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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Daily Drift

The truth can be funny ...!
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Today in History

1285 Philip III of Spain is succeeded by Philip IV ("the Fair").
1503 Christopher Columbus discovers the Cayman Islands.
1676 Bacon's Rebellion begins in the New World.
1773 To keep the troubled East India Company afloat, Parliament passes the Tea Act, taxing all tea in the American colonies.
1774 Louis XVI succeeds his father Louis XV as King of France.
1775 American troops capture Fort Ticonderoga from the British.
1794 Elizabeth, the sister of King Louis XVI, is beheaded.
1796 Napoleon Bonaparte wins a brilliant victory against the Austrians at Lodi bridge in Italy.
1840 Mormon leader Joseph Smith moves his band of followers to Illinois to escape the hostilities they experienced in Missouri.
1857 The Bengal Army in India revolts against the British.
1863 General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson succumbs to illness and wounds received during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
1865 Union cavalry troops capture Confederate President Jefferson Davis near Irvinville, Georgia.
1869 The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah.
1859 French emperor Napoleon III leaves Paris to join his troops preparing to battle the Austrian army in Northern Italy.
1872 Victoria Woodhull becomes first woman nominated for U.S. president.
1917 Allied ships get destroyer escorts to fend off German attacks in the Atlantic.
1924 J. Edgar Hoover is appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
1928 WGY-TV in Schenectady, New York, begins regular television programming.
1933 Nazis begin burning books by "unGerman" writers such as Heinrich Mann and Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front.
1940 German forces begin a blitzkrieg of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, skirting France's "impenetrable" Maginot Line.
1940 Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister.
1941 England's House of Commons is destroyed during the worst of the London Blitz: 550 German bombers drop 100,000 incendiary bombs.
1960 The USS Nautilus completes first circumnavigation of globe underwater.
1994 Nelson Mandela is sworn in as South Africa's first black president.

Non Sequitur


The Day the Beatles Ran a Relay Race

by Eddie Deezen
Cliveden House
It was May 11, 1965. The Beatles were on location, wrapping up filming their second movie Help! The Help! shoot had begun on February 23rd and this was the boys' 54th and final day of Help! filming. Director Richard Lester was to film a few atmosphere and scenery shots in London the next day, and after that, the 55th day of filming, Help! would officially wrap.

The Beatles' final scenes on this historic day were filmed at Cliveden House, a 19th century stately home in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Cliveden House was doubling as Buckingham Palace in these scenes.

Sometime during this day, the Beatles were officially "challenged" to a relay race by the crew of Help! Although world famous and universally popular as singers, musicians and composers, the Fab Four's athletic prowess left much to be desired. It was during the Help! shoot that all four Beatles openly admitted to smoking and indulging in marijuana use, frequently, if not daily. 
Besides the marijuana indulgence, the Beatles also liked their meals and enjoyed fine food. John Lennon was to call this his "fat Elvis" period and remember it as his "steak and whiskey" era. But being adventurous lads, the boys readily accepted the challenge.

The race was to be around Cliveden Gardens, outside of and around Cliveden House. There were four separate relay teams, each team consisting of six members. Besides the Beatles team, there were the electricians, the carpenters and the camera operators.

The Beatles team consisted of the Fab Four, plus their road manager Neil Aspinall and their chauffeur Alf Bicknell. John, Paul, George, Ringo, Neil, and Alf were to be the victors in the once-in-a-lifetime race.

Paul McCartney is the only Beatle to actually speak publicly about the Help! relay race. Many years later, Paul said he "vaguely remembered Ringo handing off a baton" to him.

How long was the race?  According to Paul (in an interview he gave that day): “Fifteen furlongs, I’d say" (one furlong is 1/8th of a mile). Paul also said the Beatles were "very proud" of their relay race victory.

There is no record of exactly when the race took place during the day, whether before the day's shoot was finished, during the lunch break, at the end of the day, or during a "wrap" celebration.

Interestingly, the relay race was filmed and captured by a home movie camera. It is footage any Beatle fan (like me) would love to view.

The Jumping Jack Is Named after Its Inventor, General “Black Jack” Pershing

John J. Pershing (1860-1948) was one of America’s greatest military leaders. He began in humble conditions in Missouri. Pershing was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1886 after graduating from West Point. His first commands were in the west in the final years of the Indian Wars. In 1896, he was given command of the Tenth Cavalry, an all-black unit in America’s racially segregated military. Pershing led that regiment into battle in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. He was unflinching in his praise and respect for his men. Some white officers nicknamed him “Black Jack” in reference to his defense of his black troops. Others used a somewhat different nickname that rhymes with “jigger.”
Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. It was a monumental task, for Pershing had to organize, train, and equip an army of 4 million men almost from scratch, then lead it into battle on the other side of the planet.
Pershing was successful, for which was rightfully promoted to the rank of General of the Armies of the United States in 1919. This is an honor held by only one other person: George Washington.
(Photo: Troop A, Tenth Cavalry Regiment, c. 1902)
But “Black Jack” Pershing is not often remembered for one of his most practical, everyday innovations. While he was a senior cadet at West Point, he invented an exercise used by people around the world to this day: the jumping jack. It was a means that Pershing used to haze a cadet named Charles D. Rhodes. Frank Everson Vandiver writes about it in Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing:
Worst of all, Pershing invented an almost foolproof method of hazing, and Rhodes suffered directly. The scheme got the name “jumping Jack” for obvious reasons, and few treatments seem to have affected plebes more lastingly. Origins of the technique are obscure, but Pershing’s plan had simplicity and adaptability. He would line up a group of plebes, order them to count off to identify odds and evens, and when he pulled on an imaginary string, all the odds threw their arms stiffly out at right angles to their bodies; then Jack pulled the string in the opposite direction, and the odds dropped their arms and evens jumped their legs out to make a V. Back and forth went the string, arms flapped, legs splayed, while upperclassmen howled at the marionettes in action.
And since that time more than a century ago, gym teachers and trainers have hazed people with General Pershing’s invention.
So it is appropriate that on May 1, Pershing’s home state of Missouri declared the jumping jack the official state exercise

How Efficiency Killed the Department Store

Department stores went from elite shops for wealthy people to a more accessible design in the early 20th century, but they really took off after World War II with the meteoric rise of the middle class. Then in the ‘50s, the suburban indoor shopping mall concept gathered department stores into clusters to make shopping more efficient, which drew shoppers away from downtown. But the idea of shopping for pleasure didn’t last, no matter how much "science" went into managing the experience. What killed the department store? It wasn’t just online shopping, although that played a part. You can read the history of department stores, which is really a history of the way we shop, at Collectors Weekly

Ask a Psychologist: Is Yoda’s Advice Any Good?

Dr. Nakia Gordon is a professor of psychology at Marquette University in Wisconsin. She’s a scholar on the human use of emotions. Science writer Kyle Hill asked her to reflect on the psychological utility of Jedi Master Yoda’s pearls of wisdom:
“Anger… fear… aggression. The dark side are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.”
“Anger, fear and aggression in the right circumstances are indeed easy to evoke. But they aid in survival. Without them, we die. So they are not useless. I think if Yoda had said revenge or other nuanced emotions that rely on complex cognitions, then perhaps his advice is warranted. Rumination is almost always unhealthy (contributing to the maintenance of both depression and PTSD) and it seems to me you need to ruminate in order to plot revenge. You would also need to ruminate to maintain any anger associated with the situation. But that anger would presumably aid you in the confrontation.”
[Is the Dark Side stronger?] “No… no… no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”
“This one is interesting. Basic emotions of which anger and fear are a part of can be evoked readily. The question is whether there are easily evoked positive emotions too. People’s list of basic emotions usually includes at least one positive emotion. But that positive one is not as easily defined. Sometimes it is enjoyment, sometimes it is joy, sometimes happiness. In theory, any basic emotion should be quickly and easily evoked, but a basic positive one is elusive for researchers. Perhaps the negative emotions are as seductive to researchers as they are to Jedis.
Dr. Gordon also wrote about her general impressions of the Jedi approach to emotion:
Yoda often seems to be asking for the Jedi to be in the present. In the long-term, practicing something like “mindfulness meditation” does appear to have many beneficial health effects. Mindfulness would, in theory, keep Jedi from ruminating on anger.

5 Bizarre Mental Illnesses That Turn Reality Into a TV Show

If you’ve followed Neatorama for a while, you are familiar with the Truman Show Delusion. It’s a mental illness in which a person believes that his whole life is a reality TV show. I would have expected this delusion to be included in a Cracked list about mental illnesses that turn your life into a TV show, but no. These five conditions are even stranger than that. They’re not all psychological, either -some are neurological, like the condition that causes you to see subtitles in real life.
It happened to septuagenarian Dorothy Latham. When she has a conversation, the words appear as a brightly colored ticker tape in front of whoever's speaking. It is likely the one and only thing she has in common with the teen blogger known as Cath. They both have a rare form of synesthesia, a bizarre condition in which one of your senses becomes tightly linked to another. Seeing the color blue might make you taste cheeseburgers, or hearing the music of Nirvana might make you smell teen spirit (which is mostly old socks and stale semen, for the record).
Read more about this condition and others that will blow your mind, at Cracked.

Using a Foreign Language Affects Your Ethical Reasoning

You're standing on a footbridge overlooking a train track. A train is coming down that track. It is about to hit and kill five people.
A very heavy man is also on the bridge. If you push him off the bridge, his body will stop the train, but it will also kill him.
Would you push him?
How you answer this ethical dilemma may be affected by the language in which you hear it. Researchers at the University of Chicago and Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona found that when people encountered this dilemma in a foriegn language, they were more likely to take the utilitarian option: pushing the man off the footbridge. Science 2.0 reports:
The researchers collected data from people in the U.S., Spain, Korea, France and Israel. Across all populations, more participants selected the utilitarian choice — to save five by killing one — when the dilemmas were presented in the foreign language than when they did the problem in their native tongue.
Even with randomizing the participants' language groups, "those using a foreign language were twice as likely to respond with the utilitarian approach that is more in the service of the common good of saving more people," said lead author Albert Costa from the Center of Brain and Cognition, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. Costa is currently a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.

A Tangle of Conflicts The Dirty Business of Palm Oil

by Nils Klawitter 
A Tangle of Conflicts: The Dirty Business of Palm Oil  
Palm oil can be found in many of the products we consume each day. Much of it comes from Indonesia, where brutal methods are deployed against locals. One of the main suppliers says it is cleaning up its act, but has it really changed?  More.

What if we threw a revolution, and nobody came?

1: The phrase "the Copernican Revolution" was coined by Immanuel Kant.
2: Copernicus' contemporaries didn't see his ideas as controversial. Rather, they mostly ignored him.

Wage theft hits software engineers as well as fast food workers

A New York Times editorial points out that software engineers and fast food workers are more similar than we might think: Both groups are affected by wage theft.
    In the days ahead, a settlement is expected in the antitrust lawsuit pitting 64,613 software engineers against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe. The engineers say they lost up to $3 billion in wages from 2005-9, when the companies colluded in a scheme not to solicit one another's employees. The collusion, according to the engineers, kept their pay lower than it would have been had the companies actually competed for talent. [...]
    The case essentially alleges white-collar wage theft. The engineers were not victimized by the usual violations of labor law, but by improper hiring practices against their interests. The result, however, was the same: Money that would have flowed to workers in the form of wages went instead into corporate coffers and from there to executives and shareholders.

No climate change, please. We're Faux & Friends

In totally unsurprising news, Scientific American editor Michael Moyer was told he couldn't talk about climate change in a recent appearance on Faux News' morning show.

Why does everybody climb Mt. Everest in spring?

Emily Sohn at Discovery News has a really interesting story about the meteorology and weather physics that explain why the Everest climbing season is so short and why, even in the "good" months, weather is still a major risk factor on the mountain. 

Pyramid Parts Would Slide Superbly on Soaked Sand, Says Study

A new theory is adding to our understanding of how the ancient Egyptians might have built the pyramids. You'll recall that, today, most Egyptologists believe the pyramids were built by workers pulling blocks of stone on sledges. Scientists at the University of Amsterdam have found that that system would work better if the sand beneath the sledges were wet. 

Michelangelo's David at Risk From Weak Ankles

Tiny fractures at the famous sculpture's ankles could prove devastating in the event of an earthquake.

Antibiotics and the microbiome

This post on overselling the microbiome by microbiologist Jonathan Eisen is worth reading if, for no other reason, than that it serves as a nice reminder that we don't actually have this microbiome thing figured out yet, and the community of scientists don't agree on ideas that are fast becoming pop culture "everybody knows" material.

MRSA is from Washington Heights

The majority of community acquired (i.e., not caught in a hospital) cases of antibiotic-resistant staph can be linked to a single strain of the bacteria. And, now, scientists have pinpointed where that strain first evolved. It's from northern Manhattan

Healthier kids make for taller adults

People in western countries gained roughly four inches in height between WW1 and today. The driving force behind this growth spurt: Sanitation and a reduction in early childhood illnesses, especially bacterial infections of the lungs and intestinal tract.

Why feed babies one new food at a time?

Do you really have to start with rice cereal? Why do we only feed babies unseasoned food? Matt Shipman gets some interesting answers from a NC State nutrition professor. Turns out: The big issue with seasoning is sodium. Babies can't process much of it and a lot of seasonings are loaded with it.

Why should you care about a dead king's DNA?

"Oh look a king, let’s break out the thermocycler," writes osteoarchaeologist Alison Atkin in a piece on the not exactly essential DNA analysis of the remains of Richard III.



A Sea of Cherry Blossoms

The cherry blossoms are in bloom in Japan. Hirosaki Castle, a Seventeenth Century castle on the northern end of Honshu, is considered one of the best places in the country to see them.
There’s a moat around the castle. Twitter user @WizardsTools snapped this spectacular photo of the moat covered with a layer of cherry blossoms. You can see more photos of the castle during cherry blossom season here.

The Rise and Fall of Circus Freak Shows

The freak show has been around for hundreds of years, but it reached new heights under the reign of P.T. Barnum in the 19th century, whose cobbled-together mummy called the “Feejee mermaid” made him a star.
Barnum embarked on a ferocious campaign to convince his crowds that the creature was real, feigning newspaper articles and even weaseling his way into the American Museum of Natural History. He fabricated a story about the mermaid’s discovery and distributed over 10,000 pamphlets. In a matter of weeks, he had the public’s attention.

Barnum purchased the American Museum on Broadway in New York and, throughout the 1840s, introduced a “rotating roster of freaks: albinos, midgets, giants, exotic animals” and anyone else who piqued the curiosities of the public. To advertise the space, he hired the most unskilled musicians he could find and had them play on the building’s balcony, in the hopes that this “terrible noise” would attract customers.

Under his leadership, the American freakshow became a booming business -- both highly profitable and degrading for its performers.
The death of the freak show came in the mid-20th century, as mass media replaced live shows and the exploitive nature of the exhibitions turned people off. There was a tug-of-war between those who said disabled people shouldn’t be exploited and the performers who were making a good living exhibiting themselves. But while the classic sideshow died out, the original concept lives on in different forms. The story of P.T. Barnum and the freakshow at Priceonomics also profiles the most famous “freaks” of yesteryear: General Tom Thumb, Zip the Pinhead, Chang and Eng Bunker, Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy, and others.

Dyson’s Dock

Area 51′s Super Secret ‘Museum’
A museum is a place where things are put on display, so how can a museum be “secret?” In this case, it’s when the collection of things are classified government projects from Groom Lake, the testing facility at the mysterious Area 51 in Nevada.
Dyson’s Dock’s precise function remains unclear, but the most likely explanation suggests that it’s a storage facility for projects that have run their course but aren’t ready to be unveiled publicly. Its location is thought to be within Area 51′s massive Hangar 18 complex (top), possibly in a lower bay beneath office space on the west side of the building.

Some references to Dyson’s Dock point to a classified museum, where base workers with the appropriate security clearance can view past projects in all their glory – essentially a warehouse full of planes that you and I will never get to see, despite many of them likely being rather conventional in design. Others, however, assert that projects remain segregated, and that few people are cleared to view all of them.
But there are other explanations of what Dyson’s Dock is and who can visit it, plus some speculation of what may be inside, at Urban Ghosts.

Japan Thinks the New Godzilla is Too Fat

It was a long time between the first trailer for the new Godzilla film and the latest, in which we finally get a good look at the monster. So how does he stack up? Movie fans on the Japanese forum 2chan think he’s, well, overweight. And internet commenters aren't above a bit of fat-shaming.
Did he get fat?

His neck looks like an American football athlete's.

Is this Sin from Final Fantasy X?

Out of shape Godzilla

He's gone Supersize Me.
There’s more, and at least one Godzilla artist has a counter-argument at Kotaku. Godzilla opens May 16th in the U.S. 

Daily Comic Relief


Dogs lick toads to get high

Meanwhile, down under...
Queensland dogs are getting high by licking the poison off cane toads. Vets are warning some pooches may become addicted to the hallucinogenic and are risking their lives trying to get their next toad fix. It's being reported the dogs have worked out how to lick the toad just enough to get high. "This phenomenon of animals deliberately getting intoxicated by cane toads, it's fascinating," says veterinarian Megan Pickering. "It just seems unbelievable that an animal will go back for a second try.

Electrifying Organisms

Check out these charged organisms that use electricity to talk, to hunt and to defend themselves.

Bugs Are A Taste Sensation That's Sweeping The Nation

People around the world enjoy eating bugs- they’re a good source of protein, a renewable and plentiful resource, and there are enough flavor varieties to keep even the most jaded foodies coming back for more.
But Americans in general haven’t really embraced the concept of eating bugs, except for the occasional worm at the bottom of a bottle of tequila, but edible insects are a culinary delight that should be embraced, especially since so much of the pre-packaged food out there can’t compare to the vitamins and nutrients found in bugs.
Entomophagist Daniella Martin is the author of Edible: An Adventure Into The World Of Eating Insects, and her take on why we should all eat more bugs is enlightening and may change the way you think of those snacks that go squirm in the night.

Coming Tomorrow

Coming Tomorrow
  • How NASA might build its very first warp drive
  • 'Wimpy' dwarf fossil galaxy revels new facts about early universe
  • Why Lighthouse Keepers go mad
  • How 'Selfies' create confidence
And more ...
These opossums are our Animal Picture, for today.