06 February 2016


Secret doors and hiding places in homes.

Introducing the New York Public Library's erotica collection.  "For decades, they were kept in locked cages, accessible only with special permission and viewed in a small, secured area in the main research library. More recently, hundreds of works that make up the triple-star collection have been liberated from the restricted controls. An adult with a library card can simply fill out a request and peruse the material on the premises."

The use of microwaved tampons and WD-40 in food photography.

A game of Monopoly completed in 21 seconds (video).  "The shortest possible game of Monopoly requires only four turns, nine rolls of the dice, and twenty-one seconds."

The pronunciation of poinsettia is explained at Language Log.  "The journalist also wondered whether the "poinsetta" pronunciation is a mistake, and whether people who use it should be corrected. My response was that there are lots of similar cases of variants with a phoneme or two missing — february, surprise, etc. — and the fact that such variants are listed in dictionaries is a good reason not to correct people who prefer them. And there are other cases where pronouncing the lost phonemes is actually a mistake — wednesday (at least in the U.S.), worcester, etc."

A discussion thread about suspicious deaths occurring in the Scientology-owned Fort Harrison Hotel and the failure of police to investigate emergency calls from the hotel.

A humorous advertisement for butt plugs (SFW).

There seems to be no end to odd cake wrecks. " The birthday girl’s name is Starr. That’s Starr, with two “r”s. Got it?"

How to run out of a steep hole.

A video about the Helicobacter in Otzi's stomach.

"Heavy fighting breaks out in a refugee camp" (Serbian police vs. middle-eastern children).  A 30- second video you will enjoy.

"My late granddad had a quaint way of bidding people goodbye. He would say “Goodbye, and thank your mother for the rabbits”. Do you think that was just him being himself, or was it an expression in general use? He lived a bit further north than I do at the moment, in north-west Durham."  Explanation at World Wide Words.

Here's what's wrong with modern country music.

A wooden prosthesis for a medieval leg has been found in an Austrian archaeological site.

A Mary Sue for female characters and Gary Stu or Marty Stu for male characters is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment

"Probably any aphid you have ever met was female. In some aphid species, males do not exist or at least have never been observed. In other species, males only occur during one of the many generations that occur during the season, late in the year."

A panoramic photo taken inside the Hatton Gardon heist bank vault.  Impressive.

Photos and thumbnail bioraphies of the ten tallest people currently alive.  If you were 8 feet tall, you'd only come in third.

The Oxford Words blog explains the origin of the phrase "currying favor" in a brief video.  "The original form of this phrase was actually ‘to curry Favel’, which probably sounds rather puzzling. Favel was the name of a chestnut horse in a 14th-century French tale who was renowned for his cunning and duplicity."

NPR reports that "The Onion" has been sold to Univision. (honest)

A gallery of photos of spiders that catch and eat bats.

The largest known prime number has been discovered.  The number is 274,207,281-1.  It has 22,338,618 digits.  Perhaps some reader can leave a comment on this post as to why this is important or relevant to real life.

A "life pro tip" - "when paying a friend cash, ask them to double check it so they don't feel awkward counting it in front of you."

I have some terrible news...

With only 18 lines of dialogue and equally as few minutes of screen time, [Aurora/Sleeping Beauty] speaks less than any other speaking main character in a full-length Disney animated feature film.

Trail running in the Scottish Highlands.  A five-minute video best enjoyed by clicking the full-screen icon.

There is a long-standing debate and some simmering animosity in Minnesota between muskie fishermen and walleye fishermen.  This article explains why and tries to calm the waters with some observations on biology and ecology.

Statistically speaking, six out of seven dwarfs are not Happy.  :.)

A gallery of 28 photos from North Korea, with some trenchant captions (note the computers with no electricity).

In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

Video of an immense "sneaker wave" coming ashore in Oregon.  Very impressive.  Not the same as a tsunami, btw.

The photos for today's linkdump come from Growing Ice - an Overview, which is the best webpage I've found so far on unusual ice formations (top photo credit bobbi fabellano from the Olympic Peninsula).  I've been fascinated by ice flowers ever since I saw my first one growing in my yard when I lived in Kentucky.  More photos, and lucid explanations at the link.


  1. Re: large primes. Large prime numbers are actually really important when it comes to data encryption. Many cryptographic algorithms, notably RSA, use large prime factorization for public key encryption.

    1. That I have heard. But is there a use for a million-digit prime? Or is this just one-upsmanship for fun in the math world?

  2. The prime number itself is not important, but the tools to find it are the same tools you would use to make better codes and to crack secure communications. So it is a byproduct of an arms race

  3. Alas, on occasion human curiosity produces results which do not directly impact our physical needs. I hope that one day we, as a species, can overcome the scourge of needless inquiry!

    1. Well said. The notion that "practical use" is the goal of human endeavour is sadly wide-spread, and honestly I would have expected a more nuanced opinion from someone who keeps a blog dedicated to wonder and curiosity for its own sake. Prime numbers, for all their apparent simplicity, are among the most baffling enigmata in our universe - correction: in any imagineable universe. Which would seem ample reason to study them. For those wishing to lift a fraction of the veil, this site is an excellent start.

  4. That refugee fight loses a little bit of its cuteness because the cop clearly isn't free to move from the door and has to keep vigilant while "playing". It's a little bittersweet that adult life keeps him from fully being the fun guy he wants to be. But hey, way more fun than just standing on guard, and he can have real fun after work.

  5. Aphids ?
    Aphids are like rabbits in that way, I mean, while rabbit males are easy to see, the entire species is crepuscular AND pan-dimensional.
    You just have to turn around to pick one up and you find they are gone, poof, vanished, only to be found some many metres away, having instantly transposed one physical reality for another by spending a few hours in a different dimension.
    Spacetime means nothing to a lagomorph.
    Aphid males probably do the same, just that they spend a lot more time in the 'other' place.


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