31 October 2017

Conspiracy theory: there was no shooting in Las Vegas

Braden Matejka survived a bullet to the head in the Las Vegas massacre. Then, the death threats started coming.

“You are a lying piece of shit and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head,” a commenter wrote to Matejka on Facebook, one week after a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. “Your soul is disgusting and dark! You will pay for the consequences!” said another. A Facebook meme quickly spread with a photo of him after the shooting, captioned: “I’m a lying cunt!”...

Conspiracy theorists – some of whom claim that the government staged the shooting on 1 October or that the tragedy was a hoax – have targeted survivors and victims’ loved ones, spamming every social media platform with misinformation and abuse. On Facebook and YouTube in particular, users have published viral posts and videos calling people like Braden “crisis actors”, alleging they were hired to pose as victims...

Friends and relatives posted messages of love and support in response. But soon, the nasty messages began to arrive, with strangers sending comments at such a rapid rate that it was hard for the family to keep up.

“Obviously a TERRIBLE CRISIS ACTOR,” wrote a Facebook user named Samantha. “HE’S SCAMMING THE PUBLIC … This was a government set up.”


“You’ll pay on the other side,” said a user named Mach. Others called Braden a “LYING BASTARD”, “scumbag govt actor” and “fuckin FRAUD”, while one user named Josh wrote: “I hope someone comes after you and literally beats the living fuck outa you.” 
More details at The Guardian.   This is the world we live in.

Copy editor needed

Several other examples in the original Twitter thread.  The title of the article was amended for the online version.

Meet Chris Rosati

For those who liked the above video, the one below offers more details on his remarkable life:

30 October 2017

Wyatt Earp, 1923

For some reason it's hard for me to think of Wyatt Earp living in the "modern era," but in fact he was quite active in the 1920s, even serving as an unpaid consultant in silent cowboy movies.

His face in the portrait does have the appearance of someone who has seen some shit in his time. (Image cropped for size from the original; source misplaced).

Here's one reason your drywall may be cracking

Quite interesting.  My father used to explain such cracks as resulting from the house "settling."  This 8-minute presentation is much more informative.  You learn something every day.

Martin Luther's antisemitism

I've seen numerous articles this week celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, and thereby launching the Reformation.  I thought I'd post something a bit different.

The modern Lutheran Church places a high value on ecumenism and tolerance of religious diversity.
Such could not be said for the church's namesake, as exemplified by this excerpt from Martin Luther's On The Jews and Their Lies:
"...aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew... What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming.... First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians.... Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.... Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.... Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb."
Via MetaFilter, where there is an extensive discussion thread.   See also the Wikipedia entry.

I don't remember hearing any of this in Luther League.

26 October 2017

Creatonotos gangis shows off his coremata

This otherwise unremarkable Australian moth is capable of everting four pheromone-releasing organs (coremata)("hair-pencils"), each of which is longer than the moth's abdomen.

You learn something every day.

Photo credit Buck Richardson, Kuranda, Queensland.


As reported by The Telegraph:
The trend of breeding animals to make them more attractive even when it damages their health has spread to horses, vets are warning, after a stable released images showing a ‘cartoon-like’ colt.

Extreme breeding practices have already left animals like French bulldogs and pugs struggling to breathe as their faces have become squashed over time to suit human demands.

But vets believe that the worrying practice is now happening in horses after a US stud farm offered an Arabian Colt for sale with an strange concave, or ‘dished’ profile.
More details at the link.  Photo credit: Orrion Farms.

Mandatory cat cartoons

I don't remember the details, but when I signed up for blogging, there was some rule about a minimum number of cat cartoons per year.  In case I've become delinquent, I'll post these for 2017.

Via The New Yorker Book of All-New Cat Cartoons

"Good cop" story

There are lots of such stories.  Here's one from Illinois:
Chicago teen had been repeatedly warned about sneaking onto the basketball court at a Skokie fitness facility, but one police officer came up with an alternative to arresting him for criminal trespassing.  In late August, X-Sport Fitness workers made good on a promise that police would be called in if they found the boy on the basketball court again...

...the teenager — about age 15 — would repeatedly walk past the front desk and onto the court. At one point, he said, the boy hid in a bathroom stall to try to elude fitness center employees so he could play hoops with friends.

"He had had a membership, but his mother could not afford to pay for it anymore and it expired," Pritchett said. "All he wanted to do was play basketball."..

Skokie police Officer Mario Valenti responded to the call for police that August day. What happened next surprised everyone at X-Sport, Pritchett said.

Valenti offered to pay $150 out of his own pocket, asking fitness center workers how much membership time that would buy for the boy.  The answer was three to four months, and Pritchett called the corporate office to report the situation, he said.

According to Pritchett, corporate was so taken with what the officer was doing that it made its own offer: The $150 would go toward a two-year membership with a total value of $718 and X-Sport Fitness would pick up the rest of the cost.
More details at the Chicago Tribune.

24 October 2017

Domino tricks

Some truly innovative maneuvers.

"Hedge apples" may "remember" the megafauna

An interesting post today at American Forests muses about the "hedge apple"/"Osage orange"/"monkeyball" (Maclura pomifera):
Consider the fruit of the Osage-orange, named after the Osage Indians associated with its range. In the fall, Osage-orange trees hang heavy with bright green, bumpy spheres the size of softballs, full of seeds and an unpalatable milky latex. They soon fall to the ground, where they rot, unused, unless a child decides to test their ballistic properties.

Trees that make such fleshy fruits do so to entice animals to eat them, along with the seeds they contain. The seeds pass through the animal and are deposited, with natural fertilizer, away from the shade and roots of the parent tree where they are more likely to germinate. But no native animal eats Osage-orange fruits. So, what are they for? The same question could be asked of the large seed pods of the honeylocust and the Kentucky coffeetree...

In terms of evolutionary time, the difference between 13,000 years ago and now is like the difference between Friday, December 31, 1999 and Saturday, January 1, 2000. We may assign those two days to different centuries or millennia, but they are still part of the same week. Likewise, all the animals and plants of 13,000 years ago belong just as much in the present. In fact, they still live in the present, with just one major exception: most of the big and fierce animals are now gone...

Now let’s return to the forlorn fruit of the Osage orange. Nothing today eats it. Once it drops from the tree, all of them on a given tree practically in unison, the only way it moves is to roll downhill or float in flood waters. Why would you evolve such an over-engineered, energetically expensive fruit if gravity and water are your only dispersers, and you like to grow on higher ground? You wouldn’t. Unless you expected it to be eaten by mammoths or ground-sloths...

It’s true that such adaptations are now anachronistic; they have lost their relevance. But the trees have been slow to catch on; a natural consequence of the pace of evolution. For a tree that lives, say, 250 years, 13,000 years represents only 52 generations. In an evolutionary sense, the trees don’t yet realize that the megafauna are gone.
More at the link, and a big hat tip to Quigley's Cabinet for the via.

Reposted from 2013 because when I walked the Arboretum this past week, the ground was littered with "hedge apples" -

And not a ground sloth in sight.

A "thought experiment" for pro-life advocates

"Would you save one 5-year-old child from a burning building, or save 1,000 embryos?"

Discussed (at great length) at Salon

Addendum: Reader Brad Williams notes that this question is also discussed (at great length) - from a different viewpoint - at The Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse.

Rather large earthworm

It's Digaster longmani, an Australian species that can grow to over 3 feet in length.

Reversing blindness

This is a staggering statistic:
75% of blindness and visual impairment could be cured or prevented. The main uncorrected causes are refractive errors, which affect at least 123 million people, and cataracts, which affect 65 million.
More information in the photoessay at The Guardian.

Photo (bilateral cataracts in a young Pakistani laborer) credit Andrew McConnell/Sightsavers.

Oil drilling environmental disaster

An excerpt from an old program from back in the days when The History Channel actually had programs about history.  Interesting.

21 October 2017

Yellow wood

I didn't want to finish blogging for the day with that rhino image at the top of the blog.  Instead I'll finish with this photo I took last week in my favorite woods in Cass County, Minnesota.  I'm currently using it as my desktop image as an instant mental health break (click for fullscreen).

"Memorial to a species"

Photo credit Brent Stirton, photojournalist, who captured the image at South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park.  This image was the Grand Title winner in the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for 2017.  Additional photos in several galleries at the link.


But not chocolate-covered - that's its natural appearance.  Tentatively surmised to be a member of the genus Boletus.

Ocean covered in plastic

The image speaks for itself.  Photographed near Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras

"Human-mediated" minerals

Last week I listened to a most interesting podcast about the discovery of new minerals, many/most of which occur as a result of man's interaction with the environment, either intentionally or accidentally.
By far the most interesting to me was tinnunculite, which forms when kestrel feces fall into burning Russian coal minesABC News (Au) and the Los Angeles Times offer other examples cited in a manuscript published recently in American Mineralogist.
Mr Hazen said a curator found an Egyptian statue at the bottom of a museum drawer and noticed a blue coating on the statue; it turned out to be a new mineral called chalconatronite. "Those minerals would never have occurred if it weren't for the fact that a mineral collector collected the mineral, left them in the oak drawer and then the oak drawer reacted to produce another new mineral," he said.
Photo - Fiedlerite, discovered at a Greek smelting site where seawater interacted with the slag.

17 October 2017

Divertimento #137

Another gifdump, because readers like them, it's quick, and I have yard chores to do.

Girl opens can of beer; frat boys approve.

A hideaway bunk bed.

A shrew leads her babies.


Fore-edge painting on book pages.

Football fans at University of Iowa wave at the children in the hospital.

I normally don't post "fail gifs," but I'll make an exception for this one.

A man and his hummingbird.  And a frustrated hummingbird.

Temporary tattoo printer (with discussion thread re possible problems).

"Halo" for a blind dog.

Apparently normal behavior for an ostrich.

Oiling a hardwood floor.

At a concert in the Netherlands.

Blowing a compact disc bubble.

Heimlich maneuver Halloween costume.

How rainfall generates aerosols (i.e. why you can smell a dusty road when it starts to sprinkle).

How firemen wind up hoses.

Smart bird.

Gas station manager explains that you shouldn't smoke while filling your gas tank.

Japanese soap dispenser.

Using acid to remove rust from a bolt.

Making a wooden bowl on a lathe.

Watch that first step...

How a cheetah runs.  Impressive.

Train crossing barrier apparently not calibrated for high-speed train. (hat tip to reader Pirx the Pilot for pointing out that this is human failure on a manually-triggered barrier).  Scary.

Bar trick with a cloth napkin.

Sphalerite cut as a gemstone.

Frosting a cake.

Peacock display.

"Dad marking out on a small football pitch with his blind son's hands what's going on down on the actual pitch."

Beware of the dog.

"Look at me!  I'm a goat!"

And the best dog gif of the day: "When I say 'go' you can have the treat."

Photos from a gallery of images from the 2017 Westminster Dog Show.  More images (and photo credits) at the link.

The President is a great office, not a great man

"Calvin Coolidge never made any pretensions to greatness. "It is a great advantage to a President and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man," he recorded in his Autobiography."
More about Coolidge at the United States Senate webpage.

Flying robots


When I take an airline flight, I never tire of looking at meanders and oxbow lakes.
The term derives from the Meander River located in present-day Turkey and known to the Ancient Greeks as Μαίανδρος Maiandros (Latin: Maeander), characterised by a very convoluted path along the lower reach. As such, even in Classical Greece (and in later Greek thought) the name of the river had become a common noun meaning anything convoluted and winding, such as decorative patterns or speech and ideas, as well as the geomorphological feature. Strabo said: ‘…its course is so exceedingly winding that everything winding is called meandering.’

The Meander River is located south of Izmir, east of the ancient Greek town of Miletus, now Milet, Turkey. It flows through a graben in the Menderes Massif, but has a flood plain much wider than the meander zone in its lower reach. Its modern Turkish name is the Büyük Menderes River.
Photo via Viewfind, where purchase information for the image is available.

"I Stand For The National Anthem"

"There is a huge tv screen by the food carts right inside the stadium where people gather to watch. We went over there to check it out and we saw him spread the flag out and sit down."
Some additional details at Deadspin.

Addendum: validity of the image confirmed at Snopes (uncropped version there, with metadata).

15 October 2017

Why is this image distorted?

This is the greenside area of the third hole at Tianna Country Club in Walker, Minnesota.  The ripples from my failed approach shot have faded away.  What interests me is the birch trees and their reflection in the pond.  In real life they were perfectly upright.

I photographed the scene with my iPhone SE, which has a fairly wide-angle built-in lens (29mm I think), but I don't remember encountering this much distortion using wide-angle lenses on my old film and digital cameras.

I've encountered obvious distortion with this phone taking panorama images, but this was a conventional one.  I need some education on the "why" and any coping techniques, and I figure asking the readership here will be faster than searching the 'net.  Thanks in advance.


Found crawling on my jeans in the woods of northern Minnesota.  I should have placed him on my walking stick for the photo.

Fascinating creatures; I'm recurrently amazed that they are capable of flying.

"Please excuse Gene"

Photographed at the museum of the Pine County (MN) Historical Society.  Highly recommended for a day trip with lunch in their cafe.

Vintage horsefly blanket

To anyone who has been around horses (or horseflies), the image speaks for itself.

Modern versions seem to be made of plastic or fabric.  I found a vintage one for sale on eBay made of leather.  This one appeared to be made of coarse string or yarn.  In the pre-plastic era this would probably be cooler than a fabric blanket.

Photographed at the museum of the Pine County (MN) Historical Society.  Highly recommended for a day trip with lunch in their cafe.

This is a "fire grenade"

"We found several of these old fire grenades in the attic of a large, old house in Edina [a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota]. It's a glass bulb filled with carbon tetrachloride, and was supposed to be thrown at the base of a fire to help put it out.

They were withdrawn in the 1950s because the chemical is toxic, and heat from fires can apparently turn the chemical into phosgene gas.
Found among the Fun home inspection photos from 2016.

Addendum:  Similar (but safer) products are still being manufactured and used.

Video of fire grenades being used.  The explanations I've seen about these tend to explain their efficacy as being a result of the gases produced, but I think not enough emphasis is given to the effects of the concussive explosion along as a fire-suppressant.

Reposted to add this photo I took at the Pine County Historical Society museum in Askov, Minnesota:

 Excellent museum, BTW...

07 October 2017


'Tis the season to start putting the gardens to bed for the winter, watch football games, play some last golf, and do some leafpeeping. 

Back in about a week.

06 October 2017

"Crazy Hair Day" at school

Found in the Funny subreddit.

See also Not a Dress Code Violation (2015)

Also this one.

Peacock spiders dance

From Live Science:
They're peacock spiders, a group of tiny arachnids that are small in stature but giants in the charisma department, best known for their brilliant colors and energetic courtship "dances" — much like the showy, fan-tailed peacocks that inspired the spiders' name.

And scientists recently described seven new peacock spider species — so let the spider dance party commence! [In Photos: 7 New Species of Peacock Spider]

Researchers found the newly described species — all of which were in the genus Maratus — in Western Australia and South Australia, bringing the total number of known Maratus species to 48. The spiders in this genus measure on average about 0.16 to 0.20 inches (4 to 5 millimeters) in length, with females a bit larger than the males.

Females that belong to this genus tend to be dappled in different shades of brown. But it's the males' dramatic coloration that catches the eye and prompts biologists to assign them whimsical nicknames like "Sparklemuffin," which was bestowed upon a peacock spider species described in 2015. Colors and patterns are displayed on the males' abdomens, frequently on a "fan" — a flat structure that is lifted up toward the female during the male's courtship performance.
More information at the Live Science link and in the video at the next post.

Mating rituals of the Peacock Spider

Remarkable (if somewhat redundant) footage of a tiny (4 mm.) Australian spider.  The coloration and the dance of the male spider are quite extraordinary.

Credit Catalyst via Neatorama.

 Reposted from 2011 to accompany the adjacent post.

Same old, same old

Excerpts from Harper's Weekly Review:
It was reported that the “police profile” of a mass shooter in the United States, of whom at least 56 percent have been white and 97 percent have been male, was not “fit” by the Las Vegas gunman, a white, male, reclusive, itinerant, high-stakes gambler who had purchased 33 guns in the previous year....

The White House press secretary said “it would be premature” to talk about gun control; US president Donald Trump said that he was “not going to talk about” gun control; and a 60-year-old man in New York shot and killed his 27-year-old disabled daughter with a shotgun in his back yard and then shot and killed himself, a 46-year-old woman was shot and killed in her mobile home in Florida, a 40-year-old man was shot and killed in a house in Maryland, a 52-year-old man in Louisiana was shot and killed in his back yard, four people attending a vigil for a 30-year-old woman who was shot and killed in Florida were then shot by an unknown assailant, a twentysomething man in Tennessee was shot and killed outside the group home for disabled adults where he worked, a 25-year-old man in Georgia was shot and killed during a bar fight, a 27-year-old man in Michigan was shot and killed while walking his dogs, a 22-year-old man was shot and killed in his kitchen in Michigan while showing a visitor his gun, a two-year-old in Illinois was shot by an unknown assailant while the car the child was riding in was stopped at a red light, a construction worker in New York was shot and killed on the 37th floor of an unfinished building by a co-worker who then shot and killed himself on the fifth floor, an 18-year-old boy in New York was shot and killed three blocks from his home, a 14-year-old boy in Washington was shot and killed by a 13-year-old boy with a handgun he had borrowed from a 12-year-old, and, in Utah, a video was released of a police officer fatally shooting a black man who was running away after being pulled over for erratically riding his bicycle without a rear reflector. “Deadly force,” said the district attorney on the case, “was justified.”
More at the link.   Comments blocked because there's nothing more to be said that hasn't been said before.

05 October 2017

Divertimento #136

This is not a gifdump.  The links are full-length articles and longreads.  Get ready for a long session...

The BBC's "Top 100 Books You Need To Read Before You Die."

A San Francisco woman received a lifetime bus pass - on her 103rd birthday.

"At the US border, the searching of electronic devices, including smartphones, is allowed as part of inspection. Warrantless searches on phones are also allowed at the Canadian border."

How to remove tourists from your travel photos: (example)
  1. Set your camera on a tripod.
  2. Take a picture about every 10 seconds until you have about 15 shots.
  3. Open all the images in Photoshop by going to File> Scripts> Statistics. Choose "median" and select the files you took.
  4. Photoshop finds what is different in the photos and simply removes it.
"When anyone tells you that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, ask them about this." (the text of the Articles of Secession)

NASA has a plan to counteract a supervolcano like the one at Yellowstone: "They believe the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the supervolcano, and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano." (and the extracted heat can be used to generate electric power).

Baseball fans (only) will want to read about the "Skunk in the outfield" play.  A play that lasted two and a half minutes, with a baserunner out in right field (legally).  Remarkable.

Also for baseball fans only:  "The saddest plate appearance of all time."  ("You're a pitcher. You're pitching against someone who has never batted before, and isn't even trying to swing. All you have to do is throw three strikes over the plate. Don't screw this up.")

"Talia Rappa and Skyler Ashworth spotted a nondescript box at a Florida thrift store's going-out-of-business sale. They found five NASA flight suits, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and paid just $1.20 for the lot."

"If you buy yourself a luxury watch, make sure to hold onto the box, receipt and certification of authenticity. It could REALLY pay off in the long run."

Read this if you eat cereal for breakfast. "Cereal was not always the morning staple that it is today. It only became so at about the same time that our health problems began to be documented, in the 1960s. A coincidence?"

A man and his dog on a rainy day.

Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.  "Start edible doses very small—not more than half of what’s recommended on any label. Then allow roughly double the time you might expect for it to clear your system before you need to do anything where you need to use your brain."

"For many years, rumors have gone around that Fred McFeely Rogers (Mr. Rogers) flipped kids off on his tv show. The truth is, he did…inadvertently. He was singing “Where is Thumbkin” with children and, when he got to Tall-Man, he proudly displayed his middle fingers…because that’s how the song played out." (gif at the link)

A New York Times article about downsizing.

How to make maple syrup snow candy.

A "frost strip" on a bar keeps drinks cold.

Robert Bobroczky is a high-school basketball player who is 7 feet 7 inches tall.  As a freshman.  Apparently it's genetic, not hormonal (his father was over 7 feet tall, his mom about 6 feet).

Sand timers used for magic tricks.

An engrossing and disturbing longread about Memorial Hospital (New Orleans) during Hurricane Katrina addresses the question as to whether patients there were euthanized.  This topic has also the subject matter for an outstanding episode of This American Life.

Remarkable side-by-side footage of Houston before and during Hurricane Harvey.  And a quote from a related story: "“Not sure how they can call it a 500-year flood, when we haven’t even been a country for 500 years,” said Harper, who nonetheless credited county officials for an efficient and orderly evacuation process."

Cards Against Humanity offers to sell people nothing for $5.  "In the end, we made a windfall profit of $71,145."

"Business Insider went out onto the streets of NYC and tried to buy people’s just-purchased Powerball tickets ahead of the $700 million drawing. They did not get many takers, even when offering twice the price they paid." Note that anyone who accepted the offer could have just turned around and bought twice as many tickets and improved their odds of winning.  But people didn't.

Here's a dossier on Joe Arpaio.

"Today, Symantec published research showing that a group they've dubbed Dragonfly 2.0 has gained access to more than 20 power companies' networks in the US and Europe; a "handful" of the US companies are so compromised that the hackers can just turn off the power at will."

Those who are interested in doomsday scenarios probably already know the potential consequences of an electromagnetic pulse.  "After the surge, telecom switches and internet routers are dead. Air-traffic control is down. Within a day, some shoppers in supermarkets turn to looting (many, unable to use credit and debit cards, cannot pay even if they wanted to). After two days, market shelves are bare. On the third day, backup diesel generators begin to sputter out. Though fuel cannot be pumped, siphoning from vehicles, authorised by martial law, keeps most prisons, police stations and hospitals running for another week...With many troops overseas or tasked with deterring land grabs from opportunist foreign powers, there is only one American “peacekeeper” soldier for every 360 or so civilians. Pillaging accelerates..."

"At the Minnesota State Fair, the Sweet Martha's operation can now produce up to 3 million cookies on its busiest day. "  They are served in buckets that are overflowing with chocolate chip cookies.

Vintage vending machines.

Mathematicians have a sense of humor.

A young, handsome Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I thought I knew a lot of medicine, but I never knew (or imagined) that there had been a successfull full-term hepatic pregnancy (an extrauterine pregnancy where the fetus develops in the liver).  Holy cow.  You learn something every day.

Surf this comment thread about "the best advice you've ever received on how to make a sandwich better."

Deaf people explain how to sign curse words.  I need to remember the "bullshit" one.

A list of world championships in mind sports.

During the hurricanes there were several interesting articles about floating masses of fire antsHere and here and here.

A dossier on Rush Limbaugh.

For football fans only:  Louisiana Tech loses 87 yards on one play. (video here)

China plans to ban petrol and diesel cars.  Other countries have similar plans.

More than you need to know about finding a bathroom at a football game.

If you are a traveler, you should acquaint yourself with the takeout menu scam.  Don't order delivery food from a menu left at your hotel or motel room.


The embedded images today are of lichens (credit Jana Kocourková), via Boing Boing, where there is a large gallery.

04 October 2017

Too sexually explicit?

?The Louvre has withdrawn a large installation by a Dutch art and design collective for being sexually explicit... The piece — “Domestikator” by the collective Atelier Van Lieshout, whose outline depicts copulation — was to go on view on Oct. 19 in the Louvre’s Tuileries Gardens..."
More at The New York Times.

Protest. Response. Response to the response.

Source lost - a thread somewhere on Reddit.

Amid all this debate about kneeling during the national anthem, I have seen very little discussion of why the national anthem is played at American sporting events.  It was not always so.  I believe someone reported that historically the anthem was played when the U.S. played against another country, as for example in the Olympics.  It first came into collegiate or professional sports during the first or second world wars.

And I believe that most persons watching sports on television at home do not rise from a seated position when the national anthem is played and the flag depicted on TV. 

Offered without comment

"So, off to the fashion runway! But let’s agree not to take any of it personally. Don’t consider the cost. No asking, “Who would wear that?” Not today. Because have you seen Instagram? Someone, somewhere will wear anything."
More at the Washington Post.

The problem with the Nobel prizes

Every year, when Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine, critics note that they are an absurd and anachronistic way of recognizing scientists for their work. Instead of honoring science, they distort its nature, rewrite its history, and overlook many of its important contributors...

The wider problem, beyond who should have received the prize and who should not, is that the Nobels reward individuals—three at most, for each of the scientific prizes, in any given year... The paper in which the LIGO team announced their discovery has an author list that runs to three pages. Another recent paper, which precisely estimated the mass of the elusive Higgs boson, has 5,154 authors.
More at The Atlantic.  If I am awarded a Nobel prize, I'll share the money with my coauthors and fellows and lab techs...

03 October 2017

Why is Adam depicted with a belly button?

There was a very interesting article in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings several years ago which presented a "medical interpretation" of Michaelangelo's The Creation of Adam.
A man of many talents, Michelangelo’s proficiency in anatomical dissection is reflected in his artwork... we see a postpartum uterus and adjacent anatomy, justifying our interpretation that Michelangelo was depicting something far more fundamental: the birth of mankind.
Details of the interpretation at the link, including a comparison of God's "oval" to 16th century depictions of the uterus.  Michaelangelo had extensive experience in dissecting and depicting the human body organs.

There are, of course, numerous other depictions of Adam in paintings and sculpture that depict him with a navel that theoretically should not exist.

Autumn gardening

I'm using these warm October days to start getting our gardens put to bed for the winter.

Don't watch QVC to learn about science

"QVC host Shawn Killinger and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi debate whether the Moon is a planet or a star."

Via Boing Boing.

Introducing Zealandia - updated

Some geologists argue that this area should be acknowledged as our world's eighth continent.  It has not previously been recognized because most of it is under water.
Geophysical data suggest that a region spanning 5 million square kilometres, which includes New Zealand and New Caledonia, is a single, intact piece of continental crust and is geologically separate from Australia...

However, there is no international body in charge of designating official continents, and so the researchers must hope that enough of their colleagues agree to recognize the landmass. Otherwise, their proposal could remain more of a theoretical wish than a radical reshaping of what every child has to learn in geography class...

...Zealandia began to peel away from the supercontinent of Gondwana starting about 100 million years ago. The rift gave Zealandia its independence, but it also pulled and thinned the crust, causing the area to sink, and dooming most of it to a watery existence. Today, only about 6% of it remains above water, as New Zealand and New Caledonia...
There is no widely accepted definition of a continent, and geographers and geologists differ on the question. (Geographically, Europe and Asia are considered separate continents, whereas geologists consider them the single landmass of Eurasia.)
Reposted to add more info and another map:

On Wednesday researchers shared findings from their two-month-long expedition, one of the first extensive surveys of the region, announcing fossil discoveries and evidence of large-scale tectonic movements.

“The discovery of microscopic shells of organisms that lived in warm shallow seas, and spores and pollen from land plants, reveal that the geography and climate of Zealandia was dramatically different in the past,” said Prof Gerald Dickens of Rice University...

“[The research] has big implications for understanding big scientific questions, such as how did plants and animals disperse and evolve in the South Pacific? The discovery of past land and shallow seas now provides an explanation: there were pathways for animals and plants to move along.”
More at the link.

Duneless tree in Florida

Photo taken after Hurricane Irma washed away the dune under this pine tree.

My first thought was that there must be a lot of elderly men with metal detectors who are having the time of their lives finding Barber dimes and gold doubloons on Florida's beaches this month.  Wish I could join them.

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