28 April 2017


"The proboscis is an infolding of the body wall, and sits in the rhynchocoel when inactive. When muscles in the wall of the rhynchocoel compress the fluid in the rhynchocoel, the pressure makes the proboscis jump inside-out to attack the animal's prey along a canal called the rhynchodeum and through an orifice, the proboscis pore. The proboscis has a muscle which attaches to the back of the rhynchocoel, and which can stretch up to 30 times its inactive length and then retract the proboscis.

Some Anopla have branched proboscises which can be described as "a mass of sticky spaghetti".  The animal then draws its prey into its mouth...
Although most are less than 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long, one specimen has been estimated at 54 metres (177 ft).

"Black market insulin" should not exist

As reported by NBC News:
Gabriella is allergic to the kind of insulin her insurer covers at a $25 out-of-pocket cost. She can only take Apidra, but her insurance only covers 25 percent of the price, leaving the family to pay hundreds of dollars a month they can't afford.

So her mom has turned to the black market, trading for the medication with other families with diabetes she meets online, a tactic that regulators and health experts warn is a health risk...

The class of rapid-acting insulin Gabriella depends upon comes at a price — one that's risen 1,123 percent since 1996, according to data from Truven Health Analytics, even as more competitors have entered the market.

Her parents' insurer, West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), considers Gabriella's insulin Apidra "Tier 3," which means the family has to pay 75 percent of the price. A copay-reduction card from drugmaker Sanofi would help some, but would still leave them to pay $270 for one vial, which would last them about a month...

Since they're not uninsured, the Corleys don't qualify for free insulin under Sanofi's patient assistance program...

As far as the industry is concerned, Humalog, Novolog, and Apidra are all equivalent insulins in terms of how they lower blood sugar levels. So whether or not your insurer covers it comes down to the deal they can cut.

But not every patient can use the drug their insurer has decided they can take, or afford the one they want to. Drugs' formulations vary. Some patients may have a reaction to the inactive ingredients or find that one kind works differently in their body, forcing them to relearn years of mental math performed at every mealtime. 
American healthcare is a total clusterfuck debacle.

Do you see the flame in this photo? Neither do the birds.

From the New York Times:
But that flare, burning off methane created by decomposing garbage, poses a potentially lethal threat to unsuspecting birds that pass through it. Larger birds have been found with singed wings, unable to fly or fend for themselves. Bird-watchers believe that smaller ones are simply incinerated...

Mr. Aberback said the authority had plans to capture methane at another of its landfills, but that was “not currently a viable option for the Kingsland Landfill flare.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service says the authority has already followed through on some of its suggestions, like removing a number of possible perches for birds around the flame. A local electric company has agreed to take out or retrofit power lines and other equipment to make them less attractive to migrating birds. Finding a way to make the flare visible to birds is among the other ideas officials say are being explored.

27 April 2017

Performance on a theremin

The music is Ennio Morricone's Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.


As discussed at NPR:
Some dogs are doggos, some are puppers, and others may even be pupperinos. There are corgos and clouds, fluffers and floofs, woofers and boofers. The chunky ones are thicc, and the thin ones are long bois. When they stick out their tongues, they're doing a mlem, a blep, a blop. They bork. They boof. Once in a while they do each other a frighten. And whether they're 10/10 or 12/10, they're all h*ckin' good boys and girls.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? If not, you're probably not fluent in DoggoLingo, a language trend that's been gaining steam on the Internet in the past few years. The language most often accompanies a picture or a video of a dog and has spread to all major forms of social media...

Even Merriam-Webster is aware of terms like doggo and pupper. Though they have a long way to go before they're eligible for dictionary-entry — they need to be used in published, edited work over an extended period of time — they're definitely candidates.

New evidence supports/denies the "Solutrean hypothesis" - updated many times

The Solutrean hypothesis:
The Solutrean hypothesis is a controversial proposal that peoples from Europe may have been among the earliest settlers in the Americas, as evidenced by similarities in stone tool technology of the Solutrean culture from prehistoric Europe to that of the later Clovis tool-making culture found in the Americas. It was first proposed in 1998. Its key proponents include Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution, and Bruce Bradley, of the University of Exeter.

In this hypothesis, people associated with the Solutrean culture migrated from Ice Age Europe to North America, bringing their methods of making stone tools with them and providing the basis for later Clovis technology found throughout North America. The hypothesis rests upon particular similarities in Solutrean and Clovis technology that have no known counterparts in Eastern Asia, Siberia or Beringia, areas from which or through which early Americans are known to have migrated.
TYWKIWDBI had three posts on pre-Clovis finds last year, discussing skulls found in a Yucatan underwater cave, paleo-era tools on California's Channel Islands, and a pre-Clovis point found in a mastodon bone.

Today the Washington Post and The Independent have articles about new findings on the Atlantic coast of North America that support the Solutrean hypothesis.
At the core of Stanford’s case are stone tools recovered from five mid-Atlantic sites. Two sites lie on Chesapeake Bay islands, suggesting that the Solutreans settled Delmarva early on. Smithsonian research associate Darrin Lowery found blades, anvils and other tools found stuck in soil at least 20,000 years old [note only the soil can be reliably dated, not the artifacts themselves]...

Further, the Eastern Shore blades strongly resemble those found at dozens of Solutrean sites from the Stone Age in Spain and France, Stanford says. “We can match each one of 18 styles up to the sites in Europe.”..

Stone tools recovered from two other mid-Atlantic sites — Cactus Hills, Va., 45 miles south of Richmond, and Meadowcroft Rockshelter, in southern Pennsylvania — date to at least 16,000 years ago. Those tools, too, strongly resemble blades found in Europe...

“The reason people don’t like the Solutrean idea is the ocean,” he said. No Solutrean boats have been found. But given that people arrived in Australia some 60,000 years ago — and they didn’t walk there — wood-frame and seal-skin boats were clearly possible, Stanford argues... 
One major problem facing investigators is that early peoples would have lived on the coast next to the ocean - but sea levels have risen so far since that time that the original coast is perhaps 50 miles off the current shoreline and deep underwater.  Caves and artifacts from those locations are difficult to find.

Addendum:   I've updated this post (originally published in 2012) to add some items I've recently encountered - first, from Germany's Der Spiegel, reporting on DNA studies of North Americans:
Now a team of scientists led by the Danish geneticist Eske Willerslev has analyzed the boy's [Clovis-era, found in Montana] origins and discovered that he descends from a Siberian tribe with roots tracing back to Europe. Some of the boy's ancestors are likely even to have lived in present-day Germany.

Their findings go even further: More than 80 percent of all native peoples in the Americas -- from the Alaska's Aleuts to the Maya of Yucatan to the Aymaras along the Andes -- are descended from Montana boy's lineage.

Last week, the scientists published the results of sequencing the child's DNA in the scientific journal Nature. Late last year, the same team published the decoded genome of another early human: A juvenile buried near Lake Baikal in Siberia some 24,000 years ago. Their genomes showed surprising ancestral similarities.
This earned Willerslev's team an astounding publishing achievement in just 100 days: The decoding of the genomes of the oldest analyzed members of homo sapiens in both the Old and the New Worlds. This has allowed them to reconstruct the settlement of the Americas via the Beringia land bridge during the ice ages -- when what is now the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska was frozen over -- in greater detail than ever before.
That report is discussed in a Reddit thread and summarized on the Wikipedia page, and at USA Today:
When researchers analyzed the Anzick child's DNA and compared it to the genomes of living Native Americans, they found that the boy's family members were the ancestors of multiple Central and South American groups, such as the Maya of Central America and the Karitiana people of Brazil. Willerslev estimates that roughly 80% of Native Americans are descended from the Anzick group, contradicting claims by other scholars that the Clovis people didn't leave much of a genetic legacy...

The results overturn the idea that migrants who colonized the Americas after the Clovis people are the true ancestors to Native Americans. And the discovery "puts the final nail in the coffin" for the idea that the ancestors of Native Americans may have crossed to the New World from Europe, says study author Ripan Malhi of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

With the genetic data, the researchers can construct a rough narrative of the peopling of the New World. From Siberia, ancient people gradually crossed a now-vanished land bridge to Alaska. Some drifted south, giving rise to the Clovis people and colonizing the United States and Central and South America. Others stayed in the north and founded the lineage leading to the modern-day Cree and Athabascan peoples of northern North America. The study is published in this week's Nature.
I have accordingly inserted "/denies" after "supports" in the post's title.

Addendum:  Reposted again, in part because this post has become one of the most-commented posts I've ever created for TYWKIWDBI, and I'd like to have the current generation of readers be aware of it.  Mostly I wanted to add this infomation from a recent comment:
Just returned from a visit with Dr. Al Goodyear and his folks at "The Topper Site" in South Carolina. Documented, dated by the best available science, Pre-Clovis artifacts found at a Chert quarry have been robustly tested and are found to be 50,000 years old +. In fact, charcoal remnants so old that Radio Carbon dating is impossible found in the same layer have proven the case for human occupation at the site . It is ,in fact, a tool manufacturing site of the first magnitude, It is located on the banks of the Savannah River in S.C.. It is interesting to note that more Clovis and Pre-Clovis artifacts have now been found of the East coast of the U.S.A.than all of the rest of the country. I know not what this means, but it definitely means something. Dr. Goodyear will publish a definitive paper very soon, but his find (The Topper Site) has been visited and observed by many national and international academe professionals and many of the artifacts examined in situ and in the lab.
We'll have to await that "definitive paper" for details; I suspect it will encounter substantial resistance during the peer-review process.  The Wikipedia entry offers the standard counterarguments:
Goodyear, who began excavating the Topper site in the 1980s, believes that lithic objects at that level are rudimentary stone tools (and thus "artifacts"). Other archaeologists dispute this conclusion, suggesting that the objects are natural and not human-made. Other archaeologists also have challenged the radiocarbon dating of the carbonized remains at Topper...
A recent article on the Topper site was posted in Charleston's Post and Courier.

"Unifacial flake tools found at the top of the soil layer holding artifacts said to be 50,000 years old." Provided by Keith McGraw/University of South Carolina

Addendum:  A 2017 BBC article updates information about trans-Beringia migration, but doesn't address the question of Solutreans.

Addendum:  Reposted yet once again to add a flurry of links regarding a new report describing evidence suggesting human habitation in North American an incredible 130,000 years ago.

The report was published in Nature (top-of-the-line in terms of peer review):
Here we describe the Cerutti Mastodon (CM) site, an archaeological site from the early late Pleistocene epoch, where in situ hammerstones and stone anvils occur in spatio-temporal association with fragmentary remains of a single mastodon (Mammut americanum). The CM site contains spiral-fractured bone and molar fragments, indicating that breakage occured while fresh. Several of these fragments also preserve evidence of percussion...

230Th/U radiometric analysis of multiple bone specimens using diffusion–adsorption–decay dating models indicates a burial date of 130.7 ± 9.4 thousand years ago.

These findings confirm the presence of an unidentified species of Homo at the CM site during the last interglacial period (MIS 5e; early late Pleistocene), indicating that humans with manual dexterity and the experiential knowledge to use hammerstones and anvils processed mastodon limb bones for marrow extraction and/or raw material for tool production.
The key contentioius points:  bones fractured fresh, bones fractured intentionally, tools found at the site, dating methodology.

Commentary at NBC News, BBC, The Guardian, The New Reddit Journal of Science.

If the findings are being correctly interpreted, this will require a massive, near-total revision of the history of human migration to the Americas.

I closed comments on this post long ago because of various contentious issues.  I'll leave them closed for the present.

Addendum: The Atlantic has a superb article updating this subject and incorporating much new data.

Final (?) addendum: I just finished reading Jennifer Raff's Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas [2022].  I'm not going to take time to transcribe pages of information, but new findings in genetics have "struck the definitive blow against the Solutrean hypothesis."  All of the earliest human genomic material in the Americas (including from an individual buried with Clovis artifacts) has Siberian roots.  There are no connections to European genes [pages 46-52].

An interesting factoid: "There are estimates that over 1,000 languages were spoken in the Western Hemisphere at the time of European contact." [p.75]

Page 78 has a list of all the documented pre-Clovis sites in the Americas (Monte Verde, Paisley Caves, Page-Ladson, the Manis mastodon kill site, Huaca Prieta, Butterfmilk Creek complex, the Schaefer and Hebior sites in Wisconsin, Cactus Hill, Cooper's Ferry, Taima-Taima in Venezuela and many others...  "Humans were in the Americas by (at the most conservative estimate) 15,000-14,000 years ago, more likely between 17,000 and 16,000 and perhaps even as early as 30,000-20,000 years ago."

25 April 2017

Owl legs


Subtleties of online shopping

Excerpts from an interesting article in this month's The Atlantic:
Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us...

The price of a can of soda in a vending machine can now vary with the temperature outside. The price of the headphones Google recommends may depend on how budget-conscious your web history shows you to be, one study found. For shoppers, that means price—not the one offered to you right now, but the one offered to you 20 minutes from now, or the one offered to me, or to your neighbor—may become an increasingly unknowable thing...

Four researchers in Catalonia tried to answer the question with dummy computers that mimicked the web-browsing patterns of either “affluent” or “budget conscious” customers for a week. When the personae went “shopping,” they weren’t shown different prices for the same goods. They were shown different goods. The average price of the headphones suggested for the affluent personae was four times the price of those suggested for the budget-conscious personae. Another experiment demonstrated a more direct form of price discrimination: Computers with addresses in greater Boston were shown lower prices than those in more-remote parts of Massachusetts on identical goods...
More at the link.


There's a reason this series of cartoons is entitled "Real Life Adventures."

Habitat restoration exemplified

"Almost 50 years ago, fried chicken tycoon David Bamberger used his fortune to purchase 5,500 acres of overgrazed land in the Texas Hill Country. Planting grasses to soak in rains and fill hillside aquifers, Bamberger devoted the rest of his life to restoring the degraded landscape. Today, the land has been restored to its original habitat and boasts enormous biodiversity. Bamberger's model of land stewardship is now being replicated across the region and he is considered to be a visionary in land management and water conservation."
This is worth several minutes of your time.   Don't just skip over it.

Wear a helmet.


"First water" explained

I was reading a Robert Frost poem in which he described something as being "of the first water."  The reference:
I've tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I've tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water start almost shining.
I have heard the term applied to gemstones and extrapolated as above, but wasn't sure how the gemstone application arose.  It turns out to be quite simple.
The clarity of diamonds is assessed by their translucence; the more like water, the higher the quality. The 1753 edition of Chambers' Encyclopedia states "The first water in Diamonds means the greatest purity and perfection of their complexion, which ought to be that of the clearest drop of water. When Diamonds fall short of this perfection, they are said to be of the second or third water, &c. till the stone may be properly called a coloured one."

The comparison of diamonds with water dates back to at least the early 17th century, and Shakespeare alludes to it in Pericles, 1607.
Heavenly jewels which Pericles hath lost,
Begin to part their fringes of bright gold.
The diamonds of a most praisèd water
Doth appear, to make the world twice rich.

Man bowls a "300" in less than two minutes

Via Neatorama.

Guilty as charged

It has been pointed out to me, probably on several occasions, that I should not type two spaces after a period.  I've been doing this since my 10th-grade typing class, so I doubt I can change a 50+-year-old habit.  Today I encountered this rant on the subject (which I typed using two spaces after periods):
The two-spaces-after-a-period construction is outmoded and has no place in modern communication.  It’s not a coincidence that many of my friends who still use two spaces work in finance and law—two decidedly old-school industries populated by people who grew up in the two-space heyday.  The practice should be eradicated for good, especially in the digital communication age, when every device has proportional fonts.  Design experts agree that using two spaces creates an unsightly amount of white space, and increases the chance you’ll have a “river” snake its way through your paragraph.  Worse, it makes a person look old and out of touch.
Here is the same text typed using one space after the periods.
The two-spaces-after-a-period construction is outmoded and has no place in modern communication. It’s not a coincidence that many of my friends who still use two spaces work in finance and law—two decidedly old-school industries populated by people who grew up in the two-space heyday. The practice should be eradicated for good, especially in the digital communication age, when every device has proportional fonts. Design experts agree that using two spaces creates an unsightly amount of white space, and increases the chance you’ll have a “river” snake its way through your paragraph. Worse, it makes a person look old and out of touch.

Today is April 25

From Miss Congeniality, via.

23 April 2017

"Slime videos" explained

A tip of the blogging hat to the elves at No Such Thing As A Fish for explaining in a recent podcast how "slime" is now a "thing".  I found a detailed explanation in a column at nymag.  Herewith some excerpts:
Slime, if you haven’t encountered it on any of your social feeds — or at a child’s birthday party — is a strange, mushy semi-solid that can be made easily with Elmer’s glue, borax, and water, plus a mess of strange sequins, colored dye, and commentary. Slime is so popular as a craft project among teens and preteens that stores are struggling to keep Elmer’s glue on the shelves...

Slime videos are part science, part meditation, and part art form. They’re also a business. Slime creators have hundreds of thousands of followers, and sell their slime on Etsy for money. @Slime.Bun, one of my favorites, has more than 200,000 followers; @slimequeeens has almost 700,000. It’s an industry dominated by teens who started making their own slime just because they loved it — and starting selling it to enable their habit. Alyssa J., a 15-year-old slime creator whose mother preferred that she keep her last name secret for privacy reasons, just started her slime account in August 2016. She says she saw tutorials on Pinterest, and that it “just looked fun,” so she decided to start an account herself. Alyssa’s account, @craftyslimecreator, now has 431,000 followers...

 For Donna Boyd, a 17-year-old from Harrisburg, Virginia, slime is therapeutic. She’s never purchased slime, or made it herself. She just watches hundreds of videos from her five favorite accounts over and over again. “It honestly just makes me happy and de-stresses me,” Donna told me. “I suffer from anxiety, and slime videos help me a lot during panic attacks.” She says she gets lost in them after watching a few, going into a kind of meditative state. One teen I spoke to, Rachel M., told me she spends “at least 15 hours a week” just watching slime videos and playing with slime. She has only bought two slimes herself, but she loves them and says, “I need them.”..

“It doesn’t matter what it’s used for,” Alyssa told me near the end of our interview, dragging out “used” so that it sounded like the most absurd request in the world for a giggly, blue goo to have a purpose. “It’s just slime. Get it?”
Here is a sample video:

BTW, the company that makes Elmer's Glue is private.  You can't buy stock in it.  I checked.

AddendumGlobal slime craze sparks safety warnings after borax blamed for burns.

"How Western civilization could collapse"

Excerpts from an interesting longread at the BBC:
The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse...

...there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification. The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognised path to potential doom...

That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own, on the other hand, came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour. Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour...

According to Joseph Tainter, a professor of environment and society at Utah State University and author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, one of the most important lessons from Rome’s fall is that complexity has a cost. As stated in the laws of thermodynamics, it takes energy to maintain any system in a complex, ordered state – and human society is no exception. By the 3rd Century, Rome was increasingly adding new things – an army double the size, a cavalry, subdivided provinces that each needed their own bureaucracies, courts and defences – just to maintain its status quo and keep from sliding backwards. Eventually, it could no longer afford to prop up those heightened complexities. It was fiscal weakness, not war, that did the Empire in...

Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national. Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid...
Whenever I read about the end of civilization, I am reminded of this classic passage from Hitchhiker:
P.A. VOICE: We are currently awaiting the loading of our compliment of small, lemon-soaked paper napkins for your comfort, refreshment, and hygiene during the flight, which will be of two hours duration. Meanwhile we thank you for your patience. The cabin crew will shortly be serving coffee and biscuits… again.

AUTOPILOT: There has been a delay. The passengers are kept in temporary suspended animation for their comfort and convenience. Coffee and biscuits are served every ten years, after which passengers are returned to suspended animation for their comfort and convenience. Departure will take place when flight stores are complete. We apologise for the delay.

FORD: Delay? Have you seen the world outside this ship? It’s a wasteland. A desert. Civilisation’s been and gone. It’s over. There are no lemon-soaked paper napkins on the way from anywhere.

AUTOPILOT: The statistical likelihood is that other civilisations will arise. There will one day be lemon-soaked paper napkins. ‘Till then, there will be a short delay. Please return to your seats.

Therapy dogs waitiing to see their children

Photo taken at an Italian children's hospital.  Via Reddit.

The dangers of kohl eyeliner

Kohl served multiple roles in Egyptian antiquity. Egyptians of all social classes applied the eyeliner daily in veneration of the deities, satisfying both religious obligations and beautifying desires. Wearing the glossiest, highest quality kohl denoted one’s upper class status in society while the less wealthy adulterated their kohl with fire soot. Before the advent of Ray-Bans, it was applied liberally around the eyes to reduce the sun’s glare, to repel flies and to provide cooling relief from the heat. It also trapped errant dust and dirt, a simple remedy to curb the desert’s regular assaults on the body...

Kohl is predominantly composed of the mineral galena, a dark, metallic lead-based product that is also known by the chemical name lead sulfide (PbS). The mineral would be crushed and mixed  with several other ingredients such as ground pearls, rubies and emeralds, silver and gold leaves, frankincense, coral, and medicinal herbs such as saffron, fennel, and neem...

A 240-fold increase in NO production was sparked by the presence of lead ions, a bona fide tsunami of molecules flooding surrounding cells to respond to invading bacteria. This intense biochemical interaction suggests that kohl was more than just a beautifying cosmetic and the forefather of sunglasses, but also an important antibacterial ointment...

Kohl is still used today in North Africa and Central Asia, despite its considerable toxicity.
There is more information about the toxicity at NPR:
Two Afghan children now living in Albuquerque developed very high levels of lead in their blood because of eye makeup, health workers reported Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The family had just emigrated from Afghanistan as refugees. And they brought the traditional eyeliner, called kajal, with them...

When health workers tested the kajal in the family's home, the eyeliner turned out to be 54 percent lead. That's 540,000 parts per million, or 27,000 times the cap set by the Food and Drug Administration for color additives in makeup.

Lead is a neurotoxin. And it's especially harmful to babies and young children. Even small amounts can damage developing brains and cause permanent problems.

Tilly Lockey and her bionic arm

The above video shows her first attempts to use the new arm; In the longer video below she tells her story:

More details at the Meningitis Research Foundation.

"I've never been on a team before. Even if I don't play, I just want to be on the team..."

Tongue-and-groove tree felling

Via.  Video here.

21 April 2017

Divertimento #125

The 125th linkdump becomes the first "gifdump". 

Deep-frying rice vermicelli noodles.

Avalanche rescue dog having fun.

Gorilla vs. Canada goose.  You can guess who wins.

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.

Add water to compressed soil.

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

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 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."
Addendum: A tip of the blogging cap to reader Drabkikker for finding this relevant Wikipedia page.

Basketball court adapted to available space


"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:  best answers so far are in the link offered by Kyle Michelli and in the video link provided by Zhoen in the comments.

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.
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