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

Monday, August 18, 2014

Non Sequitur


The Daily Drift

 Hey, teabaggers - What he said ..!
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Today in History

1587 In the Roanoke Island colony, Ellinor and Ananias Dare become parents of a baby girl whom they name Virginia, the first English child born in what would become the United States.
1590 John White, the leader of 117 colonists sent in 1587 to Roanoke Island (North Carolina) to establish a colony, returns from a trip to England to find the settlement deserted. No trace of the settlers is ever found.
1698 After invading Denmark and capturing Sweden, Charles XII of Sweden forces Frederick IV of Denmark to sign the Peace of Travendal.
1759 The French fleet is destroyed by the British under "Old Dreadnought" Boscawen at the battle of Lagos Bay.
1782 Poet and artist William Blake marries Catherine Sophia Boucher.
1862 Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's headquarters is raided by Union troops of the 5th New York and 1st Michigan cavalries.
1864 Union General William T. Sherman sends General Judson Kilpatrick to raid Confederate lines of communication outside Atlanta. The raid is unsuccessful.
1870 Prussian forces defeat the French at the Battle of Gravelotte during the Franco-Prussian War.
1898 Adolph Ochs takes over the New York Times, saying his aim is to give "the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is permissible in good society, and give it early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other medium."
1914 Germany declares war on Russia while President Woodrow Wilson issues his Proclamation of Neutrality.
1920 Tennessee becomes the thirty-sixth state to ratify the nineteenth amendment granting women's sufferage, completing the three-quarters necessary to put the amendment into effect.
1929 The first cross-country women's air derby begins. Louise McPhetride Thaden wins first prize in the heavier-plane division, while Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie finishes first in the lighter-plane category.
1939 The film The Wizard of Oz opens in New York City.
1942 Japan sends a crack army to Guadalcanal to repulse the U.S. Marines fighting there.
1943 The Royal Air Force Bomber Command completes the first major strike against the German missile development facility at Peenemunde.
1963 James Meredith, the first African American to attend University of Mississippi, graduates.
1965 Operation Starlite marks the beginning of major U.S. ground combat operations in Vietnam.
1966 Australian troops repulse a Viet Cong attack at Long Tan.
1969 Two concert goers die at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, New York, one from an overdose of heroin, the other from a burst appendix.
1973 Hank Aaron makes his 1,378 extra-base hit, surpassing Stan Musial's record.
1974 Luna 24, the USSR's final major lunar exploration mission, soft-lands on moon.
1979 Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini demands a "Saint War" against Kurds.
1982 Pete Rose sets record with his 13,941st plate appearance.
1987 Ohio nurse Donald Harvey sentenced to triple life terms for poisoning 24 patients.
1988 Republican Convention in New Orleans nominate the George H.W. Bush-Dan Quayle ticket.
1991 A group of hard-line communist leaders unhappy with the drift toward the collapse of the Soviet Union seize control of the government in Moscow and place President Mikhail S. Gorbachev under house arrest
1993 Historic Kapelbrug (chapel bridge) in Luzern, Switzerland, burns, destroying 147 of its decorative paintings. It was built in 1365.
1992 Dennis Rader, the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) killer receives 10 consecutive life sentences. He had terrorized Wichita, Kansas, murdering 10 people between 1974 and 1991.
2010 Edelmiro Cavazos, mayor of Santiago, Nuevo Leon, is found handcuffed, blindfolded and dead following his abduction three days earlier. He had championed crackdowns on organized crime and police corruption.
2011 Gold hits a record price of $1,826 per ounce.

Why We Lose Friends in Midlife

6 situations that make us 'break up' with our one-time BFFs posted 
Woman walking alone along lakeby Deborah Quilter
Woman walking alone along lake By the time you reach 50, chances are you’ve made — and lost — your share of friends. Some of these losses are a casualty of divorce or relocation.
But there are other less talked-about reasons why friendships go awry in later years. And some of these situations present uncomfortable dilemmas to which there are no good solutions. People are loath to drop friends, probably because they don’t want to be dropped themselves. And yet, it happens.
Dorree Lynn, a psychotherapist who divides her time between Washington, D.C. and Florida, says once people reach the age of 50 and older, they reconsider their relationships. “There’s a reevaluation of identity. It’s a developmental stage of life,” Lynn says.
And friendships are part of that evaluation: Are they helping you be your best you and adding joy, support and love to your life? If not, the sense that time is short can spur a break.
“When people are 20 or 30 they can bounce back (from negative relationships) because they’ve got 50 years of future ahead of them,” Lynn says. “This is not true when you’re 50 or 60.”
Common situations that can impact friendship in people over 50 include:
1. Falling out of friendship Folks want to “fire” their friends, Lynn observes. As we change, our friends change, as do the things that bonded us.
“Maybe their kids went to the same school, but now they don't have that in common,” she says. Or perhaps they lose interest in the things they used to do together. Usually there’s no definitive parting of the ways.
“Generally, people just drift apart,” Lynn says. “It’s the rare individual who sits down and says ‘Please understand I’ll always value you but I don’t have the time I used to have to spend with you.’”
2. Health vs. sickness “One of the things that separate people is the amount of illness they experience,” Lynn explains. “People wind up ill themselves or become caregivers for someone else. And they become isolated from those who are going to the gym and are active.”
Lynn, author of When the Man You Love is Ill: Doing the Best for Your Partner Without Losing Yourself, notes the intricacy of addressing poor health: “Friends frequently want to help, but don’t know what to do, so they stay away. There’s a delicate balance between feeling intrusive and feeling like you’re letting someone down because you’re not saying something about an obvious situation.”
This was the case with Carly, who worried about her friend Joanie’s mental competency. Joanie, who was in her early 70s, made some very bad decisions regarding her hip surgery. Her husband was disabled, so Joanie wasn’t in a position to care for her husband the way she usually did. “She didn’t plan for his care while she was away. She should’ve hired someone to take care of both of them,” Carly says.
Joanie didn’t plan for food, a cleaning service or extended care service, and then didn’t follow her postoperative care plan. Sure enough, Joanie didn’t heal well.
Not only that, she got angry at Carly for stepping in to help. “She yelled at me because I talked to the other girlfriends about it,” Carly says. Then Joanie started texting Carly frequently, and Carly began to piece together a bigger problem. “There’s something wrong with her that’s not the hip,” Carly concluded.
Joanie’s friends decided that despite this dire situation there was nothing they could do legally. “You suddenly realize the boundaries of friendship,” Carly says. “It’s hard to watch someone struggle.”
Friends can also develop long-term, incapacitating illnesses that can dramatically change the dynamic of the relationship.
3. People change Sometimes people find that their friends are not as interesting — or as interested — as they used to be. Perhaps your pal has become quite depressed. Or maybe they’re stuck in the past while you are pursuing new interests. Perhaps they’ve developed eccentricities.
As Carly considered her relationship with Joanie, she recalled, ”When I think back to three years ago, it was an effort to see her because it was more of an obligation than fun. How much is ‘friends have grown apart’ versus how much is due to an active friend having cognitive decline?”
4. Children and grown-up friendship Jennifer, who lived in a large urban area, no longer wanted to see her friend Bob because his 21-year-old son was a heroin addict.
“I started to see how his son was abusing him. His son lied to him and constantly asked for money. The last straw was Father’s Day — Bob was so excited, it was all he talked about,” she says.
Bob planned a nice dinner and then his son didn’t show up. Jennifer felt that her friend was being spineless with his son and is seriously considering ending the friendship because it’s painful for her to watch him be mistreated.
“It makes me wonder how I can proceed unless I see that he’s getting some support for himself. It’s very hard to be friends with someone like that. Bob is a special soul, and he adds a lot to my life,” Jennifer says, so ending the friendship is not something she would do lightly. “But at the end of the day, are you being a friend to yourself by standing by someone in this predicament?”
5. Financial disparity “If someone has money and purpose and they’re traveling, they can become bored with people who aren’t doing the same thing,” notes Lynn.
It could become awkward if you and your friends can’t afford the same travel arrangements, restaurants and other entertainments.
6. Energy levels  Although fatigue will not necessarily cause a friendship to rupture, getting together with people socially requires effort, and some people are so tired from work they really don’t feel like going out.
“If someone asks me to see a show on a Thursday night, I might suggest brunch over the weekend,” my friend Michael Termini confessed. But happily, there are fixes for that.
Termini paused for a second. “Or maybe we should just Skype.”

Why Iceland Should Be In The News, But Is Not

iceland-3An Italian radio program’s story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt.  The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here’s why:
Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors.  But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt.  In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent.  The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro.  At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.
Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution.  But only after much pain.
Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures.  The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.
Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros.  This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.
What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.
Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country.  As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF.  The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North.  But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)
In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt.  The IMF immediately froze its loan.  But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.
But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.  (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)
To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.
Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution.  And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.
They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.
That’s why it is not in the news anymore.

North Carolina Cuts to Jobless Benefits Did Not Help Workers

Well color us surprised ... Not!

Julie Banner, right, chats with Rebekah Lowe outside the state unemployment office in Cary, North Carolina
Unemployment insurance (UI) is a vital part of America’s social safety net, providing benefits to eligible workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own. The system is jointly funded by federal and state payroll taxes, but within broad guidelines from the Department of Labor, states have considerable flexibility in deciding benefit eligibility, how much and for how long beneficiaries are paid, as well as the tax structure for funding the state portion of the program. While most states offer a maximum of twenty-six weeks of UI benefits, the historic magnitude and duration of unemployment brought on by the Great Recession prompted Congress to implement federal extensions of unemployment benefits, totaling as much as ninety-nine weeks.
The justification for this decision was that by making UI benefits less generous, unemployed workers would have more incentive
A full six months before Congress allowed these federal UI extensions to expire (in December 2013), the state of North Carolina disqualified its unemployed workers from receiving federal UI extensions by simultaneously cutting duration from twenty-six to nineteen weeks and cutting the amount of weekly benefits (without receiving a waiver from the federal government). The justification for this decision was that by making UI benefits less generous, unemployed workers would have more incentive to take available jobs, and employment levels in the state would rise. If North Carolina’s drastic cuts in UI benefits were an effective policy tool for increasing employment, we would expect to see a very different employment trajectory in North Carolina consistent with the timing of the policy change as compared with nearby states likely experiencing similar macroeconomic conditions.
The month-by-month prime-age employment-to-population ratio (EPOP), which is the percentage of the working age population that is employed, for North Carolina and five nearby southern states, from the start of 2012 through the end of 2013. The prime-age EPOP excludes people who are younger than 25 or older than 54, so it is less likely to be affected by people who voluntarily choose not to work because they are enrolled in school or retired.
North Carolina’s prime-age EPOP began rising rapidly in the months prior to the duration cutback, began falling steadily just two months after the duration cutback, and differed very little in behavior after the cutback from prime-age EPOPs in surrounding states. This outcome provides little reason to believe that North Carolina’s cuts fundamentally improved the labor market in the state.

Faux News Correspondent Tries to Slam Obama, Instead Proves Trickle-Down Economics is a Scam

by Allen Clifton
Who remembers the rallying cry of John Boehner and his fellow repugicans of, “Where are the jobs?”  You don’t hear that much anymore, do you?
Well, that’s because we’re on the brink of creating nearly 10 million jobs over the last 5 1/2 years.  In fact, in 2014 we’ve seen some of our best job growth since the Clinton administration.
But there is one main problem with a lot of these positive economic numbers under President Obama – wages are down from where they were before the recession.
Which always brings up the talking point by wingnuts who claim that we’re creating jobs, but they’re low paying jobs.
Are they right?  To an extent, yes.
But is that really the fault of President Obama’s economy?
Well, James Rosen of Faux News seems to think that it is.  He wrote a very “convincing” column concerning how job growth under President Obama has been misleading because the jobs being created aren’t higher paying jobs.
And I bet you’ll be “shocked” to guess what the supposed “answer” to fixing income stagnation is. Deregulation and tax cuts, of course!
You know, the exact same kind of economic philosophy we had prior to our worst economic crash in nearly a century.
Rosen details some of the economic information he found (though, let’s face it, economic numbers are often highly subjective based on how you want to look at them) and how billions of dollars are missing from our economy compared to where we were at prior to the Great Recession.
He quotes Dallas-based economist Pamela Villareal who said, “When you look at the sectors of the economy that have grown since, say, 2011, a lot of the growth has occurred in retail, food service, hospitality. These are sectors that typically pay lower wages. … What we really need is more growth in the higher-paying high-tech jobs, and that could be accomplished by reducing some of the regulations and some of the taxes that are discouraging job growth here in the United States.”
You have to pay careful attention to that last part.  Because while Rosen seems to think it supports his stance on Obama’s economy, it really doesn’t.
Job growth isn’t the problem, it’s wage growth.  So, essentially, her comments don’t make much sense. Besides, taxes are still at historically low levels.  It isn’t as if President Obama raised them all that much.  For a very small percentage of Americans they returned to the levels they were at during the Clinton years.   Many of you might remember those as some of the best economic years in our nation’s history.
Another economist, Jim Diffley, breaks down the economy in a different way.  When talking about income inequality of the last few decades, and during Obama’s presidency, he said, “There’s no particular policies of this administration that drove that change that we can identify.  It tells you about the structure of the economy as it’s evolved over time, over a much longer time than, than Barack Obama has been president. … I often say about presidents and governors that they get too much credit when the economy is good and too much blame when the economy is bad.”
“Over time.”
As in, the last 30+ years when the gap between the top 2 percent and the bottom 98 percent has widened to a historic gap?  Otherwise known as the years of “trickle-down economics.”  When excess wealth at the top was supposed to “trickle down” to the rest of us.  Except it’s done exactly the opposite.
So, here we have James Rosen over at Faux News trying to perpetuate this myth that somehow Obama’s policies have done nothing but kill wage growth, while he actually ends up citing an economist who admits that since the dawn of trickle-down economics income inequality has been a massive problem and nothing he’s seen in Obama’s policy making has had anything to do with wage stagnation.
Because wages have been stagnate for nearly four decades.  
And it’s not as if there’s an issue with wealth or corporate profits in this country.  Corporations are doing fine and the rich are richer than ever before.
So, by the definition of trickle-down economics, we should be experiencing some of our biggest wage growth in years.
But we’re not.
Because trickle-down economics is a scam.  It’s a massive con perpetuated by the rich that somehow convinced millions of middle class and poor Americans that they too could become rich, by giving rich people more money.



Man arrested for hair removal cream attack on his sister

Police in India have arrested 23-year-old Santosh Kumar after his 27-year-old sister Danna was left bald when he poured hair removal cream on her head near their home in Kaval Byrasandra, a district in the northern city of Bangalore. The 23-year-old had apparently promised his divorced taxi driver friend Suresh Kumar, 47, that he could marry his sister and was furious when she refused, and also then got a job in a local bar. He had waited for her outside the bar, and then attacked her by pouring the hair removal cream on her head and rubbing it in before running off.
She said: "I only realized what it was when I woke up the next day to find most of the hair in the center of my head fallen out." In her complaint to police, she said that her brother had been working as a bartender himself in Mumbai but had returned home and since then had not had a proper job. She said that instead he had wanted to make easy money all the time. She added: "He told me I should not be working and I should marry his widower friend, a man who already has two children.
"He even tried to report me to police but they made it clear to him that I can marry who I want and work where I want. However he doesn't seem to have taken the message on board." Police confirmed that Kumar had been arrested and that they were awaiting the results of medical tests to find out what the chemical was that made young woman's hair fall out and whether the damage was permanent before deciding what to charge him with.

Man arrested after passing police officer while dragging stolen safe behind car

An man from Onslow County, North Carolina, is accused of breaking into a pharmacy, stealing a safe, and dragging it behind his car. He was arrested after passing a police officer.
The Swansboro Police Department said the alarms of Family Care Pharmacy were activated at about 5:30am on Tuesday. Investigators said 22-year-old Ryan Mullins, of Swansboro, smashed in a window at the pharmacy's drive-through to enter the building.
Mullins then tied a nylon rope around a 100-pound safe containing prescription drugs and drove about two miles with the safe dragging behind his vehicle, Swansboro Police said. By 7:30am a Swansboro police officer pulled out in front of Mullins and saw in his rear view mirror that there was something swinging behind Mullins’ vehicle.

The police officer pulled over to let Mullins pass, then saw the safe being dragged. The officer immediately pulled Mullins over. Mullins is charged with felony breaking and entering, larceny, possession of stolen goods, two felony counts of trafficking opium or heroin, one count of safe cracking and misdemeanor DWI. Mullins is being held at the Onslow County Jail on a $240,000 bond.

Motorists cited for failing to notice giant walking traffic cone crossing the road

An undercover police officer walked back and forth across a crosswalk in Moreno Valley, California, on Wednesday.

In an effort to make the officer more visible, he was dressed in a large traffic cone outfit. Despite the oufit a number of motorists failed to stop.
Many of the motorists who were then stopped by the Moreno Valley Traffic Team said they never saw the traffic cone on the crosswalk.
In total, 15 motorists received citations for “failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk”, and 9 motorists received citations for other traffic related violations.

Random Photos


Model: me
Photographer: Roalyver Lopez

A Classic Ferrari Just Sold For $38 Million At Pebble Beach

Last Thursday night, a rare 1962/63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta (like the one above) was auctioned for a record-setting $38 million. The auction house was Bonhams.
Ferrari released the following statement: The 1962/63 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $38,115,000 USD. This is the most ever paid for an automobile at auction, underscoring the unrivaled desirability for Ferrari in the collector car market and the continued dominance of the brand at auctions. This Ferrari 250 GTO is now, effectively, the most valuable and coveted car in the world.

At 4.4 Trillion Frames Per Second, The World's Fastest Camera Can Capture Chemical Reactions in Progress

Researchers at the University of Tokyo and Keio University have developed a camera that can capture movement faster than ever before. It’s called the Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography or STAMP. The optical shutter is capable of photographing an object at 4,400,000,000,000 frames per second. That’s 1,000 times faster than any other camera.
The STAMP is fast enough to even see heat conducting, which is about one-sixth of the speed of light. How can it do this? Chris Higgins explains in Wired:
The current leading brand of high-speed real-time recording is a method unfortunately known as the pump-probe process, where light is "pumped" at the subject and then "probed" for absorption. STAMP differs from this by skipping the need to constantly probe, or measure, the scene to construct an image, instead it uses single-shot bursts to acquire images and maps the spatial profile of the subject to the temporal profile at a 450x450-pixel resolution.

Daily Comic Relief


15 Real-Life Scientists Share Their Favorite Science Fiction Books, Movies

by Jacqueline Howard
There's a big difference between science and science fiction, but there's abundant evidence to suggest that sci-fi books and movies can spark a lifelong interest in science.
"The best of the science fiction films will stimulate a curiosity and an interest in a topic," astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York's Hayden Planetarium, told Vanity Fair in a recent interview.
Recently, HuffPost Science reached out to top scientists to ask which science fiction movies and classics were their favorites. Keep reading to see their sometimes surprising picks (including Tyson's):
Dr. Max Tegmark, cosmologist and physics professor at MIT: "I love Greg Egan’s 'Permutation City,' whose explorations of the ultimate nature of reality blew my mind and inspired my own research."
Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace: "Three books of my childhood probably had the greatest impact on my life. 'The Story of Doctor Dolittle' (by Hugh Lofting) and 'Tarzan of the Apes' (by Edgar Rice Burroughs) inspired me to understand what animals were trying to tell us and instilled within me an equally strong determination to travel to Africa, live with animals, and write books about them. 'The Miracle of Life' was a large book my grandmother got for free by saving up coupons from cereal packets. It was by no means a book intended for children."
Dr. Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology: "Maybe not my favorite as literature, but I love the imagination demonstrated in Robert Forward's 'Dragon's Egg.' It's a story about life on the surface of a neutron star, which would ordinarily be considered completely outlandish. A good reminder that 'life' might take on very different forms than we ordinarily imagine."
Dr. Temple Grandin, animal scientist and author of "The Autistic Brain": "I’m a Star trek fan... The one I've always liked the best was the one about the whales. It had them coming to Earth and dressing up as Earth people. Some of the later movies haven’t been as good. They’re going with too 'whizz-bam' special effects."
Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer and director at the Center for SETI Research: "Stanislaw Lem wrote a short story, 'Golem XIV,' in the early 1980s that is my go-to reference when anyone asks me, 'What will the aliens be like?' No, they’re not short, hairless, gray guys -- they’re intelligent machines. And while Lem wasn’t talking about aliens in his story, I figure that any extraterrestrials we ever detect really are likely to have moved on from biological brains to cybernetic cerebellums... [My favorite sci-fi movie] has got to be the first incarnation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, dating back to 1953."
Dr. Chris Stringer, anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London: "Brazil -- quirky, with humour and horror juxtaposed, and full of little details about the alternative world that Terry Gilliam creates. And Michael Palin outstanding as a nice man turned into a torturer by the system."
Dr. Jack Horner, paleontologist at Montana State University and consultant for Jurassic Park films: "Jurassic Park is my favorite movie because the paleontologist Alan Grant says all the things I would have said if it had not been a movie!! And bringing back dinosaurs is a goal."
Dr. Adam Riess, astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University: "As a 'card carrying' astrophysicist I tend to like my science fiction to be plausible-science fiction. My usual rule for such work is you can make up one outlandish concept that has some foundation in science and then the story should follow the consequences of that concept. Here are ones I like, 'Contact'-Carl Sagan; 'The Fountains of Paradise'-Arthur C. Clarke; 'Childhood's End'-Arthur C. Clarke; 'The Songs of Distant Earth'-Arthur C. Clarke; 'The Martian Chronicles'-Ray Bradbury; 'Fahrenheit 451'-Ray Bradbury; 'Foundation' series-Isaac Asimov; 'Silo' saga-Hugh Howey; 'The Stand'-Stephen King; 'Watership Down'-Richard Adams; 'The Day of the Triffids'-John Wyndham."
Dr. Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics at Cornell University: "'The Andromeda Strain' kept me riveted from the first sentence: 'A man with binoculars'... [and] Colossus: The Forbin Project terrified me as a kid growing up at the end of the Cold War. And like everyone else, I'm still trying to figure out 2001: A Space Odyssey."
Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, materials scientist and author of "Newton's Football": "'Parable of the Sower'/Octavia Butler made me pause because it described what the future could be in a very believable way. Star Wars excited all of my senses and made me think that anything was possible. We all have a hero within."
Dr. Mario Livio, astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute: "The books that fascinated me the most as a child were those by Jules Verne. I count here in particular, 'Around the World in Eighty Days,' 'Journey to the Center of the Earth,' and 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.' In terms of films, I remember having been impressed very much at the time with 2001: A Space Odyssey, with Dr. Strangelove, and with Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Olympia LePoint, rocket scientist and author of "Mathaphobia": "One of my favorite science-fiction movies is Gravity starring Sandra Bullock. As a rocket scientist, I was blown away by the stunning visual effects and three-dimensional-like movement. Plus, I am thankful that producers and writers cast a woman as an astronaut to bring science concerns to the forefront of American and international discussion... [Also] Back to The Future starring Michael J. Fox. Time travel in movies wasn't uncommon before 1985, but the concept of building a ground propulsion machine from a DeLorean car inspired me to investigate aerospace engineering."
Dr. Danielle Lee, biologist and author of Scientific American's The Urban Scientist: "Dune -- the old one with Sting. I love that movie with its messages of imperialism, environmental conservation, and social justice. 'The Spice must flow. The Spice must flow!'"
Dr. Michael Shermer, historian of science and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine: "My favorite sci-fi film is the 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still, a Christ allegory in which an alien named Klaatu (who takes the name 'Mr. Carpenter' while visiting Earth) admonishes humans for threatening nuclear annihilation and insists that they will not be allowed to join the planetary community as long as they retain nuclear weapons."
What about Neil deGrasse Tyson? The astrophysicist told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview, "The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). The story was so strong and compelling that the film did not require heavy special effects or monsters or violence to be simultaneously hopeful and terrifying.... [and] 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)... Planet of the Apes (1968)... The Terminator (1984)... The Quiet Earth (1985)... Contact (1997)... Deep Impact (1998)... The Matrix (1999)... The Island (2005)... Watchmen (2009)."

How The Sun Sees You

This is what you look like in ultraviolet. 
An ultraviolet camera can show not-yet-visible changes to your skin.

Wait, Is That a Human on the Moon?

In this age of big surveillance and miniature satellites, there is an idea that—once we are able to track everything around us—the magic and mystery of the universe will be replaced with data, knowledge, and understanding. 
Yet it often seems like the deeper we get into the world around us, the more we realize how little we actually know. A mountain of data may promise us answers, but first you have to sift through the questions.
The latest evidence: A YouTube video that's circulating and shows what looks like a human figure standing on the surface of the moon.
Sure enough, go to Google Moon and find the coordinates (27° 34' 12.83'' N, 19° 36'21.56 W) and you'll see it, too. Here's a screenshot I took (I added the red arrow):
It's been a generation since humans ruled out the possibility of life on the moon—let alone a giant humanoid just chilling on the lunar surface. So, uh, what is that thing? 
NASA, which has checked the image against its trove of images from the same location, is shrugging it off. 
"We have other images that do not show any imperfection so most analysts believe the image reflects nothing more than a tiny piece of debris on the lens," spokesman Robert Jacobs told me. (And in a follow-up email: "Believe me, if there was a man on the moon, we’d be recounting our own astronauts to make sure we got them all back from Apollo and then telling everyone else!")
Fair enough. The rational explanation, after all, is quite often the best one. 
And yet there's something about the image that lingers. In a vast landscape of shameless Photoshopping and Internet hoaxes, and at a time where most people have long since given up on the Loch Ness Monster and the Cottingley Fairies, there's still that little tug of wonder—misplaced, though it may be.
Just think: We can zoom in on actual photographs of the actual moon from our unbelievably sophisticated handheld computers. But it's the smudge of dirt on a camera lens that makes people marvel at the depths of what we still don't know.

Snake resting comfortably after surgery to remove ceramic egg

A 5-foot, black rat snake is recovering after having surgery to remove a fake egg from its intestinal tract. The snake was allegedly looking for eggs in a chicken coop in Seward, Pennsylvania, when it accidentally ate a ceramic one instead.

Animal Pictures