Now gluten-free!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The perfect response in every situation

(via xkcd)

Friday, February 24, 2012

1903 film footage of Princeton-Yale football game

No forward passes, no instant replays, no skycams, no two-way radio in the quarterback's helmet...Is this even football?

(via Kottke)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Light barrier still intact

You may recall the announcement in September of last year that scientists may have succeeded in accelerating subatomic particles faster than the speed of light. Well, the results are finally in. The verdict? Pretty much what everyone suspected.

Better luck next time, guys.

"Your perfectly pristine papers, please"

If you're going to be traveling abroad, you'll want to make sure your passport is in pristine condition. One Denver family found that out the hard way.

Kyle Gosnell, his wife Dana, and son Kye were on their way to Belize on vacation. They went through airport security in Denver without any problems and received boarding passes all the way through to Belize city. While switching planes in Dallas, however, Kyle was told his passport was mutilated, and therefore unacceptable. The family was not allowed to board their plane, and American Airlines put them up in a hotel for the night.

It seems that if an airport employee has a difficult time scanning a passport, he or she can refuse passage. (Why is the Bridge of Death scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail suddenly springing to mind?) The Gosnells, meanwhile, just want to see some changes made so that airport policies regarding passports are more uniform.

On the bright side, the family got a partial expense-paid night in Dallas. Yeehaw.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ice Age squirrel key to resurrecting ancient species of plants?

It was the blood from ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber that led to the resurrection of dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park. In Russia, scientists have revived a plant believed to be at least 30,000 years old, and they have a bushy-tailed rodent to thank for that:
It was an Ice Age squirrel's treasure chamber, a burrow containing fruit and seeds that had been stuck in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. From the fruit tissues, a team of Russian scientists managed to resurrect an entire plant in a pioneering experiment that paves the way for the revival of other species.

The Silene stenophylla is the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, the researchers said, and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds.

The experiment proves that permafrost serves as a natural depository for ancient life forms, said the Russian researchers, who published their findings in Tuesday's issue of "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" of the United States.

"We consider it essential to continue permafrost studies in search of an ancient genetic pool, that of pre-existing life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth's surface," the scientists said in the article.
Squirrels! Who would have thought that those dreaded vermin could actually do something useful?

Nuclear bombs on America's highways

If ignorance is bliss, that would explain why Americans are so happy. We love our hot dogs; we just don't want to know how they're made.

The same could be said of the inner workings of our government. We want transparency, but we still want to be able to sleep at night. If you fall into that category, you may not want to read on.

A show of hands: How many of you stopped to think about how nuclear weapons and other radioactive material were transported across the country? Not many. For those of you who did, you probably thought it was in secret military cargo planes flying in the dead of night. Think again:
As you weave through interstate traffic, you're unlikely to notice another plain-looking Peterbilt tractor-trailer rolling along in the right-hand lane. The government plates and array of antennas jutting from the cab's roof would hardly register. You'd have no idea that inside the cab an armed federal agent operates a host of electronic countermeasures to keep outsiders from accessing his heavily armored cargo: a nuclear warhead with enough destructive power to level downtown San Francisco.

That's the way the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) wants it. At a cost of $250 million a year, nearly 600 couriers employed by this secretive agency within the U.S. Department of Energy use some of the nation's busiest roads to move America's radioactive material wherever it needs to go—from a variety of labs, reactors and military bases, to the nation's Pantex bomb-assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas, to the Savannah River facility. Most of the shipments are bombs or weapon components; some are radioactive metals for research or fuel for Navy ships and submarines. The shipments are on the move about once a week.
Here's a map of the most-traveled routes. You might want to refer to it when planning your next road trip:

(via The Tea Party Economist)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Girl texting while walking falls on live TV

No word yet on whether or not she was chewing gum at the time.

"Irrefutable evidence" of Siberian yeti?

I love a good Bigfoot story. Naturally, you can imagine my excitement when I read that researchers had found "irrefutable evidence" of the existence of the Abominable Snowman.

A group of international scientists set out on an expedition to the Kemerovo region of Siberia. There, they found footprints, a supposed bed, and various markers used by the yeti to mark its territory. All the evidence collected will be analyzed in a special laboratory.

OK, so this really isn't anything we haven't heard before. As usual, time will tell.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Confusing school zone speed limit sign

This is how they roll in White Lake Township, Michigan:

I think the point of the sign is to get drivers to come to a complete stop to read it. School zone speeding problem solved.


A Presidential Candidate - by Mark Twain

If you haven't signed up for The Library of America's Story of the Week, you should do so now. It's a weekly email that provides a fascinating glimpse into America's literary past. Today's feature: a deliciously humorous piece from 1879, written by my favorite American author of all time.

A Presidential Candidate
By Mark Twain

I have pretty much made up my mind to run for President. What the country wants is a candidate who cannot be injured by investigation of his past history, so that the enemies of the party will be unable to rake up anything against him that nobody ever heard of before. If you know the worst about a candidate, to begin with, every attempt to spring things on him will be checkmated. Now I am going to enter the field with an open record. I am going to own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done, and if any Congressional committee is disposed to prowl around my biography in the hope of discovering any dark and deadly deed that I have secreted, why—let it prowl.

In the first place, I admit that I treed a rheumatic grandfather of mine in the winter of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing trees, but with the heartless brutality that is characteristic of me I ran him out of the front door in his nightshirt at the point of a shotgun, and caused him to bowl up a maple tree, where he remained all night, while I emptied shot into his legs. I did this because he snored. I will do it again if I ever have another grandfather. I am as inhuman now as I was in 1850. I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at the battle of Gettysburg. My friends have tried to smooth over this fact by asserting that I did so for the purpose of imitating Washington, who went into the woods at Valley Forge for the purpose of saying his prayers. It was a miserable subterfuge. I struck out in a straight line for the Tropic of Cancer because I was scared. I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to have somebody else save it. I entertain that preference yet. If the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon is empty. If it is loaded my immortal and inflexible purpose is to get over the fence and go home. My invariable practice in war has been to bring out of every fight two­thirds more men than when I went in. This seems to me to be Napoleonic in its grandeur.

My financial views are of the most decided character, but they are not likely, perhaps, to increase my popularity with the advocates of inflation. I do not insist upon the special supremacy of rag money or hard money. The great fundamental principle of my life is to take any kind I can get.

The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does that unfit me for the Presidency? The Constitution of our country does not say so. No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?

I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man. I regard the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject in my first message. My campaign cry will be: "Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages."

These are about the worst parts of my record. On them I come before the country. If my country don’t want me, I will go back again. But I recommend myself as a safe man—a man who starts from the basis of total depravity and proposes to be fiendish to the last.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The State Department wants to keep an eye on you

A recent tweet from the U.S. Department of State:

Sorry, Washington, but you're already a little too close for my comfort.

Chuck Norris vs. Angry Birds

If you get stuck while playing Angry Birds, forget the Mighty Eagle. Call on Chuck.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Throwable panoramic ball camera

Electric cars more polluting than gas-powered cars

A recent study in China has revealed what many of us already knew: An increase in the use of electric cars leads to an increase in the demand for electricity, and an increase in the demand for electricity means a heavier reliance on fossil fuels to produce that electricity. The bottom line? Electric cars are actually bigger polluters than their gas-powered counterparts. Who knew?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

World's largest Scrabble game

This nearly 50-square-foot Scrabble board, available from Hammacher Schlemmer, is the perfect addition for any home. And, best of all, it's only $12,000!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The emotional power of music

When 17th century playwright William Congreve wrote "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast," he knew what he was talking about. Music is a powerful force. If you're human, you've been emotionally moved by a certain song at some point in your life. Psychologists Dr. Martin Guhn and Dr. Marcel Zentner explain the science behind the emotional reaction to songs like Adele's "Someone Like You":
Chill-provoking passages, they found, shared at least four features. They began softly and then suddenly became loud. They included an abrupt entrance of a new "voice," either a new instrument or harmony. And they often involved an expansion of the frequencies played. In one passage from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 (K. 488), for instance, the violins jump up one octave to echo the melody. Finally, all the passages contained unexpected deviations in the melody or the harmony. Music is most likely to tingle the spine, in short, when it includes surprises in volume, timbre and harmonic pattern.

"Someone Like You" is a textbook example. "The song begins with a soft, repetitive pattern," said Dr. Guhn, while Adele keeps the notes within a narrow frequency range. The lyrics are wistful but restrained: "I heard that you're settled down, that you found a girl and you're married now." This all sets up a sentimental and melancholy mood.

When the chorus enters, Adele's voice jumps up an octave, and she belts out notes with increasing volume. The harmony shifts, and the lyrics become more dramatic: "Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."

When the music suddenly breaks from its expected pattern, our sympathetic nervous system goes on high alert; our hearts race and we start to sweat. Depending on the context, we interpret this state of arousal as positive or negative, happy or sad.

If "Someone Like You" produces such intense sadness in listeners, why is it so popular? Last year, Robert Zatorre and his team of neuroscientists at McGill University reported that emotionally intense music releases dopamine in the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, similar to the effects of food, sex and drugs. This makes us feel good and motivates us to repeat the behavior.
You see, Dear? It can't be helped. So please stop laughing at me when I sob uncontrollably during "My Heart Will Go On."

Long exposure photographs of fireflies

Just a little something to set the mood for today.

(via The Fox Is Black)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

George Lucas's latest blasphemy: Han NEVER shot first

I loved Star Wars before I ever saw the movie. I remember in 1978 when my father brought home a cassette entitled The Story of Star Wars, an abridged version of the audio track from the film narrated by the distinctive voice of Roscoe Lee Browne. That was my first exposure to the story that would leave an indelible mark on my childhood. The great thing about listening to it before actually seeing it was that it sparked my imagination, and the faraway galaxy I conjured up in my mind was much more epic than the one I eventually saw onscreen.

I think the main reason why so many of us 40-somethings are Star Wars fans is that it was one of the first movies we remember seeing on the big screen. Sure, we were blown away by the special effects, but we really fell in love with the story of a ragtag group of lovable misfits banding together against a virtually invincible evil.

That was before the dark times...before the Lucas Empire.

On the heels of the first film's success came the abysmal monstrosity known as The Star Wars Holiday Special. That should have been our first tip-off. But it wasn't until the 1997 version of Star Wars that we realized what we were up against. That's when we were introduced to the infamous "Greedo shoots first" scene.

Yes, George Lucas had committed the unpardonable sin of rewriting Star Wars history. Everyone knows that Han shot first. There is no question about it.

Changing such an iconic scene was insulting enough, but ol' George has now decided to add insult to injury, insisting that we didn't really see what we all know we saw 35 years ago. The creator of one of the most beloved movie franchises in history now claims that Han Solo NEVER shot first:
The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.
I have never heard anyone try to argue that Captain Solo was a cold-blooded killer. Although he did fire the first shot in that confrontation, it was entirely justified. Greedo got the drop on him, promising to turn him over to a ruthless gangster who would very likely have him killed in a most gruesome way. The reptilian bounty hunter then threatened to kill Han himself when Han refused to comply. It was a clear case of self-defense. Perhaps someone should tell that to the guy who wrote the story in the first place.

The seemingly endless onslaught of edited, re-edited, and re-re-edited versions of the original three films has only served to detract from older fans' enjoyment of the story. George Lucas, the man who once inspired millions of impressionable moviegoers, is guilty of assaulting and corrupting the very childhood memories he helped create. We are now the parents of a new generation of Star Wars fans, and we have been left with the monumental task of sorting through those fractured memories for our own kids, trying to separate fact from fiction...well, you know, to the extent that's possible in a make-believe world set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

(HT: The Knight Shift)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Iran worried U.S. might be building 8,500th nuclear weapon

From The Onion:
Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America's uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. "Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran," said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and "everything they need" to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material. "Obviously, the prospect of this happening is very distressing to Iran and all countries like Iran. After all, the United States is a volatile nation that's proven it needs little provocation to attack anyone anywhere in the world whom it perceives to be a threat." Iranian intelligence experts also warned of the very real, and very frightening, possibility of the U.S. providing weapons and resources to a rogue third-party state such as Israel.
As usual, The Onion continues to be more relevant than the mainstream news media.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"The Monsters Are Due on Westhampton View Court"

The strange occurrences on a cul-de-sac in St. Charles, Missouri, sound like something straight out of an episode of The Twilight Zone (hence the title of this post). reports:
Westhampton View residents started noticing problems getting in and out of their garages on Dec. 26 and 27, and the situation got progressively worse.

They went through the usual trouble-shooting steps of changing the batteries and rebooting their systems. All but one have Liftmasters. Some called the manufacturer. Nothing worked.

First, Kathy Hoechstenbach's double garage door wouldn't work, but the single one would. Then the single door would work only if they got really close to the door with the remote. Soon it wouldn't work at all.

Joe Sullivan's doors have the same problem.

"It's a weird, weird thing," Sullivan said. "And the timing for it all to go haywire for everybody at the same time can't be coincidence, right?"

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Chicken wing...cupcakes?

Yes. Chicken wing cupcakes.

This unique creation is being offered by a bakery in Colonie, New York. It's a cornbread cupcake slathered in blue cheese frosting, topped off with a chicken wing.

But do people like them? Oh, yeah. They're a hit.

Mailman who pooped on lawn resumes same route

It's bad enough cleaning up after your dogs. You don't want to have to worry about your mailman.

A mail carrier in Portland, Oregon, was photographed defecating in the yard of a home on his delivery route last April. He's back on the job and back on his old route.

Really? You're a mailman. You can't make it to your truck and use a bag, a box, or an envelope or something? You have to use someone's yard?

The only explanation I can think of as to why this guy kept his job is that he must have claimed to have a medical condition, thereby preventing his termination under federal employment regulations. What I can't figure out is why in the world he would want to show his face in the same neighborhood again.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Fifth grader accidentally discovers new explosive molecule

Professor Robert Zoellner of Humboldt State University confirmed the discovery of a new molecule.

Kenneth Boehr gave his fifth grade class some molecule modeling kits to, you know, build molecule models. Maybe he wanted a chance to catch up on Facebook and thought this would kill some time and keep the kids out of his hair for a while. Whatever the reason, he certainly didn't expect one of his pupils to make an explosive discovery.

The future chemist (or homeland security threat) is 10-year-old Clara Lazen. She wasn't out to do anything groundbreaking. She just threw together some oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon atoms into a random arrangement and, voilĂ !, scientific history was made.

The heretofore unknown molecule, hereafter known as tetranitratoxycarbon, contains the same combination of atoms as nitroglycerin. That means if a chemist could create an actual tetranitratoxycarbon molecule, it could do something useful, like store energy, or do something really cool, like blow something up.

Zoellner has since published an article about the molecule. Clara and her teacher are both listed as co-authors.

A hilarious guide to mispronouncing words

The Pronunciation Book is a channel on YouTube that will help you pronounce words correctly. Booooooriiiiiing! Me? I prefer the Pronunciation Manual. Honestly, I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Here's a small, side-splitting sampling:

And my personal favorite...


100-year-old woman doesn't know what she would do without her Nintendo DS

100-year-old Kit Connell doesn't feel a day over 80, and she credits her Nintendo DS for keeping her young:
I try to keep my brain active by playing on my Nintendo. My daughter managed to get me one on the internet, and this is the one I'm using now. And it's great. It's absolutely super. I don't know what I'd do without it. ... I can't speak highly enough of this Nintendo. It's helped to keep my brain as active as possible at my old age.
In case you kids are thinking about using this in an effort to convince your parents to buy you one, keep in mind that she mostly plays word games.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Indonesian twins, separated at birth, meet in Sweden

Fraternal twins Emilie Falk and Lin Backman were born in Indonesia, and somehow ended up separated at an orphanage. Their respective adoptive families got in touch with each other, but, due to the lack of similarities between the girls and discrepancies in the adoption paperwork, didn't realize the girls were sisters. The families eventually lost touch.

When Emilie and Lin reconnected 29 years later, they found they had a lot in common. They lived only 25 miles apart. They are both teachers. They got married on the same day just one year apart. They even danced to the same wedding song: "You and Me" by Lifehouse.

A DNA test they had done last year showed that there is a 99.98 percent chance of them being sisters. They are happy to have found each other and have talked about traveling one day to Indonesia to search for their biological parents.

You can read the full story here.

Build a snack stadium for your Super Bowl feast

Presentation has never been my strong suit. I'm usually in too much of a hurry to eat. But if I was going to host a big Super Bowl bash, I might give this a try.

(via LA Weekly)

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