The folks at Deadspin.com described this perfectly. I can’t do any better. This happened during last night’s Giants’ game.
Oh, Matt Cain threw a perfect game? Sorry, didn’t notice. Was too busy having my head explode after seeing a secret agent fly around the Bay on his personal water-powered jetpack. This was the first inning. You knew it was going to be a special game.”
“Happy Feet” and “March of the Penguins” don’t seem so pleasant anymore.
A long-buried report by an Antarctic explorer has surfaced, painting penguins as sexual opportunists whose appetites can only be described as extreme.
George Levick, a surgeon and medical officer on Capt. Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910-1913 south polar expedition, penned a four-page pamphlet in 1915 relating his observations of Adelie penguins at Cape Adare. He was so scandalized by what he’d seen that he labeled the pamphlet “Not for Publication.”
It remained hidden for almost 100 years before researcher Douglas Russell recently discovered it at a British natural history museum. Levick’s notes have now been published in the Polar Record journal, according to Fox News.
Turns out our favorite tuxedo patterned flightless birds aren’t so civilized after all.
Levick watched male penguins gang up to abuse their female counterparts and commit necrophilia, among other things.
“I saw another act of astonishing depravity today,” he wrote in 1911. “A hen which had been in some way badly injured in the hindquarters was crawling painfully along on her belly. I was just wondering whether I ought to kill her or not, when a cock noticed her in passing, and went up to her. After a short inspection he deliberately raped her, she being quite unable to resist him.”
At another point, Fox reported, he wrote: “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins.”
Of course, Levick was anthropomorphizing, taking the penguins to task for actions that would’ve been criminal in humans. Among the things that shocked him was seeing penguins having homosexual intercourse — something that is far from rare in the animal kingdom.
“Homosexual behaviors in animals are no longer cause for hiding data, or even a blush,” according to the Fox story. “Plenty of animals are out of the closet, so to speak, from dolphins and killer whales to bonobos and greylag geese. Some estimates put the number of animal species that practice same-sex coupling at 1,500.”
About the video (courtesy of NASA):
Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun. During its five-year mission, it will examine the sun’s atmosphere, magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and climate. SDO provides images with resolution 8 times better than high-definition television and returns more than a terabyte of data each day.
On June 5 2012, SDO collected images of the rarest predictable solar event–the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. This event happens in pairs eight years apart that are separated from each other by 105 or 121 years. The last transit was in 2004 and the next will not happen until 2117.
The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum. The red colored sun is the 304 angstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored sun is 171 angstrom, the magenta sun is 1700 angstrom, and the orange sun is filtered visible light. 304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum.
Want a way to kick-start your creativity? Break out of your daily routines.
So says psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, who discusses the findings of researchers from the Netherlands in an interesting article on the Huffington Post website.
Everyone has the ability to be creative, but as any writer staring at a blank screen can tell you, it isn’t always easy to find your muse. Experiences that take you outside your normal routines can trigger the creative spark. Psychologists have long known that to be the case for major life events, such as the death of a parent or a move to a new place.
Now, Kaufman reports, the researchers in the Netherlands have found that innovation doesn’t have to be inspired by a major event; just about any change will do.
“To test their idea,” Kaufman wrote, “the researchers put people in a virtual reality world where participants took a virtual three-minute stroll through the university cafeteria, and during the course of their walk experienced weird events that violated the laws of physics. In one event, as people walked closer to a suitcase standing on a table, the size of the suitcase decreased, but as they walked away, its size increased. In another event, people were made to feel as though they were walking faster than they really were, and in a third event, as people walked toward a table, a toy car inched closer to a bottle, but when the car actually hit the bottle, instead of falling to the ground it slowly moved upwards!
“They also had people take a test of cognitive flexibility where they were required to come up with as many ideas as possible to the question ‘What makes sound?’ Those who generated a greater variety of categories were scored as more cognitively flexible. Those who were actively engaged in the weird virtual-reality world scored higher on the test of cognitive flexibility than a group of people who engaged in a normal version of the virtual world, and higher than a group of people who just watched a film showing the unexpected events. They also found that their results couldn’t be explained by differences in positive or negative emotion.
“In a second experiment they asked participants to prepare a sandwich with butter and chocolate chips (apparently, this is a breakfast delicacy in the Netherlands …). Some people were told to prepare the sandwich in an unusual order, first putting chocolate chips on a dish, then buttering the bread, and then placing the bread buttered-side-down on the dish with the chocolate chips. They had another group make the sandwich in the usual order, and another group just watched a video of a person making the sandwich in either the unusual way or the usual way. Again, people who actively made the sandwich in the unusual order scored highest in cognitive flexibility compared with the other groups, and the results couldn’t be explained by differences in positive or negative emotion.”
The research suggests, then, that simple changes in perspective can inspire creativity. When what you expect to happen doesn’t, you’re forced to think about things in a new way.
“If you want to get into a creative mindset,” Kaufman concludes, “do your normal routine in a completely different way. Write with your other hand. Moonwalk backwards on your way to work. Eat something new for lunch. Smile at strangers. Be weird. With your brain re-shuffled, you’ll be in a better position to be creative.”
This is the most amazing photo of the Venus transit that I’ve seen so far. It’s an extreme ultraviolet image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Absolutely beautiful.
A spate of bizarre crimes has people wondering if zombies walk among us.
“First came Miami: the case of a naked man eating most of another man’s face,” according to an Associated Press account in the New York Daily News. “Then Texas: a mother accused of killing her newborn, eating part of his brain and biting off three of his toes. Then Maryland, a college student telling police he killed a man, then ate his heart and part of his brain. It was different in New Jersey, where a man stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines at police. They pepper-sprayed him, but he was not easily subdued.
“He was, people started saying, acting like a zombie. And the whole discussion just kept growing, becoming a topic that the Internet couldn’t seem to stop talking about.”
And why not? With the success of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” zombies are in. People on Facebook discuss methods for surviving a zombie apocalypse. Max Brooks, son of famed comedian Mel Brooks, penned books called “World War Z” (individual accounts by survivors of the fight against the undead) and “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.”
Amazon offers everything from zombie hunting licenses to zombie games; one user compiled a “Modern zombie apocalypse survival kit” on Amazon, providing a list of items to have on hand when the dead begin to rise. About one item on the list, the user wrote: “This tomahawk can penetrate the skull easily to damage the zombie brain, which is required to kill the ghoul. Of course, your primary weapon will be a 12 gauge shotgun which can blow away zombie brain from a safer distance.”
Zombies are everywhere in pop culture. In the decades since George A. Romero first terrified audiences with his low-budget, black and white “Night of the Living Dead,” zombies have evolved from slow-moving agents of mindless destruction to, well, quick-moving agents of mindless destruction in the “Resident Evil” series and “28 Days Later.” Zombies loom large in humorous films, too, such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland;” an upcoming movie, “ParaNorman,” features a boy who can speak to the undead and must protect his town from ghouls and zombies.
It’s a jump, though, to go from the pop culture version of zombies to the recent crimes in Miami, Texas and New Jersey. Those aren’t made-up things; they’re horrific events that actually happened.
So why are people making that leap?
According to AP:
“Zombies represent America’s fears of bioterrorism, a fear that strengthened after the 9/11 attacks, says Patrick Hamilton, an English professor at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., who studies how we process comic-book narratives. Economic anxiety around the planet doesn’t help matters, either, with Greece, Italy and Spain edging closer to crisis every day. Consider some of the terms that those fears produce: zombie banks, zombie economies, zombie governments.
“When people are unsettled about things beyond their control — be it the loss of a job, the high cost of housing or the depletion of a retirement account — they look to metaphors like the zombie.
“’They’re mindless drones following basic needs to eat,’ Hamilton says. ‘Those economic issues speak to our own lack of control.’”
Here’s something a bit less rare than the Venus transit but unusual nonetheless.
It’s video of a large iceberg tipping over.
The video was posted to YouTube in March by a user called osibaruch.
“This Iceberg was ‘calved’ by Argentina’s Uppsala glacier,” osibaruch wrote. “While we were passing by it with a catamaran, the huge berg lost a part of itself (look at the right side sinking) and then flipped over with a huge roar. In the process of melting this happens all the time, but it is seldom that it is captured on video WHEN it happens.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (not standing on it, as the rest of us are), you know that a rare astronomical event is drawing near.
On June 5-6, Venus will pass in front of the sun. It’s called the Venus transit, and it happens only once or twice in a lifetime.
The last transit was in 2004, but folks in Oklahoma couldn’t see it. If you miss this week’s transit, you won’t have a chance to see another. Venus and Earth won’t line up for a transit again until Dec. 10-11, 2117.
The transits generally occur on a 243-year pattern: For 105.5 years, Earth won’t see any transits. Then it will witness two transits over eight years, followed by a 121.5-year dry spell and two transits over the next eight years. Then it repeats: 105.5 years, 8 years, 121.5 years, 8 years. That pattern will continue until the year 2846.
What will you see? Something really cool but not terribly exciting.
Oklahomans, as staff writer Adam Kemp reported last week, should be able to witness about 2.5 hours of the celestial alignment. We’ll see the beginning of the transit and a good chunk of Venus’ passage across the face of the sun. Once night falls, Oklahoma’s view will end.
Over those 2.5 hours, we’ll see a small black dot appear on the sun and slowly move across it. That’s all. A black dot.
Won’t seem like much unless you think about what you’re seeing. That’s a planet, one of Earth’s siblings, that we’ll be able to see without a telescope. Over the course of centuries, our ancestors watched similar transits and divined meaning from them, even though they didn’t realize what exactly they were seeing. Nearly four centuries ago, astronomers used the transits to triangulate the distance between the Earth and the sun, giving them a way to measure the size of our solar system. Human ingenuity operating on a cosmic scale.
I hope humanity will see the transit as I do: a reminder of how vast is the universe and how petty our problems and prejudices. We’re all in this together, those of us on this rocky Earth, this bright blue marble — all together, spinning through space, lonely but amazing. Long after we’re gone, our children and our children’s children will look to the sky and see the same reminder. We are but a moment on this Earth, but space goes on and on.
What are the biggest unsolved mysteries of the cosmos?
That’s what the journal Science [pay site] set out to identify in its current issue.
“To round up some of the most enduring mysteries in the field of astronomy … Science enlisted help from science writers and members of the Board of Reviewing Editors to choose eight puzzling questions being asked by leading astronomers today,” according to the Huffington Post. “As Robert Coontz, deputy news editor at Science, writes in his introduction to the series, the participants decided that, ‘true mysteries must have staying power,’ rather than being questions that might be resolved by research in the near future. In fact, while some of the topics discussed may one day be solved through astronomical observations, others may never be solved.”
Here, in no particular order, are the biggies:
– What is dark energy?
– How hot is dark matter?
– Where are the missing baryons?
– How do stars explode?
– What re-ionized the universe?
– What’s the source of the most energetic cosmic rays?
– Why is our solar system so bizarre?
– Why is the sun’s corona so hot?
To learn more, check out the above sites or go to www.space.com.
Sir Isaac Newton gave us gravity.
In the 17th Century, Newton famously saw an apple fall from a tree and wondered why objects always fall down, never up or sideways or diagonally. Although many regard the apple incident as apocryphal, there are written accounts that seem to confirm that it really happened; the apple did not, however, hit him on the head.
He used the Latin word gravitas, or weight, to describe the force that draws fallen items to the lowest possible point. From there, we got the word “gravity.”
Newton was a scientist of wide-ranging interests, but he is best known for the apple and for his three universal laws of motion. Simply stated, they are:
– An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.
– Force applied to an object equals the rate of change of its momentum over time.
– For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.
But despite Newton’s brilliance and understanding of earthly and celestial gravity, he could not calculate the precise path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance.
No one could. Not with absolute precision (although computers have come darn close).
Shouryya Ray, 16, an Indian-born student now living in Germany, has cracked Newton’s riddle, according to Fox News. As if that wasn’t enough, he solved another dynamics problem, as well, this one dating back to the 19th Century.
Ray and his family moved to Germany when he was 12. By then, he’d already mastered calculus; his father had taught him that when Shouryya was only 6.
When Ray heard about the unsolvable problems, he told reporters, he thought to himself, “There’s no harm in trying.”
So he did. He worked on the problems as part of a school project and came up with solutions.
He didn’t get much respect, though: Even though he solved issues that generations of mathematicians had failed to do, his paper on his findings only took second place “in the math and informatics category of Germany’s Jugend Forscht student science competition” earlier this month, according to MSNBC.
To be fair, not everyone believes Ray’s solutions are accurate.
“This story seems rather suspicious,” Richard Fitzpatrick, a physicist at the University of Texas, told MSNBC. ”None of the news reports give any details of the calculation. None of the people who hailed Shouryya Ray as a genius are scientists, and none of them give the impression that they have seen the calculation in question. It is impossible to gauge the scientific merit of the calculation until it is made public.”
Simon Catterall, a Syracuse University physicist, also downplayed Ray’s efforts, telling MSNBC that being able to plot trajectories of falling objects isn’t that important.
“The background given in the article seems genuine enough,” he said, “so it may indeed be true, but I haven’t heard anything about a new solution to a Newtonian problem on the grapevine.”