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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Daily Drift

Sorry but we couldn't resist any longer - we finally just had to show a pair of boobies on this blog

Some of our readers today have been in:
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Ankara, Turkey
Fermont, Canada
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Alexandria, Egypt
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Santiago, Chile
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Pas-De-Calais, France
Warsaw, Poland
Oranjestad, Aruba
Amman, Jordan
Paris, France
Samapaloc, Philippines
Belgrade, Serbia
Cape Town, South Africa
Colombo, Sri Lanka
San Jose, Costa Rica
Male, Maldives
Caracas, Venezuela
Johannesburg, South Africa
Damascus, Syria
Havant, England
Istanbul, Turkey
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Eirates
Cairo, Egypt
Erbil, Iraq
Quetta, Pakistan
Maputo, Mozambique
Taguig, Philippines

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1474 In the Swiss-Burgundian Wars, Swiss infantry shatters the army of Charles the Bold at Hericourt near Belfort, countering his march to Lorraine.
1835 Texans officially proclaim independence from Mexico, and calls itself the Lone Star Republic, after its flag, until its admission to the Union in 1845.
1851 The London-to-Paris telegraph begins operation.
1860 South Carolina's legislature calls a special convention to discuss secession from the Union.
1862 Lewis Carroll writes in his diary, "Began writing the fairy-tale of Alice–I hope to finish it by Christmas."
1878 New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace offers amnesty to many participants of the Lincoln County War, but not to gunfighter Billy the Kid.
1897 The first metal dirigible is flown from Tempelhof Field in Berlin.
1907 Paul Corno achieves the first helicopter flight.
1914 The brassiere, invented by Caresse Crosby, is patented.
1927 New York's Holland Tunnel officially opens for traffic.
1940 U.S. Supreme Court rules in Hansberry v. Lee that African Americans cannot be barred from white neighborhoods.
1941 A German U-boat, the U-81 torpedoes Great Britain's premier aircraft carrier, the HMS Ark Royal. The ship sinks the next day.
1942 Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower flies to Algeria to conclude an agreement with French Admiral Jean Darlan..
1945 Charles de Gaulle is elected president of France.
1952 Harvard's Paul Zoll becomes the first man to use electric shock to treat cardiac arrest.
1956 The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously strikes down two Alabama laws requiring racial segregation on public buses.

Non Sequitur


Epic Win!

One World Futbol

vTim Jahnigen was impressed by a documentary about children in Darfur who played soccer with pieces of trash because the soccer balls that were donated lasted only about 24 hours on the harsh terrain. He was inspired to come up with a ball that would never go flat, specifically designed for Third World children. He found a material called PopFoam that fills the bill.
Figuring out how to shape PopFoam into a sphere, though, might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and Mr. Jahnigen’s money was tied up in his other business.

Then he happened to be having breakfast with Sting, a friend from his days in the music business. Mr. Jahnigen told him how soccer helped the children in Darfur cope with their troubles and his efforts to find an indestructible ball. Sting urged Mr. Jahnigen to drop everything and make the ball. Mr. Jahnigen said that developing the ball might cost as much as $300,000. Sting said he would pay for it.

“Even on the harshest of terrain and in the worst of conditions, the ball could survive and the kids could still play,” Sting said in a public service announcement he made with Mr. Jahnigen. “I said, wow, yeah, let’s make it.”

Creating a prototype, it turned out, cost about one-tenth as much as expected and took about a year. Sting called it the One World Futbol, a homage to a song he sang with the Police, “One World (Not Three).”
The balls are expected to last for about 30 years, and for each ball sold at about $40, another is given away to children who cannot afford them. Link to story. Link to website.

Daily Comic Relief

The truth hurts

Wall Street is not made up of "numbers guys"

Chad Orzel's post, "Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists" is a timely reminder that Mitt Romney and other Wall Street Types are not, by and large, superhero math geniuses with their fingers on the arcane numeric truths underpinning all reality. Some quants are genuinely impressive mathematicians, but the industry's reputation for "numbers guys," is just wrong-o.
You would think that the 2008 economic meltdown, in which the financial industry broke the entire world when they were blindsided by the fact that housing prices can go down as well as up, might have cut into the idea of Wall Street bankers as geniuses, but evidently not. The weird idea that the titans of investment banking are the smartest people on the planet continues to persist, even among people who ought to know better– another thing that bugged me about Chris Hayes’s Twilight of the Elites was the way he uncritically accepted the line that Wall Street was the very peak of the meritocracy. It’s not hard to see where it originates– Wall Street types can’t go twenty minutes without telling everybody how smart they are– but it’s hard to see why so many people accept such blatant propaganda without question.
Look, Romney was an investment banker and corporate raider at Bain Capital. This is admittedly vastly more quantitative work than, say, being a journalist, but it doesn’t make him a “numbers guy.” The work that they do relies almost as much on luck and personal connections as it does on math– they’re closer to being professional gamblers than mathematical scientists. This is especially true of Bain and Romney, as was documented earlier this year– Bain made some bad bets before Romney got there, and was deep in the hole, and he got them out in large part by exploiting government connections and a sort of hostage-taking brinksmanship, creating a situation in which their well-deserved bankruptcy would’ve created a nightmare for the people they owed money, which bought them enough time for some other bets to pay off.
Romney has no shortage of nerve, and while he creeps me out, he has the sort of faux charm that works well in the finance community. But he’s not a “numbers guy” in any sense that looks meaningful from over here in the land of science. He can do the math needed to add up his personal fortune, but the game that he made his money playing isn’t a rigorously mathematical one– people get rich in finance as much by playing hunches and cutting sharp deals as by crunching numbers. There are people who make their way in that business by taking a rigorously data-driven approach to investing– one of the many things I need to write up for the blog at some point is a review of a forthcoming book called The Physics of Wall Street– but they’re nowhere near a majority of the industry, and Romney’s not one of them.
Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists

America is a great nation?

So many are so fond of waving the flag and proclaiming ours to be the best nation on earth, but one must ask, how so? We could do so much more to make it so much better for the average citizen.

Just one example...

Unfortunately ...

"Women and children first" on a sinking ship is nonsense in real life.

"Women and children first" on a sinking ship is nonsense in real life.  "They studied 18 different maritime disasters, including 16 previously unstudied shipwrecks, between the 1850s and 2011...  the average survival rate across the 16 other unstudied wrecks was less than 30 per cent for women and closer to 40 per cent for men. And while children fared better than men onboard the Titanic, this wasn't the case in the majority of shipwrecks. "Children appear to have the lowest survival rate," write Elinder and Erixson."  Also: "The most stunning finding from the other shipwrecks is of course the low survival rate of women and children, but also the relatively high survival rate of crew members and captains." (Of course that doesn't prove that lack of chivalry is the driving factor).

Silver Coins have been found on Mars

The wreck of the 16th century Swedish warship Mars was discovered last year after two decades of searching, but divers were only able to make a cursory initial exploration of the site at that time.

Tower of London keys swiped

Locks had to be changed at London's 930-year old fortress—and home of the crown jewels—after a man was found trespassing within the walls, keys in hand.

How Can Knowledge Be Preserved In Case Of Collapse?

Adam Rothstein on preserving tools and specialized knowledge (such as science and engineering) in case of a collapse:
Any number of aspiring futurists, science-fiction authors, preppers and Dark Mountaineers can present us with a point-by-point plan of how to survive a species-threatening cataclysm, the true effectiveness of which can only be judged in practice. So let us leave survival up to those who will need to hack it, and instead ask what can we do now to make things a bit easier for our post-apocalyptic children of the future?
We might bury useful tools everywhere in a strategy resonant with Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth, to make surprising archaeological Easter Eggs of power saws and streaming media tablets to the future’s struggling humankind. But without cellular data contracts and extension cords, these might not prove very useful. Far better to provide them with knowledge, argues Grassie, in order to kick start their inevitable journey back through scientific progress to re-learn the things we will lose. You can give a post-human descendant species-branch a CD-ROM and they can surf Encarta for a day. Or you can teach a post-human descendant species-branch to write objective secondarily-sourced encyclopedia articles, and they can have their own Wikipedia-esque debates about editing procedures for the rest of their brutish and short lives.
Full Story: The State: Satellites of History
Rothstein goes on to note some attempts to preserve knowledge for the future, and questions whether the endeavor matters.

The Word of the Year

Oxford American Dictionaries has selected its annual "Word of the Year," and that word is GIF. You are already familiar with GIF as in Graphics Interchange Format, or this images that change and move. the Word of the Year is for GIF as a verb!
“The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier,” notes Katherine Martin, Head of the US Dictionaries Program at Oxford University Press USA.  “GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”
Indeed, GIFING has had an amazing year in 2012.  In January the New York Public Library launched stereogranimator allowing visitors to create GIFs of 40,000+ digitized stereographs from its collection and share them.  Then in March Tumblr hit 20 billion blog posts.  July saw the 20th anniversary of the first GIF posted on the World Wide Web, a photograph of the band “Les Horribles Cernettes”.  In August GIFing was perfect medium for sharing scenes from the Summer Olympics in London, especially this coverage of the vault from The Atlantic.  Most recently many media outlets were live-GIFing the 2012 presidential  debates.
And how is it pronounced? The computer programmers who created the format used a soft g like the peanut butter brand Jif, but a hard g is considered correct as well because so many people say it that way. Find out more about the usage of GIF and see the other words that were considered for Word of the Year at the Oford Dictionaries blog. Link
P.S. The Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year is ‘omnishambles.’ Link

Marijuana Tourism in Colorado and Washington?

Both marijuana measures make marijuana possession in small amounts OK for all adults over 21 - not just state residents but visitors, too.

If pot were truly legal, high-quality joints would cost the same price as a Splenda packet

In July, Salon's Matthew Yglesias wrote an article about the price of legal marijuana, which is even more interesting now that Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
How cheaply could pot be grown with advanced farming techniques? One potential data point is Canada’s industrial hemp industry, where production costs are about $500 per acre. If the kind of mid-grade commercial weed that accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. market could be grown that cheaply, it implies costs of about 20 cents per pound of smokable material: Enough pot to fill more than 800 modest-sized half-gram joints for less than a quarter!. Those numbers are probably optimistic, since in practice recreational marijuana is grown from more expensive transplanted clones rather than from seeds. Even so, the authors note that “production costs for crops that need to be transplanted, such as cherry tomatoes and asparagus, are generally in the range of $5,000-$20,000 per acre.” That implies costs of less than $20 per pound for high-grade sensimilla and less than $5 a pound for mid-grade stuff. Another way of looking at it, suggested by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, is that we should expect legal pot to cost about the same amount as “other legal herbs such as tea or tobacco,” something perhaps “100 times lower than the current prevailing price of $300 per ounce—or a few cents per joint.”
This would make pot far and away the cheapest intoxicant on the market, absolutely blowing beer and liquor out of the water. Joints would be about as cheap as things that are often treated as free. Splenda packets, for example, cost 2 or 3 cents each when purchased in bulk.
I wonder how much money the liquor industry is going to contribute in their attempt to get these cannabis laws overturned?
Get High for Free

Random Photo

Self-Healing Synthetic ‘Skin’ Points Way to New Prosthetics

After it was divided with a scalpel, a new polymer was able to heal itself, restoring most of its mechanical and electrical properties in 15 seconds.
By Tim Wogan
Human skin is a special material: It needs to be flexible, so that it doesn’t crack every time a user clenches his fist. It needs to be sensitive to stimuli like touch and pressure — which are measured as electrical signals, so it needs to conduct electricity. Crucially, if it’s to survive the wear and tear it’s put through every day, it needs to be able to repair itself. Now, researchers in California may have designed a synthetic version — a flexible, electrically conductive, self-healing polymer.
The result is part of a decadelong miniboom in “epidermal electronics” — the production of circuits thin and flexible enough to be attached to skin (for use as wearable heart rate monitors, for example) or to provide skinlike touch sensitivity to prosthetic limbs. The problem is that silicon, the base material of the electronics industry, is brittle. So various research groups have investigated different ways to produce flexible electronic sensors.
Chemists, meanwhile, have become increasingly interested in “self-healing” polymers. This sounds like science fiction, but several research groups have produced plastics that can join their cut edges together when scientists heat them, shine a light on them, or even just hold the cut edges together. In 2008, researchers at ESPCI ParisTech showed that a specially designed rubber compound could recover its mechanical properties after being broken and healed repeatedly.
Continue Reading “Self-Healing Synthetic ‘Skin’ Points Way to New Prosthetics” »

Fixing Hurt Nerves

Severely damaged nerves can't regrow, but a group of scientists is hoping to change that.
  Severely damaged nerves, stem cells, nerve disease

Meditation makes lasting change in brain

A new study has found that participating in an 8-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the ...

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Origins of genetic blending between Europeans and Asians

A group of researchers led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) has discovered the first scientific evidence of genetic ...
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My thing, making things bright.

Why do trees fall over in a storm?

The more accurate version of this question would really be something like, "Why do some trees fall over in a storm while others stay standing?" The answer is more complex than a simple distinction between old, rotted, and weak vs. young, healthy, and strong. Instead, writes Mary Knudson at Scientific American blogs, trees fall because of their size, their species, and even the history of the human communities around them.
“Trees most at risk are those whose environment has recently changed (say in the last 5 – 10 years),” Smith says. When trees that were living in the midst of a forest lose the protection of a rim of trees and become stand-alones in new housing lots or become the edge trees of the forest, they are made more vulnerable to strong weather elements such as wind.
They also lose the physical protection of surrounding trees that had kept them from bending very far and breaking. Land clearing may wound a tree’s trunk or roots, “providing an opportunity for infection by wood decay fungi. Decay usually proceeds slowly, but can be significant 5-10 years after basal or root injury.” What humans do to the ground around trees — compacting soil, changing gradation and drainage “can kill roots and increase infection,” Smith warns.

The trouble with truffles

The effect of climate change on good taste

Being married to a food writer, you would think that at the end of the day our two jobs would ...
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Dark Energy's roller coaster ride

Dark energy's roller coaster rideSDSS telescope

Scientists use a novel technique to probe the expansion of the Universe and the role of dark energy some 10 billion years into the past.

Exoplanet Kindergarten Discovered?

A huge gap has been discovered in a young star's protoplanetary disk -- likely carved out by a system of baby worlds.  
 Exoplanet Kindergarten Discovered: Big Pic

Awesome Pictures

Who Needs to Dissect Frogs When You Can See Right Through Them?

The glassfrog couldn't be more aptly named. After all, his entire underbelly is translucent like glass. Amazingly, that's not the only unique thing about these beautiful creatures. They're also one of the handful of critters where the father actually handles all aspects of parental care.
"Females flee as soon as they have delivered the eggs. Then males stay during weeks in close proximity of the egg clutch, improving its survival probability by maintaining it wet and, sometimes, scaring away predators," says evolutionary biologist Juan Manuel Guayasamin. As a result, the males are also highly aggressive with one another, often fighting for hours.

Animal Pictures