Shared posts

16 Jun 22:58

Space owl

by toni

space owl smaller


Space owl is especially adorable! I keep finding myself smiling back at her. If you want one for yourself, go to my Redbubble store!

11 Jun 13:14

The Bat-manager

by toni



Today’s meeting is bat-mandatory.

10 Jun 13:18

Salamander God

by toni

salamander god


The pantheon once included many, but one by one the great salamander god ate them to become the one God of the island.

23 May 17:00

Terrible real estate agent photographs

by Lawrence Wilkinson

Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs is a Tumblr devoted to “inexplicably bad property photographs."

06 Jun 18:14

The CIA has joined Twitter with the best first tweet possible

by Adi Robertson

The US government loves Twitter. For NASA, it's a public relations goldmine. For the State Department, it's a bizarre weapon in the fight on terrorism. For the CIA, it's a chance to revel in kitsch. The agency, which somehow did not yet have a real social media presence, has just posted its first tweet.

We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.

— CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014

The Twitter launch comes a few days after the CIA opened a Facebook page, where it recently honored D-Day. The agency will post job listings, photos, trivia from the CIA World Factbook, and "reflections on intelligence history." It's part of what looks like a larger online overhaul, which will include event livestreaming.

The agency will also participate in Throwback Thursday.

The CIA has mostly escaped ire during the Edward Snowden leaks, but social media is still a clear way for the agency to humanize itself, drawing attention to tweets instead of drones. That doesn't mean organizations are immune from criticism online, though, and it should probably be careful about its hashtag campaigns. The Defense Department's research wing, meanwhile, has responded with its own quip, linking to a call for "vanishing" electronics that destroy themselves.

.@CIA, if that was, in fact, your first tweet, welcome! If you change your mind later on, might we recommend

— DARPA (@DARPA) June 6, 2014

Update June 6th, 2014 3:15pm: Added followup tweet from DARPA.

06 Jun 13:45

A hero’s best friend

by toni

heros best friend

04 Jun 16:26

The one purse ent

by toni

one purse ent



04 Jun 17:10

But, but, I was young yesterday.

by Jessica Hagy


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04 Jun 18:23

Sweet Story

by Greg Ross

In 1987, paleontologist Tom Rich was leading a dig at Dinosaur Cove southwest of Melbourne when student Helen Wilson asked him what reward she’d get if she found a dinosaur jaw. He said he’d give her a kilo (2.2 pounds) of chocolate. She did, and he did.

Encouraged, the students asked Rich what they’d get if they found a mammal bone. These are fairly rare among dinosaur fossils in Australia, so Rich rashly promised a cubic meter of chocolate — 35 cubic feet, or about a ton.

The cove was “dug out” by 1994, and paleontologists shut down the dig. Rich sent a curious unclassified bone, perhaps a turtle humerus, to two colleagues, who recognized it as belonging to an early echidna, or spiny anteater — a mammal.

Rich now owed the students $10,000 worth of chocolate. “It turns out that it is technically impossible to make a cubic meter of chocolate, because the center would never solidify,” he told National Geographic in 2005. So he arranged for a local Cadbury factory to make a cubic meter of cocoa butter, and then turned the students loose in a room full of chocolate bars.

“It was a bit like Willy Wonka,” Wilson said. “There were chocolate bars on the counters, the tables. We carried out boxes and boxes of chocolate.”

Fittingly, the new echidna was named Kryoryctes cadburyi.

26 May 05:05

Twitter / CaseyNewton: “911 emergency” “Yes ...

by gguillotte
“911 emergency” “Yes hello my boyfriend is trying to explain to me the differences between the X-Men movies and the comic books”
18 May 05:27

Ikea's Death Star lamp

by Cory Doctorow

As redditor Tomcruiseama points out, the $70 Ikea PS 2014 lamp is basically a Death Star: it's a Hoberman-sphere-like lampshade that can be mechanically expanded or contracted to control the amount of light it emits.

06 May 18:51

Second Chances

by Greg Ross

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know, that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

– Carl Sagan, in a 1987 address, quoted in Jon Fripp et al., Speaking of Science, 2000

14 May 06:33

The Good Parts

by Greg Ross

Library patrons are always asking for books with “romantic” episodes, so in 1964 librarian Robert George Reisner finally gave them what they wanted. Show Me the Good Parts: The Reader’s Guide to Sex in Literature catalogs the racy parts of hundreds of books, giving precise page numbers and summarizing each scene:

RICE, ELMER. Imperial City.
New York, Coward-McCann, 1937. 554 pp.
pp. 71-75:
Holding hands in the movies, a few drinks in his apartment, some small talk about books, and then down to business.

He gets as far upscale as For Whom the Bell Tolls (“History has proved that the good guys do not always win, but we still have the sweet memory of Loyalist fighters, Maria and the American Robert Jordan, making love in a sleeping bag”) and as far down as John B. Thompson’s 1953 novel Sandy (“Sandy finds her true love as they are lashed by bolts of ecstasy, fires that consume them, surges of blinding passion, and other hack literary physiological descriptions”). The entries are arranged in categories ranging from “Normal Heterosexual Intercourse” to “Mixoscopic Zoophilia,” and Reisner includes a section on “Unwarranted Reputations” — he just can’t find anything scandalous in The Decameron, Moll Flanders, The Art of Love, or The Satyricon.

Unfortunately he focuses mostly on popular novels of the 1950s, and no one seems to have carried on the work. But perhaps it’s not too late. “I have examined 2,000 books and kept a list of the tomes that produced nothing,” he writes. “This list I have given to my publisher so that anyone who wishes to go on with this research may not have to go over the same ground.”

(Thanks, Keith.)

09 May 16:00

Type I and II errors simplified

by Nathan Yau

Type I and II errors

"Type I" and "Type II" errors, names first given by Jerzy Neyman and Egon Pearson to describe rejecting a null hypothesis when it's true and accepting one when it's not, are too vague for stat newcomers (and in general). This is better. [via]

16 May 02:00

This Animated Film About Elephant Seals Could Have Been Made By Pixar

by Lauren Davis

With Pixar's attention to the natural world, this short film would be a great fit for them. Someone hire this fellow to make a whole series of animated animal shorts.


12 May 07:02

Calamityware: horrifying blue-china plates

by Cory Doctorow

With Calamityware, Don Moyer has turned his much-loved grotesque/horror designs for blue-print china plates into reality. The finished articles aren't cheap, but you can get the next one cheaper by supporting it on Kickstarter.

Read the rest

13 May 16:45

The Pope says he'll baptize space aliens if they ask him to

by Dean Putney

In his weekly homily on Monday, the Pope explored the idea that extraterrestrial beings might want to join the Catholic church and determines that they should be accepted with open arms.

Read the rest
14 May 00:00


New Cyanide and Happiness Comic.
13 May 03:45



Tonight’s comic is having a weird day.

28 Apr 17:56

When farts are a good thing

by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Farting can be a sign of happy, healthy gut microbes. Thanks, gut microbes.

11 Apr 12:31


by The Awkward Yeti


24 Apr 15:02

Great Moments in Pedantry: Fact-checking "Don't Fear the Reaper"

by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Valentine is done
Here, but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity (Romeo and Juliet)
Forty-thousand men and women every day (Like Romeo and Juliet)
Forty-thousand men and women every day (Redefine happiness)
Another forty-thousand coming every day (We can be like they are)
Come on, baby (Don't fear the reaper)

Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I heard this on the radio and thought, "Huh. I wonder if Blue Oyster Cult actually looked up the daily global death rate when they were writing this?"

I can now pretty confidently report that, no, they did not. I suppose this is what comes from writing songs before the birth of the Internet. And, also, from not being anal retentive.

How many people die every day? Obviously, this differs widely from day to day and year to year. Most of the time, when people talk about "how many people die every day" they're talking about taking rough estimate of how many people die every year and dividing that by 365. I'd be perfectly happy to let Blue Oyster Cult do this, because it would be a little ridiculous to sing, "x number of men and women on July 15th, 1976", or whatever. Averaging it out would have been fine, so let's assume that's what we're doing.

According to the World Health Organization, around 54.5 million people die annually. Which makes the "daily death rate" roughly 149,000. Of course, those are the current numbers. To be fair to Blue Oyster Cult, I found the death rate from 1976 (with the help of my friend Stephen McNeil). At the time "Don't Fear the Reaper" was released, the world population 4.1 billion, with a death rate 12.5/1000, which comes out to 140,000 per day. So the bad news is that Blue Oyster Cult is way off in their estimation of the death rate. But the good news is that you could quite easily change the lyrics to say "140,000 coming every day" and not screw with the meter too much.

Now, in talking about this on the Internet, I came across a couple of interesting attempts to exonerate BOC. The first, from the aforementioned Mr. McNeil, points out that the lyrics say "men and women". So Stephen's argument is that, to get an accurate estimate in line with what BOC intended, you have to subtract infant and child mortality from the total death rate. As he put it:

... knock out 6k/day infant mortality (birth rate 31/1000, inf mort 16.5/1000 births), same again for child mortality maybe? So about 128k/day. Only off by half an order of magnitude, correct within Fermi estimation.

Another possibility, Twitter user Erwin suggests that the BOC was only referring to the daily deaths of lovers. That's an interesting theory, but, as far as I can tell, there's no effective way to fact check it because nobody tracks that particular statistic — other than, perhaps, the Blue Oyster Cult, themselves. That said, if it were just a measurement of the deaths of lovers, I might wonder whether 40,000 a day was too high. How many pairs of lovers could actually be dying together every day?

Finally, my friend Ross Pfund offered another theory: The 40,000 men and women every day is actually a measurement of the number of marriages. He is just wrong. Wrong, like Blue Oyster Cult is wrong.

Image: "Grim Reaper From Guitar Hero - Halloween (2006)" by Rob Boudon via Flikr

24 Apr 19:00

Making a planetary-scale sandwich

by Cory Doctorow

Svabialonso, a redditor in Iceland, teamed up with a friend on the (approximately) opposite side of the planet in New Zealand to make a world-sized sandwich: each of them went to a specific location at a set time and pressed a piece of bread to the ground there, with appropriate toppings.

23 Apr 23:39

If Twitter were on Firefly…

by Tarol

(Segment I deleted from The Unwritten Blog, which explains my disappearance. It’s goofy, so I’m leaving it here, just for the hell of it.)

If Twitter were a character on the show Firefly…

…then Twitter would be Book. Y’see? Book is obviously… no, wait. Facebook would be Book, of course.

Twitter would be Wash. No, who am I kidding, Wash is so totally Yahoo.

This is a fertile land and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land and we will call it… This Land.

Yup, that’s Yahoo.

Could Twitter be Kaylee? Yeah, maybe if… unless… is she Pinterest? Hmmm, let’s see…

Look at the pretties!

No, it’s shiny! I like to meet new people, they’ve all got stories.

You don’t seem to be lookin’ at the destinations. What you care about is the ships, and mine’s the nicest.

“[pointing to a pink frilly dress] Say, look at the fluffy one!

Don’t you just love this party? Everything’s so fancy and there’s some kind of hot cheese over there.

I don’t know, I’m still not convinced that Kaylee is…

“[Sits on her bed, eating finger foods, listening to classical music and staring at a fluffy dress.]”

ALRIGHT! Fine! Kaylee is Pinterest.

But then who the hell is Twitter? Simon is obviously WebMD, Zoe…Amazon (heh).

Inara? Could Inara be Twitter? Well Inara is a companion, so… DAMMIT, Tarol! Don’t be such an asshole! Inara Serra is a capable, strong woman and NOT an example of sexual objectification! So… Wait, no. That’s not what companions are about at all. Yes, they provide sexuality, but that’s not the point of it. As a companion, Inara is smarter than you, offers support and information and she helps you get to where you’re going in life if you’re lost, but only works when she wants to andOHMYGOD INARA IS GOOGLE! It makes perfect sense! Also, if Inara had married Capt. Reynolds… Well that would’ve sucked. Damn, that might have ruined the whole show.

So… I guess that makes Capt. Reynolds, Youtube? At least I think he’s Youtube. He disables comments…

“[Book] Captain, do you mind if I say grace?

“[Reynolds] Only if you say it out loud.

He regularly picks fights with large groups of unified people…

“[Reynolds] Wha? I didn’t start it! Just wanted a quiet drink.

“[Zoe] Funny, sir, how you always seem to find yourself
in an Alliance-friendly bar come U-day, looking
for a ‘quiet drink’.

And oh yeah, I once saw his naked ass even though I didn’t want to. There’s no doubt about it, Capt. Tightpants is Youtube.

Saffron is Tumblr, that’s easy.

River is… um… what the hell is River?

The human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds given adequate vacuuming systems.

Hmmm, I’m still not sure what she is.

I remember everything. I remember too much. And some of it’s made up, and some of it can’t be quantified, and there’s secrets…

Damn, this is a tough one.

I don’t belong… dangerous like you. Can’t be controlled… can’t be trusted.

Um… hmmm.

No power in the ‘verse can stop me.

I’m sorry, I just don’t know…

I threw up on your bed.

OH! 4Chan! Duh!

So I guess that leaves Jayne as Twitter. Which makes sense, I suppose. He almost always talks in less than 140 characters…

Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades, don’t you think?” (69 characters)

We’re gonna explode? I don’t wanna explode!” (44 characters)

He ‘retweets’ things…

Shepherd Book once said to me, ‘If you can’t do something smart, do something right.’” (86 characters)

He gets blocked by other accounts for trolling…

“[Jayne] You don’t pay me to talk pretty. Just because Kaylee gets lubed up over some big-city dandy doesn’t mean…” (108 characters)

“[Reynolds] Walk away from this table. Right now.

He ‘tweets’ about his food and drink…

Mmm. They call it Mudder’s Milk. All the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma’s best turkey dinner, plus fifteen percent alcohol.” (138 characters)

And finally, when he gets a lot of followers, he lets it go to his head and annoys everyone with an over inflated ego.

“[Jayne] No really Mal, I mean maybe there’s something to this. The mudders, I think I really made a difference in their lives. Me, Jayne Cobb.” (135 characters)

“[Reynolds] I know your name, jackass!

So the point I’m trying to make, is that Firefly was fucking awesome. Wait. No. My point was… Jayne’s hat… um… no… DAMMIT JOSS WHEDON! You screwed me up again! You do this to me EVERY time!

21 Apr 14:59

Stofle, The Incredibly Clever Honey Badger Who Has Escaped Every Enclosure Made For Him

by Lori Dorn

It’s been reported a number of times that honey badgers are tenacious little animals. Such is the case with Stofle, a honey badger and former domestic pet who could not be released into the wild. Instead, Stofle was brought to a sanctuary in Kruger National Park where his stubborn nature almost got him killed by a den of resident lions. Keeper Brian “knew he had to get his honey badger under control” and despite the many different designs, locks and materials Brian used, it began to appear that no enclosure would be able to cage the incredibly clever honey badger.

In the end, and at great expense, Brian had no choice but to build his own “Badger Alcatraz“. “I said ‘Stofle, the days of your escape of over pal.’ That night they called me and said, ‘Brian, Stofle’s out’ I said, ‘Impossible’ but we had trees in there and he’d climb up the trees and he’d lean over onto the wall and he was out. So we cut all of the branches out of the trees near [the wall] and left the trees in the middle. Then he dug up the rocks and he’d roll them with his back feet to the wall and he pile them high enough and then he’d get out. So we took all the rocks away. This was like a game for Stofle. Every time I’d devise some plan, it was like a game for him to work out how could he get over this.”

After all, honey badger don’t care.

20 Apr 20:00

The New England Aquarium Has Some Great Advertising

by Katharine Trendacosta

The New England Aquarium Has Some Great Advertising

Over on its website, the New England Aquarium has archived all of its ad campaigns from the past six years. And some of them are truly great.


18 Apr 03:00

#1020; The Unknown Knowns

by David Malki

“It still works as a parable.”

“There must be some distinction between a parable and simply a lie”

18 Apr 00:00

Free Speech

I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.
14 Apr 22:37

It’s snowing again

by toni


10 Apr 16:30

For the first time ever, biologists have regenerated an organ in a living animal.

by George Dvorsky

For the first time ever, biologists have regenerated an organ in a living animal. They did so by manipulating a single protein in elderly mice that makes their bodies rebuild their thymuses, an organ of the immune system. It's the first time an organ has been repaired with a chemical trigger and not via stem cell regeneration.