; rather, the trunks had been stripped bare to the height reachable by a grown man wielding a lopper. Each of these trees is now essentially standing deadwood. And this from two young men whose heritage should reflect a deep respect for the natural environment.

The Minnesota DNR reported in 2004 that approximately 4000 tons of balsam boughs are harvested annually from our forests, each ton yielding roughly 400 wreaths; the state’s balsam bough industry had annual retail sales in 2004 topping $20 million. The vast majority of this trade is managed well, with bough-collecting permits obtained at state, tribal or county offices, depending on where the worker plans to gather material. As my experience shows, there are at least a few “rogue” workers who respect neither private property rights nor the environment. (This is a repost of an item I originally wrote for this blog in December of 2007. With the holiday season approaching again and the economy even worse, property owners should be aware that trees are$ in some people's eyes. And not just evergreens - a mature walnut or other hardwood can yield a lucrative return for someone willing to work a few hours with a chainsaw...)

Reposted to alert readers that thieves are now stealing young birch trees:
Thieves are illegally cutting down thousands of birch trees in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin to make a quick buck off city dwellers who love the paper-white logs, limbs and twigs in their home decor...

Birch items are “kind of a hot item in home decor in both contemporary and traditional spaces,” said Scott Endres, co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis. “Folks in urban areas appreciate the beauty of it and like to have a little of the North Woods showing up in their outdoor containers, as well as their indoor decor. Interior designers use it a lot.”
The trees being targeted are generally young — 10 to 15 years old, about 2 to 4 inches in diameter and about 10 to 18 feet high, often growing in secluded areas... “It doesn’t matter if it’s state-owned or county-owned or privately owned,” he said. “If there are birch trees there, they cut them.”

Richter figures “unsophisticated, small-time thieves” who have a daily drug habit to support are responsible for most of the clear-cutting. Many of them formerly relied on stealing scrap metal. “They’re grabbing and stealing anything they can convert into money,” he said...

Richter said once the sap starts running, the birch trees may be less marketable because the paper bark is more susceptible to peeling off. “But once it freezes again, it’s going to be back on,” Richter said. “And it could be a bigger problem next year.”
Birch vandalism credit Washburn County Sheriff's Office.

### "Inverted aquarium"

This is a recent video, but the concept of a "fish tower" is not new.  I first bookmarked a German link for a "Fish Loft" many years ago, thinking it would be a nice thing to put in the pond if I ever have a shack in the north woods.

Most of the images and videos of similar devices suggest using a wet vacuum to exhaust the air from the tower, but all that would need to be done would be to hold the tower underwater until it is full, then invert it on a stand (it would need to be secured because it would be very tippy, especially after the local raccoons find it).

## 01 April 2017

### Victorian mourning ring

Incorporating a glass eye from the deceased.

Via The Soul is Bone.

### He's so excited by his first period

And this...

Both typos posted at the legendary Bad Newspaper (images cropped for emphasis).

### Have you lost a cow?

Camera traps documented 2 solitary American badgers (Taxidea taxus) independently caching juvenile domestic cow (Bos taurus) carcasses during late winter 2016 in the Great Basin Desert of Utah. One carcass was partially buried and the other was entirely buried. Both badgers constructed dens alongside their cache, where they slept, fed, and spent up to 11 days continuously underground. They abandoned the sites 41 and 52 days after initial discovery. While badgers are known to scavenge and to cache small food items underground, this is the first evidence of an American badger caching an animal carcass larger than itself.
Video (time-compressed gif) here.  And more about setts.

### 0.99999999... is equal to 1.000000

This is true.  0.99999.... repeating to infinity is not really really really close to 1.0.  It equals 1.0.
0.9…, or in a variety of other variants such as 0.9, 0.(9)... ${\displaystyle 0.{\dot$ denotes a real number that can be shown to be the number one. In other words, the symbols "0.999…" and "1" represent the same number. Proofs of this equality have been formulated with varying degrees of mathematical rigor, taking into account preferred development of the real numbers, background assumptions, historical context, and target audience.
There are a variety of ways to demonstrate this to nonbelievers.
The most easily understood is to revert to other familiar repeating digits.  Everyone knows that 1/3 is 0.333... and that 2/3 is 0.666...  If you add them together, you get 3/3, which is one.

But now note that the sum of the decimals on the right side of the equation is 0.999...

Therefore, one is equal to (not close to) .999...

You don't agree?  Then try this.  Subtract .999... from one.  What you have is 0.000...  An infinitely long string of zeroes, which can only be equal to zero.  And if the subtraction of .999... from one leaves zero, then the .999... must be one.  But, you say, there's a one at the end that string of zeroes.  No, there isn't, because the string of 9s doesn't end.
Other proofs are offered at the Wikipedia entry.

### Dragon risk of the anthropocene

"Emerging evidence indicates that dragons can no longer be dismissed as creatures of legend and fantasy, and that anthropogenic effects on the world’s climate may inadvertently be paving the way for the resurgence of these beasts."
Published online in Nature, April 1, 2015.

## 31 March 2017

### Leg transplant, 3rd century

"One of the most famous acts of the saints is an operation to replace the amputated ulcerous leg of one of the patients [with] the foot of a recently deceased Moor. This story was reflected in many works of art.

This episode is described in the text of an incunabula from the life of the saints, which appeared in Augsburg in 1489...

When the patient woke up, the pain did not happen. He got up and ordered his servants to bring candles. He always told me what had happened to him. People ran to the coffin of the Moor and saw a cut off leg. They rejoiced at the miracle that was accomplished and thanked God and the saints of Cosmas and Damian with fervor. "
More on Saints Cosmas and Damian.

Top image: School of Castile and Leon, 'Saints Cosmas and Damian Healing a Christian with the Leg of a Dead Moor', 1460-1480.  Both images via Marinni's LiveJournal, where there are additional depictions of the legend.

### "Everybody loves Bernie Sanders"

Except, of course, for the Democratic party officials who wanted HRC to be the candidate.
If you look at the numbers, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America – and it’s not even close. Yet bizarrely, the Democratic party – out of power across the country and increasingly irrelevant – still refuses to embrace him and his message. It’s increasingly clear they do so at their own peril.

A new Fox News poll out this week shows Sanders has a +28 net favorability rating among the US population, dwarfing all other elected politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. And he’s even more popular among the vaunted “independents”, where he is at a mind boggling +41...

One would think with numbers like that, Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now. Yet instead of embracing his message, the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don’t have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country....

Democrats seem more than happy to put all the blame of the 2016 election on a combination of Russia and James Comey and have engaged in almost zero introspection on the root causes of the larger reality...

In other words, they’re doubling down on the exact same failing strategy that Clinton used in the final months of the campaign. Sanders himself put it this way in his usual blunt style in an interview with New York magazine this week – when asked about whether the Democrats can adapt to the political reality, he said: “There are some people in the Democratic Party who want to maintain the status quo. They would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”
He would have beaten Trump, IMHO.

Photo credit (cropped for size).

### JFK assassination records to be released ?

Twenty-five years have passed since the 1992 mandate:
[F]ederal judge John Tunheim called for complete release of the government’s JFK files later this year.

“It’s time to release them all,” said Tunheim, the former chair of an independent panel that declassified thousands of JFK records in the 1990s.

The National Archives retains a trove of more than 3,500 JFK assassination records, obtained by Tunheim’s review board, that have never been seen by the public. The records are historically significant.

The unseen CIA files include 2,000 pages of transcripts of the CIA’s harsh interrogation of KGB defector Yuri Nosenko, who handled Lee Harvey Oswald’s file for Soviet intelligence service. They also include CIA files of senior undercover officers in 1963 such as Bill Harvey, David Phillips and Howard Hunt. All three believed Kennedy’s policies were dangerously weak, perhaps even treasonous. Harvey and Phillips are known to have mounted assassination operations.

The JFK Records Act of 1992 mandates the release of all of these records by October 26, 2017.

In his Press Club comments, Tunheim, the senior federal judge in Minnesota, noted that President Trump and White House General Counsel Donald McGahn face important decisions about these records. The leadership of the CIA, including Trump-appointed director Mike Pompeo, may prefer that some of this material remain secret.

### Mark Twain's "writing hut"

At his most productive, Twain practically chain-smoked cigars, and his craving for a quick burn was conspicuous at 250-acre Quarry Farm, a nest of solitude away from the social hurly-burly of Hartford.
Mindful of her health, perhaps, sister-in-law Susan Crane had a windowed study built specially for Twain in 1874 not far from her Victorian farmhouse. Equipped with a writing table, wicker chair, cot, fireplace and cat door, it was designed to resemble the pilot house of a Mississippi steamboat.

After a steak breakfast, Twain would saunter 300 feet across a lawn flecked with buttercups and black-eyed susans and climb the stone steps to a promontory where the octagonal cabin was perched. Amid the chirp and crackle of nature, overlooking a panorama he called a "foretaste of heaven," Twain often churned out as many as 2,600 words a day...

To thwart vandals and accommodate tourists, the cabin was moved down to the Elmira College campus in 1952.
The top photo shows the study at its current location on the campus.  The original location offered way more spectacular views.
“It is the loveliest study you ever saw…octagonal with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window…perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills. It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it.”—Mark Twain, Letter to William Dean Howells, 1874
I would love to have a similiar tiny "hut" in the north woods of Minnesota to use as a retreat.

Top photo credit Alamy, via The Guardian.   Black-and-white photo via Twainquotes.