Up next: self-guided bullets. This time they promise they'll work, and have the picture to prove it. Turning sniping into a team sport never has been so easy, and nothing tells the bad guy "I love you" more than having one guy you don't see designate you as a target for a different guy you can't see.
I say "huge snakes are eating annoying animals at a respectable clip in a miserably nasty swamp" and wonder what the problem is. Others, they have different ideas about what's going on. I say simplify the hunting permits and provide a 3% tax deduction on the sale of python skin and python skin products. The problem will solve itself shortly after. It won't happen though, since that doesn't let bureaucrats push people around.
Not that you could tell, from all their caterwauling: income inequality is now lower than it was under Clinton. Inevitably, this has been caused by an equality of misery, the natural outcome of progressive attempts at social justice. Funny they don't use that as a warning label on the box their ideas come in, eh?
As they say, "faster, please:" Scientists have figured out how to convert skin cells directly into the precursors of nerve cells. The technique avoids the problematic use of stem cells, which have a tendency to cause cancer when used to create other forms of cells. It's hoped the research will lead to mass-produced tissues from the patient's own body, opening up a new world of therapeutic treatment.
While not as well known as their larger 8-cylinder brothers, the 6-cylinder Alfa Romeos could be every bit as striking. It's actually pretty rare to find, well, any pre-war Italian car that's not either red or black. As this gorgeous white example shows, that's a shame.
A big soap bar of a ship has taken out a bridge in Kentucky. And by "taken out," we're not talking about dinner and a movie. Amazingly, nobody was hurt. It's not at all clear what went wrong, as this particular boat has gone under this particular bridge several times before.
Continental Airlines Flight 1515 was preparing to take off for Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston when "a maintenance-related engine run-up of the right-hand engine" was carried out, said Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's southwest region in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
"Someone on the ground was sucked into the engine," he said.
The wriggling, the squirming, the Moro reflex-induced jump... If you want proof that artificial intelligence is thriving, look no further than this robotic -- and yes, somewhat creepy -- baby.
Read all about it and don't forget to see the video.
After all this time, we finally have a way for Mark to pet cats without allergy meds on board. Back in the day, all 5 of ours would do the "WTF?!?" bob-and-weave and then knock it over. Nowadays the one that's left would likely just go "meh." The birds may take some issue with this idea, though.
And for a "glass half full" perspective of the US's future, we have this WSJ op-ed. I agree with pretty much everything they say, and think the US is on the brink of roaring to the front again. Others will disagree, but that's fine. There's more than one definition of "right," you know.
The lengths guys go to distract themselves knows no bounds: take a look at how one guy deals with "noisy" neighbors. A specific sort of NSFW noisy, if you get my meaning. Dude, we learned a long time ago bare boards stink at bouncing quarters. You'll have a much easier time with a hardened surface like a piece of countertop or something.
Given enough time, not only will people think of basically everything, they'll build it, too. Witness the V8 Volvo sedan. Complete with a fresh primer finish! I'm smiling a bit broader here because not yesterday we saw a set of very expensive rims with ultra low-profile tires mounted on a different Volvo. It was a station wagon.
It looks like Texas has another smuggling problem on its hands. No, it's not coke or Mexicans, it's deer. Yes, deer. They're a damned nuisance around these parts, with carcasses littering most of our major highways around mating season, doing who knows how much damage to cars and drivers. But in Texas the pretty ones are worth a lot of money, and when there's lots of money tied to lots of rules, cheating's just part of the game.
Hey, I wouldn't be a guy if I didn't occasionally engage in ridiculous childishness every once in awhile. And yes, the guy probably needs to see a psychiatrist or something. Then again, don't we all?
Why yes, I DID record this man dancing. He did this for a full half hour too.
A friend on Facebook was talking about voice mail strangeness recently, but it was of the "wtf are you calling me at 7 am when I don't get in until 8" variety. I wanted to show her what REAL weirdness was, but when I went looking I couldn't find my favorite message. It'd vanished. Now it's back. The beeps are my own edits to remove genuinely personal information. So sit back and take a listen to what genuine wackiness sounds like.
This was my original entry:
One of the unexpected perqs of my previous job was the deliriously loopy phone messages I would sometimes find in my voice mail. Sometimes they were scary, sometimes they were incoherent, usually they were harmless but entertaining. The effort put into them was occasionally impressive, as was the time when every single person in the organization got the exact same 3 minute message, a message obviously NOT written down but memorized exactly, five times in a row. We later figured he started at about 8 pm and finished up some time after 3 am the next morning.
Observation: The Navy's X-47B has started its final series of tests in preparation for an automated carrier landing. Conclusion: The X-47B marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. It's been quite some time since I've seen such a stellar example of sensationalism. This article should be used in classes about it.
Ok, the actual situation: drones have been flying semi-autonomously for at least eleven years now, ever since the Global Hawk prototypes started tooling around. The biggest problem they face right now is the FAA won't let them fly anywhere near commercial airspace, because nobody wants to go down in history as the bureaucrat that let a Global Hawk run over an Airbus. Engineers talk big about how their drones will eventually be bright enough to shoot bad guys by themselves, but anyone who knows anything about engineers when they start talking big will understand it will be a very cold day in hell before we give their Frankenstein's monster a button it can press on its own. Hell, we don't even let pilots shoot stuff all by themselves.
Robert Hegyes, best known for playing Epstein on Welcome Back, Kotter, has died. The young actors I watched growing up are now climbing into their sixties. Still, it doesn't seem quite fair that this guy kicks it at 60 while Kieth Richards' corpse still walks the land.
Scientists have discovered that, in addition to a whole host of other nifty abilities, graphene makes a really swell still. From the sound of it, all you'd really need was what needed distilling, and some heat. The membrane does the rest. Sweet!
More then forty years after being predicted, scientists have successfully managed to make the first "atomic x-ray laser." Exactly what that really means is a bit unclear to me, but it sounds impressive as hell. Apparently the device will be used in atom-scale experiments.
The surviving members of Monty Python will be reuniting for a new movie! Since nowadays they're all, well, old and stuff, it'll be CGI. Hopefully there won't be any trodding in buckets, if you get my meaning.
Using a different class of "metamaterial" (whatever the hell that is), scientists have developed a cloak that can conceal a 3D object in free space. Of course, they're only cloaking against long-wavelength radiation like microwaves, and will probably only be able to cloak really small things against visible light, but dude. Cloaking technology!
Another day, another Rand Simberg piece on how to get manned space flight on a sustainable path. I keep putting these things out here because people need to start hearing about it. Far too many of you, well intentioned as you are, still seem to think NASA's "big rockets good!" way is the only way. It's not. It's not even close.
Ever the busybodies, a Nordic dive team has discovered itself two mystery objects at the bottom of the Baltic, one of which is roughly as big as a 747. Me, I'm thinking "bizarre geologic formation" rather than "ZOMG!1!!! ALIENZ!!!" But you never really can be sure. Yet another reason to root for summer to get here.
Remember all those claims that, after public sector union reforms in Wisconsin were passed, that state's school districts would descend into anarchy? Yeah, about that... Predictions of Armageddon, coming from either side, pretty much always work out that way, especially when they're trumpeted by the media.
I guess you'd call that green building: 1, smug hipster: 0. I don't have to worry about it much, because the tin the Alfas are made of will rust long before it melts. The Hyundai, on the other hand, may be something I have to watch out for.
"Space junk experts" (in other news, there are space junk experts) have decided the doomed Phobos Ground probe went surfing off the coast of Brazil. You'd think someone would've spotted it, but what do I know? At any rate, nobody gets an amusing funeral in Cicely, Alaska, so it's all good.
A new study on an ancient feather has revealed at least some of Archaeopteryx's feathers were black. Like, you know, a crow. I wonder if they squawked as loud as the dinosaurs that live in our house do?
Frank J. Fleming: "But how do people react to seeing millions more on food stamps? It’s not the logical, “Yay — look at all the new people I get to help with my tax dollars!” No, it’s irrational yelling about all the extra people dependent on government. To which I ask: What’s so wrong with being dependent on government?
And now, some wacko hooning around in the snow driving a really interesting car. Ours gets put up and stays up whenever there's a wiff of snow in the air, mainly because VDOT thinks nothing of turning all the roads into margarita glass rims any time a weatherman says "snow."
I'll see you your "moon landing's a hoax" wackadoos and raise you psychics who're claiming they've found a space ship on the moon. Check that, they're claiming astronauts found one forty years ago, and are just asking they be allowed to "tell" their story. Good. It's been awhile since we've had a genuine bunch of crackpots in the news lately.
The discovery of a fossilized dog skull is forcing scientists to reexamine when, where, and how man's best friend was domesticated. The new evidence not only punctures the "single common ancestor" theory, it also pushes the date back several thousand years and scatters the event all over Eurasia.
Depending on who you believe, fifty-two years ago North Carolina very nearly got a new, conveniently circular, bay. There have been so many screw-ups related to the handling of nuclear weapons, by all sides, I'm downright amazed there hasn't been an accidental detonation. Well, yet, I mean. The Persians keep blowing the stuff to make them up, so I'm picking them as the lead candidate to accidental set off the real thing. If they have a little help, and it happens at a big convention of the mullahs, well, I can't say I'd be all that upset about it.
The iconic and consistently mis-identified tower which holds Big Ben is starting to lean to the left. Well, Labor was in charge for most of the past few decades, what do you expect? Apparently they've got plenty of time to sort it all out, which I'm sure they will do presently.
Scientists have worked out how to use lasers to cool semiconductors. It does this, somehow, by leveraging quantum effects and heat. The technique could help push along attempts at quantum computers, as well as create new cooling technologies for existing circuits.
Slow news day over at the WSJ: Did you know there are lunatics out there who build whole airplane cockpits in their garage? Since this sort of quixotic wannabe stuff is right up my alley, I'm sure you'll be surprised to know I've actually given some serious thought to a rig like this. Having all the right controls is really expensive but otherwise very desirable. However, I've never thought creating an actual cockpit was all that great an idea, because it locks you into that specific airplane.
Nowadays I get my flying fix with something that can actually kill me, so this has all been pushed to a very far back burner.
By combining simple iron filings with a combination of other harmless chemicals, scientists have created magnetic soap. The substance should make it much easier to safely clean up things like oil spills, and to purify water.
An RC pilot toodling around with his fancy video rig discovered a nasty, and previously hidden, environmental disaster. Yeah, whatever. I'm just stoked someone made their ridiculously expensive hobby pay off!
In 2009, a group of people got the idea to completely re-create Star Wars by "crowdsourcing" the scenes in 15 second segments. Against all expectations, they actually finished the project...
Pop quiz: authorities are investigating a) mysterious lights in the sky, b) mysterious objects in the sky, or c) mysterious snoring in the sky? Ok, now go collect your prize. I was always expecting trumpets to herald the end of days. I am disappoint.
New technology is allowing detailed archeological surveys of Nazi concentration camps. More traditional methods that involve digging are forbidden due to the sensitive nature of the sites, so it's only recently that such surveys have even been possible.
I'm not sure which is worse: a two-thousand word essay bitching about two spaces after a period, or the fact that I read it end-to-end. I need to get out more. Oh, and spaces? I'm a self-taught typist, and naturally rebel against anything I perceive as redundant. In other words, I've always used a single space after a period because that's how I learned to type.
Scientists have found that, as with nearly everything else in nature, anglerfish have those wicked-looking teeth for a reason. I'm just happy these fish are all (as I understand it anyway) no bigger than a large goldfish, and live miles underwater. I definitely would never want to see a big one anywhere near the surface!
Yeah, they were right, Iran pretty much made up that whole "stole yer drone LULZ" storyline. The article itself is short on specifics, but new items include the funny color and evidence that the Iranians cobbled the thing together from at least three different pieces.
Don't stop watching the video! The end is the best part!
Yes, my darling Swoozie loves her fries. Especially if they are from "The Golden Arches of Evil*."
*Yep! We treat Olivia there once a month to the arches! Hey, you only live once.
The world's longest flights are getting longer and more popular. For nearly ten grand, it better be f'ing comfortable. And, really, just how often does someone need to fly from Sydney to Dallas anyway?
I definitely would not want to be a passenger in that airliner!
Agreed: "If Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's legislative assault on public sector workers was a prime example of right-wing excess on the issue of organized labor, the story of Buffalo's teachers and their botox should be looked at as cautionary tale for the left." Good intentions does not make a dumb idea any smarter.
At $400 billion dollars, Apple is now worth more than Greece. At the rate their going, grease will likely be worth more than Greece. Maybe Apple can build them an iCropolis? Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week!
And now, 3D paintings of goldfish. I had to watch the video to convince myself some wacko hadn't poured resin on a bunch of actual fish. Boy's got talent!
So, after two years of literally epic snow storms, nature's giving this area a break with a winter that's (so far) much milder. What does the Post do? Bitch about it, of course. "If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast."
Yes, people really do talk like this around here. Hell, I talk like this around here.
It seems that, while none of us was looking, the tidal outflow of jobs from the US has begun to reverse. Something nobody talks enough about is how productive the US is in comparison with the rest of the world, especially the developing world. Our labor markets are expensive, yes, even very expensive, but those costs are predictable and stable. The only thing a place like China offered is extremely cheap labor, so cheap that the huge risks and uncertainties of that arrogant country could be attempted profitably. Now that the visible cost of China is rising, its invisible costs are beginning to weigh and show that country wanting.
Energy independence, the return of manufacturing, innovation and technology galore. Do we stand on a precipice, as so many on both sides gleefully shout, or at the base of a tower with stairs disappearing into the clouds above?
Ever the eternal optimist, I'm ready to start climbing.
The location of the world famous "pillars of creation" photograph is being revisited by astronomers, with spectacular results. Oh lord, your sea is so large, and my boat is so small...
I guess it's good to see not all that much has changed in the online dating scene. I know, this will come as a real surprise to you guys, but I was a part of the on-line dating scene back before anyone had heard of it. I have my own amusing story...
It was about 1994, when I'd had enough experience to insist on meeting "IRL" as early as possible. I drove about two hours away to meet someone who I thought was very interesting. Unfortunately this was long before the time when digital pictures were commonplace, so the first meet was a bit of a disappointment in the attractiveness department. But that was fine, she was still nice and we had a good time wandering around the town for the day. It was going quite well, and we were sitting in her living room having a discussion about something I've long forgotten when the unexpected happened.
Her husband walked in.
I did not actually know about any husband, let alone a husband with (after about three minutes of hearing him talk) a tenuous grasp on sanity. Fortunately she talked him out of the apartment without anything more than a bizarre rant coming out of the Surprise Spouse, but I will admit I had quietly put my hand on a workout weight I found behind an end table.
Needless to say I got out of there very quickly, and never went back. As with the author of the article, my biggest problem was being lied to, something that would happen more often than not as time went on.
But it all turned out for the best, since I've long since stopped needing a dating service of any sort. Just be careful out there!
Those of you who think conventional motorsports is a little wacky really need to take a closer look at rallying. Note also how close the spectators are, and how unprotected. The European rally scene builds and builds in excitement and interest until one of the cars plows through a crowd of spectators and kills a couple of them. Then the sanctioning bodies ban the whole thing forever and ever, for about three years. Then the cycle starts again. I've seen it happen I think at least four times now.
Returning electronics is about to get a heck of a lot tougher now that some bastards have figured out a new way to scam the system. Some people admire clever "bandits," thinking they're some sort of modern Robin Hood. I look at the mountains of paperwork I have to complete to get basically anything done and curse the day the first one drew a breath.
It seems the story is true: design flaws really do prohibit the F-35C from landing on an aircraft carrier. Which is, of course, its only reason for existing and so I tend to agree with the author's assertion that it likely should be cancelled in favor of not-quite-as-capable but far-cheaper variants of the F-18. And, you know, at least a few LockMart executives be introduced to sticky black substances and the contents of pillows, if you get my drift.
Who knew the Empire's minions could be delicious? I wouldn't feel ridiculous applauding this guy's armor. I'd be too busy munching on it. And who would've thought of a "cake" made out of rice crispy treats? My kind of sweet!
So, did Neandertals tell jokes? Did they laugh? Cry? While we may never know with absolute certainty, there's enough evidence to allow some fascinating educated guesses. Of course, since they are just that, they'll provoke endless disagreements about each and every point, vehement to the point of bedrock certainty that one or the other is flat wrong. And that's what makes us human.
Spread the word: Someone's come up with a neat, free, polite, and even fun way to help prevent cell phones from ruining your dinner date. Being married to someone who actually gasps at the idea of not checking Facebook every seven minutes, this probably won't fly well at my house. But it might at yours! In other words, I can't save myself, but I might be able to save you...
Hikers walking their dogs around the Hollywood Hills have made a grisly discovery. Yeah, it's probably some drug lord or something, but still, that's not really the sort of thing I'd want to find on a trail, ya know?
A pair of scientists decided to see if they could cause multicellular life to evolve in a lab setting. Not only did they manage to succeed, it happened a lot faster than anyone expected. Me, I want to know how it's been figured out that multicellular life evolved independently "at least 25 times." Some sort of molecular evidence?
Having a crew full of Italians may, may mean one thing. Having an Italian above you when you've really screwed up? That's a whole other thing entirely. If there were more F- bombs and G- D- its in that transcript, it would be so much like my wife it'd be genuinely scary.
Scientists have confirmed that, for only the fifth known time, Martian rocks have been collected on Earth. This time it was in Morocco. Fifteen pounds of the stuff! Even better, they're comparatively "fresh," originating with a meteor which fell to Earth only six months ago. Free samples!
Now that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good iPad like that. I know of at least two people who would dance around like you'd tied their kid to that balloon, waiting for it to fall to earth. I'd pay money to watch how they'd react to a successful recovery.
SpaceX's next Dragon launch has been delayed to allow more preparation of the vehicle. No new date has been announced, as the company must work with NASA to establish it. Rocket science is the definition of "hard," so I can't say this is all that surprising. It's not like you get a second chance if something goes wrong.
For those of you who think the chaos on the cruise ship is heralding the end of civility, an alternative viewpoint. That piece definitely seems to back up these more humorous observations. Me? Oh, go watch Moonstruck, you'll learn more about Ellen in those two hours than you'll figure out anywhere else.
A NASA space probe has found even more evidence of water on the Moon. In some places the soil is wetter than the sands of the Sahara desert. It's definitely not a big pile of snow in the bottom of a crater, but it may be more than enough to support a small outpost.
Authorities have discovered radioactive concrete, contaminated by the Fukushima disaster, has made its way into new building construction. An apartment building, no less. The problem was discovered when a student at a nearby school had received a significant radiation dose in a very short time.
A mysterious sonic rumble experienced in May still has scientists scratching their heads in Costa Rica. Somewhere in the vicinity there's a very happy person with a very, very large subwoofer.
"Dad! It's out of tune! It sounds like a ukulele!"
Olivia doesn't take surprises well. She got a double dose of that, one from each side. Witness her reaction when, on her triumphant ride back from her holiday camp, when told she was still going to have to practice violin. A digression...
This "camp" was what she insisted on attending, even though I had the day off. Being a dad, I didn't quite understand why it was so important to stuff every Monster High doll she owned (and she owns many) into her backpack that morning. Until I went to pick her up.
"Olivia! Your dolls are so beautiful! Can I take this one home?"
Olivia, gently: "No, but I'll bring her back next time."
"Olivia, can I have this one?"
"No, but when we come back..."
And so it went.
Me, as we walked to the car: "Oh, I see. You just wanted everyone to see how cool your dolls were, right?"
Olivia, looking left as we walked right, and quietly: "No, dad, I was wanting to share."
Earlier, before I set out to pick her up, as Ellen walked down the stairs talking on the phone to her band... sorry, ORCHESTRA instructor, "Yes. I see."
To me: "Her teacher said, 'The other girls yell at her when she messes up, and she just nods and takes it. And then, just when I think she's not paid attention to a single thing I've said, she picks up the bow and plays it better than anyone in the class. That's why I gave her a solo.'"
"DAD! It's not right! It's not in tune!"
So I decided to stick to our practice schedule, even though this is technically a day off. 15 minutes of practice, no more, no less.
"It's not right!"
"Play your D scale."
So she did, and it wasn't right. When she went to the third string, it was a half step, not a full step.
"Again, but slowly this time."
Up, and a half step. Down, and a half step. The fret is marked, and so I know she's got the right fingerings.
And I'll be damned. Not six months of playing, and she can tell when her violin is BADLY out of tune. And I can't.
I have no idea what it really means, other than a little girl who I remember had trouble walking up inclines now can tell when the violin isn't tuned right.
And that makes all the difference.
Jeff gets a no-prize that'll bounce its hook past all four wires for bringing us news that, apparently, the F-35C can't actually land on an aircraft carrier. Which, you know, is the whole point of the C model's existence. I dunno. Ares (over there on the right) is legendarily no friend of the F-35, and they haven't mentioned this at all. Color me skeptical. Then again, considering how badly run the whole program has been, I wouldn't be all that surprised.
Use #13: gold smuggling compartment. This one's high up on the list because it's probably been used that way by smugglers for thousands of years. Which is why I don't ever want to be a smuggler. Not worth the discomfort, sorry.
Scientists have discovered the tomb of an ancient Egyptian temple singer. It seems she was interred in a much older tomb, who's original occupant is unknown. It represents the first non-royal tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings.
A new climate model suggests Titan's atmosphere is more like Earth's than previously thought. Since Titan is smaller, further away, and covered in three forms of methane, I'm thinking "Earth-like" is a pretty relative term here.
More than a day after it (presumably) fell to Earth, Russian scientists still aren't sure where Phobos-Ground ended up. Since the trail ended somewhere over Brazil, I'm thinking darkest jungles and wide, deep oceans would be a good guess. It also makes me think they may never actually find anything.
Navigating a port correctly is important, especially if you're in charge of one of the biggest cruise ships afloat. The FARKers are all abuzz as to just how they're going to get something that big out of the mess it's now in. The short answer seems to be, "dunno."
A villager in a remote Russian town got a big surprise when he found nearly 80 Kalashnikov rifles in the scrap wood he just bought. Apparently in Russia it's acceptable to use unopened crates as scrap wood. Who knew?
Agreed: The left is attacking me so they can give the Obama administration a pass–unlike what they did with Bush and Abu Ghraib. My own liberal friends are notably muted when discussing what the Obama administration is up to, while not stepping back one bit from their full-throated roars of outrage at the actions of the previous administration.
Space tourism is getting close enough to reality that you can actually talk to (selected) travel agents about it. At $200k per ticket, it's not something I'm saving up for any time soon. That said, it absolutely could be something given away as a grand prize for any number of contests, which I would, reluctantly, be willing to enter. Somebody's gotta win it!
Scientists have captured images of a black hole hocking the mother of all loogeys. A quarter the speed of light, no less. And this was a small black hole!
Not that there's anything wrong with that: the Advocate names the Gayest Cities in America, 2012. Those who bemoan the "benighted South" will likely be surprised by some of the selections. I know I was.
Hey, man, they're show cars. Sometimes things go wrong with show cars. Unfortunately this one won't work anymore, because all the magic smoke got out. With video!
Monster Mars rover Curiosity has successfully completed its first scheduled course correction. Apparently it wasn't actually aimed at Mars when launched, to ensure the empty booster which sent it on its way wouldn't also arrive and impact the planet. Meanwhile, also in the article, an update on the doomed Phobos-Ground.
I guess if you cast around for one long enough, you'll find someone who makes the correct predictions. Broken clock phenomena, that sort of thing. Nice to see they also listed things the guy got wrong, although to tell the truth I could do without "Q".
It turns out that, if conditions are right, all you really need to install a bridge is the right pieces and some dish soap. I was wondering about some of these new bridge replacement projects I'd been reading about around the country. They did seem to be happening pretty darned fast.
A huge investment bank has discovered something anthropologists have known for decades: a society is never in more trouble than when it is building something triumphant. My old college adviser talked a lot about this. Cross-culturally, without fail, when people get busy building huge monuments their society is just moments from collapse.
In the old days, the collapse would be total. Human societies simply weren't wealthy enough to weather a real crisis, and so the world is chock full of abandoned giant statues, titanic temple complexes, and monstrous cities. Hell, even cultures without the wheel got into the act. The cultures which built these magnificent monuments are now gone, some so completely destroyed we have no clue as to what they might have really been like.
Nowadays, rich beyond any sane person's wildest dreams compared to our ancestors, we're able to consistently survive such overreach. This has allowed us to learn from each crisis, and build institutions which make a repeat of any one of them unlikely if not impossible. Being humans, this has not stopped us from trying, sometimes very hard, to trigger a civilization-collapsing crisis. We came dangerously close to it in the 20th century. But we didn't, and we've learned, and thanks to Gutenberg and all his technological descendants, we don't forget things like we used to.
But that's not to say our urges have gone away. We are not fundamentally different than our ancestors, and we are endlessly inventive when it comes to hysterical, unsustainable, gloriously doomed ideas. Which is why I've always taken massive monuments, especially those funded from public treasuries, not as the signal triumphs our all-too-credulous media make them out to be, but as harbingers of doom. Certainly not of a scale to extinguish a civilization, but definitely enough to bring a government, corporation, or state to its knees.
Keep that in mind, next time you see one of those wondrous Gulf housing projects, hear about some ridiculously large public works project, or watch an unprecedentedly huge statue being raised. The people who create these triumphs are taking money away from people doing good, honest work to build a tower tall enough to touch the face of God.
The fate of such a tower is, and always has been, instructive.
Another day, another massive oil deposit discovered in the Barents Sea. Of course, since this is Ethical Oil, I'm expecting all our green friends to appreciate how we'll be supporting an environmentally conscious, labor-friendly, well-regulated ally. Stop laughing so hard, I'm trying to keep a straight face here!
Graphene, a new form of carbon discovered in 2004, seems to be taking the physics world by storm. I would take a bit of issue over the author's assertion that bucky balls and nanotubes have been non-starters. I read about various interesting practical applications involving them at least a few times a month. Still, this new stuff has pretty obvious implications in circuitry design, and that nearly always turns out well. Coming to a flat screen near you!
Iran is now claiming to have downed that drone by using flying saucers and tractor beams. And when they say "flying saucers and tractor beams," the actually mean... well, flying saucers and tractor beams, actually. No, really!
Me, I'm keeping my money on the "software bug/hardware fault that left it stuck using GPS instead of its jam-proof internal navigation" square.
And now, a 3D panorama of the Sistine Chapel. One of the history-nerd highs I get watching The Borgias is they (seem to be) accurately modeling the pre-Renaissance Vatican, including old St. Peter's and the what the Sistine looked like before Michelangelo got his hands on it. It provides a real contrast.
Engrish strikes again with a rather amusing/startling take on how to advertise a sale. I thought Ellen was the only one who talked that way, you know, to Amber and stuff. Somewhere in Japan there's a lot of bowing going on, and hopefully an English-speaking gaijin will get a new job.
There but for the grace of God goes my wife: UK woman killed by train attempting to retrieve her cell phone. Ellen's loyalty to her "extended heart and soul" definitely borders on the clinical, but I'd like to think she'd draw the line at jumping in front of a train to save it.
A guy who thought it would be a good idea to get his short arm its very own tat got an unexpected "bonus." Fortunately it seems in this specific case the patient isn't in immediate danger, although I would imagine it does limit the kinds of swimsuits he can wear and still be polite.
Scientists have discovered a new kind of carnivorous plant which uses its leaves to eat worms. Found on the tropical savannas of Brazil, Philcoxia minensis and its relatives actually buries its leaves into the soil in order to collect nematodes and other microscopic critters.
How many bug spray cans does it take to make a respectable bomb? According to the Post, about a dozen. I've had static electricity spark to any number of cans of flammable stuff and never seen anything like this happen. I think there's something else going on here...
Fark started up an epic picture thread for those in mourning over the weekend's playoff results. Some of them were pretty good:
Go pick out your favorites!
A species of tortoise thought to be extinct for nearly 150 years probably isn't. Another weird fact: nowadays the main threat to the Galapagos tortoise isn't man, it's volcanoes. Any one of the islands could suffer a severe eruption which would perhaps drive a third of the species into extinction. No, Ellen, you can't have one.
Scientists have discovered that RNA may not have been the primary molecule which formed in the earliest "soup of life" on Earth. It is, per usual, too early in the game to make even a preliminary call, but it does set up some tantalizing question. I just wish they'd come up with a better, less Beavis-and-Butthead-worthy name.
Someone had the obvious inspiration to put a gay man in charge of a Marilyn Monroe auction and not only was the auction a success, the secrets the guy discovered were pretty nifty, too.
Financial advisers are beginning to warn of a growing "shale bubble," but closer inspection seems to be indicating said bubble is fueled by overseas investors. In other words, all that money going to China to buy cheap sneakers is gradually coming back our way. Even better, we're taking that money and giving the "forners" what are essentially pieces of paper. After all, it's not like they can take a giant knife and hack out a chunk of Pennsylvania if something goes wrong. Keep that in mind the next time some chicken-little reporter starts trumpeting "ZOMG!!1!!! Teh Chinee, he owns EVAHTING!!!"
A new exhibit in Germany contains reconstructed faces of 27 different human ancestors. Dang, our grampas were some homely folk, weren't they? Hopefully it'll go on the road and head out here, because that's an expensive commute for us.
By constructing an elaborate double-blind study, scientists have found evidence that new violins don't seem to sound better than really old ones. It seemed a lot less trivial while I was reading the article. At any rate, even the scientists are not claiming a definitive result. With something so subjective as what a human musician prefers when creating music, I'm not sure a definitive result is even possible.
I've read about, heck I think I've seen video, of hot air balloons hitting power lines. Seems to be a professional hazard for them, sort of like crotch hits and pinatas. I had no idea it had the potential to kill nearly half a dozen people. It seems you can get killed doing damned near anything.
It would appear the ancients were no more interested in being "green" than (most of) the rest of us. The main differences, of course, were that there were a helluva lot fewer of them, and their trash typically was biodegradable. Oh, and don't miss the much older and only vaguely related article that relates how teenaged boys haven't changed a damned bit in 35,000 years.
India is joining the ranks of countries that make wacky looking performance cars. Since this is India, it looks stranger than most, is cheaper and lighter, and not really all that fast. If the radio suddenly locks onto hyper-cheerful music and dozens of extras rush out into the intersection on cue while I'm driving it, the experience will be complete.
Scientists have announced the first successful creation of "Chimera monkeys". These are created by combining material from several embryos to create a single creature. Mice with a similar creation scheme are used in medical research because the technique allows researchers to "knock out" certain genes from an individual, so, while the article doesn't explicitly mention it, I think that's what these monkeys will be used for as well.
By using a specific hormone at a specific time, scientists are able to create "super soldier" ants in species which do not otherwise have them. The idea, apparently, is to provide insights into various aspects of evolution. I, for one, will welcome our new ant overlords.
Actually, it's when ceiling fans attack idiots. The sound it makes is what really sells "teh funnay." Worst I ever did was shove a beer glass into one, around when I was this kid's age. It went off like a bomb, but nobody got hurt. This kid, not so much. His follow up shows he's got charm instead of brains. Looks like the ceiling fan is fine, although I wonder if the balance might be a little off now.
Making the rounds: a very nearly reconstituted Van Halen is getting ready to hit the road. Bass player Mike Anthony was an unacknowledged but important part of their sound not just for his instrument, but for his backing vocals as well. Still, even though the band may sound different, it seems they still sound good.
"Daddy! We're studying The Odyssey in Latin class! Let me tell you about the Cyclops!"
Ok, when Olivia's talking about literature, the finer points of what counts as Latin literature versus Greek is not all that important. Heck, let's be honest, the Romans read that poem even more often than we do now. What followed was a bit garbled, but passable as that tale.
Fast forward past bath time and a bit of family TV time. Olivia: "Daddy, can we read something from your new Kindle?"
Yes, folks, thanks to a genuinely generous gift from the Qween Mutha (aka Ellen's mom Suzanne), I am now in the 21st century with my reading. But my choice of books is sparse, and not particularly kid friendly. Since you've read this far, you know what I suggested.
"Oh, wow, dad, that would be awesome. Will you read it to me?"
For whatever reason, I can't string two words together out loud but I'm able to read out loud without stuttering or stammering a bit. Reading poetry is fun, especially when it's an English attempt to render iambic pentameter nearly three thousand years old. So I was more than happy to start sailing across
Olympus reading with really interesting
"Daddy! My turn!"
And, for me, that's where the magic happened. There are tales of Gilgamesh which are older but were lost for longer than they were known. There are tales of Abraham and Moses, which are better known. But the Blind Bard's works stand at the headwaters of a river that clashed against that of the ancient Bible and, together, formed the world we know today. It started out being told around campfires crackling, twisted sawdust smoke throwing sparks in the sky. The music is lost, but the words have lived on, words... these words, written by a poet who literally stood at the dawn of writing. Words that were read by Socrates, Herodotus, Aristotle, Augustus, Augustine, Becket, Heloise, Eleanor, Newton, Jefferson, Lincoln, Anthony, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and...
And my little girl, halting, yes, but with growing confidence.
Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide...
A new underwater film has captured a fish mimicking an octopus that mimics a different fish. Emergent complexity is a wonderful thing! It's still not clear if the octopus ever even notices his shadow companion.
Captain Obvious has set up shop at the L.A. Times: government cutbacks are costing people jobs. Let's spin it a different way, shall we? Why should money be taken from me for the sole purpose of keeping about 2100 people in Kansas employed? Why should we be forced to pay for things the government admits it doesn't need? I say this as a person with some skin in this game: government cutbacks have already affected where I work, and likely will continue to do so. I am fortunate that they have not affected my job, but am under no illusion as to just how precarious the situation is for any government contractor nowadays.
The simple fact is we just can't afford to do these things anymore. What cannot continue will eventually have to stop. Is it hard? Yes. Is it fair? Usually not. Should we be forced to pay money we don't have to keep it all from happening? The L.A. Times thinks we should. The rest of the country? Well, I guess we'll find out in November.
The latest speculation of the current X-37B mission ('memba that? It's been up there since March) is it's spying on China's new space station. Or perhaps not. Nothing about the program makes a whole lot of sense objectively. I'd like to think that means it's doing something seriously cool, but I've been wrong before.
And for the very weirdest physics news of 2011, we have the development of a cloak that works with time instead of light. It's such a weird finding even the scientists who cooked it up aren't completely sure what, if anything, it'll be good for. Another grant at the very least, I'd wager.
Fark has announced its "Headlines of the Year" awards, and as usual they're worthy winners. My personal favorite: "What's the new rage in protesting, if you're a monk in China? Why, setting yourself on fire, of course. It's been done before. But monk he see, monk he do."
Sweden has officially recognized a religion who's central belief revolves around "anti-copyrights". This sort of reminds me of rednecks who declared themselves members of the Church of the Green Bud in an effort to get legalized pot back in the '80s. However, this is Sweden, so who the heck knows where it'll go?
Fans of American Horror Story who've already seen the season's finale are finally getting some hints as to where the series is going next year. Yes, that's a hint that if you haven't seen the finale you shouldn't click through just yet. It's actually pretty hard not to put spoilers right up here, ya know?
If Newsweek is to be believed, and that's one helluva big "if," Al Qaeda is on the ropes. An accurate report, or a press release from the Obama 2012 campaign? Newsweek is deeper in that campaign's pocket than most, true, but I'd like to believe this one. Hope springs eternal, even when the Dems are in charge. Oh, and, per usual, it would seem diplomatic pressure has actually caused the US to stop what appears to be a real and effective tool in the war on terror. Whee!
While nobody was looking, it seems Israel has become a net exporter to US network television. I'm not familiar with the shows mentioned in the article, probably because we don't subscribe to premium channels. That said, if any of these show up on Netflix we'll be there with bells on. Or, you know, stars of David or something.
Another day, another antarctic ecosystem. I've always found it strange that, on land, the tropics are where all the biodiversity is, but at sea it's always some of the darkest, coldest places that have all the crazy critters. If the Burgess Shale and other similar formations are any indication, it's been like this a helluva long time. I'm sure there's a reason for it, I just can't ever recall one.
I guess I really shouldn't be surprised when a simple lyric change causes fire to be flung down from on high. I read it as altered, yes, but still a hopeful vision of a kind of Utopia, just a different kind. Still, such outrage isn't all that surprising. Monkeying with someone's articles of faith will tend to do that. I just wish they would acknowledge it, for once.
Having tried everything else to convince the middle that my side is a clear and present danger to life, liberty, and sanity, now they're trotting ol' Pat out again. Robertson has been saying essentially the same things over and over again for the past, what, I think it must be forty or fifty years now. I'm more interested in why anyone thinks he's fresh or relevant than in what he actually says.
A form of crystal once thought to be flat-out impossible, and then thought only to be produced artificially, has now been found in nature. Science will always provide the right answer, until it is provided with new data. Then it will provide a different right answer. This is why science is great foundation for technology, but lousy one for morality.
Since it doesn't have a pulse, and doesn't respirate, it's legal. Durability is always an issue with these things, hopefully it'll last more than a few weeks.
Scientists have reported the discovery of hybrid sharks found in the wild. The specimens are a hybrid of two closely-related species, the common and Australian black-tipped shark. It's believed this is a sign that the animals are adapting to warming ocean temperatures, and could herald the arrival of a stronger shark species.
2012 looks to be shaping up as a pretty busy year in space exploration. I'm personally looking forward to the upcoming Dragon launch, even if it's still an unmanned one. The Curiosity landing will likely also be exciting, even harrowing, since for presumably good reasons those always seem to take place late at night local time. Here's to a great space year!
The advent of the automobile was bad news for wagon repair shops, but I'll wager to this day there are some still out there, somewhere. Same thing goes for typewriters. Unfortunately it's pretty clear this guy won't be around all that much longer.
Regular readers will likely have come across one of many references to a "yurt," mostly as a future abode when Olivia's teenage "always right" skids broadside into Ellen's well-established "never wrong." Now I can figure out how to make them! The thing is, I'm pretty sure our HOA has a clause in it somewhere that prevents dad's from building emergency shelters in the front yard. Dangit.