Shared posts

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

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 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.

02 Apr 19:22

True Facts About the Octopus, Nature's Most Intelligent Ink-Farter

by Robert T. Gonzalez

In this, the latest installment in his outstanding "True Facts about _________" nature series, Ze Frank takes a hilariously perceptive look at one of our favorite animal subjects: the octopus .



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.
06 Apr 15:30

Somebody Built a Kangaroo Robot Because Why the Hell Not?

by Robert T. Gonzalez

Somebody Built a Kangaroo Robot Because Why the Hell Not?

That somebody is German engineering firm Festo. The company, which has a history of turning to nature for inspiration, is also responsible for this mechanical seagull and these claw-tipped Doc Ock arms (which were modeled after an elephant's trunk).


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.


09 Apr 06:50

Fast Forward

by Greg Ross

If a “dog year” is equivalent to seven human years, then time passes seven times more quickly for dogs than for humans. So in 1990 Rodney Metts invented a novelty watch that reflects this by advancing at seven times normal speed. This is a reminder as much to you as to your pet:

If a dog is kept locked in the basement of a house during an eight or nine hour day, for example, while its owner is away, the elapsed time on the dog watch will be 56 to 63 hours, or approximately two and one-half days. A one-hour ride in an automobile will register seven hours on a dog watch. Thus the value in dog time of a human activity will become quickly apparent.

That’s the actual patent figure. Part 10 is “dog.”

05 Apr 06:39

Asked and Answered

by Greg Ross

A college professor once offered the following creative final exam: Write a suitable final exam for this course and supply a key. The first paper handed in read ‘Final Exam: Write suitable final exam for this course and supply a key. Key: Any reasonable variation of the previous sentence = 100%.’

– Michael Stueben, Twenty Years Before the Blackboard, 1998

31 Mar 00:00

Shouldn't Be Hard

(six hours later) ARGH. How are these stupid microchips so durable?! All I want is to undo a massive industrial process with household tools!
01 Apr 00:00


01 Apr 18:09

Somebody out there will be okay with your weirdness.

by Jessica Hagy

it's a matter of preference

Share and Enjoy:DiggStumbleUpondel.icio.usFacebookTwitterGoogle Bookmarks

26 Mar 00:00


New Cyanide and Happiness Comic.
21 Mar 21:00


by Cory Doctorow

Behold! The Diction-fairy! From This City's Lungs/Kelsey Parks.

"Diction-fairy" (via Seanan McGuire)


23 Mar 04:00

March 23, 2014

06 Mar 05:14

cactus fact

Today on Married To The Sea: cactus fact
12 Mar 14:36

Funny Book-Related Photos

by Brian Herzog

I'm heading to PLA today, and will try to post highlights of the conference over the next couple days. In the meantime, here's some random photos I saw online recently:

Bringing book covers to life...

acting out book covers


This seems so much better than calling the Police or a collection agency...

grim reaper book collection


I know we've all felt this way at one time or another...

blue book display
20 Mar 04:00

March 20, 2014

06 Mar 22:09

“Anglo-Foreign Words”

by Greg Ross

Walter Penney of Greenbelt, Md., offered this poser in the August 1969 issue of Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. Below are five groups of English words. Each group appears also in a foreign language. What are the languages?

  1. aloud, angel, hark, inner, lover, room, taken, wig
  2. alas, atlas, into, manner, pore, tie, vain, valve
  3. ail, ballot, enter, four, lent, lit, mire, taller
  4. banjo, chosen, hippo, pure, same, share, tempo, tendon
  5. ago, cur, dare, fur, limes, mane, probe, undo

Click for solution …

07 Mar 23:20

Oh my god why isn't this Michonne from The Walking Dead Barbie real

by Rob Bricken

Oh my god why isn't this Michonne from The Walking Dead Barbie real

If there were a divine creator who loved us and watched over us, this Michonne Barbie doll would be a real product I could buy right this instant. But instead it's a beautiful figure custom-made by Park Seoung and it taunts me with its perfection, forever out of my reach.



04 Mar 21:00

Tauntaun hoodie with guts lining

by Cory Doctorow

Thinkgeek's Tauntaun Costume Hoodie not only has horns and ears, but its lining includes line-art innards and gore, to really bring home the feeling of climbing inside your trusty steed's guts to be shielded from the elements.

Tauntaun Costume Hoodie (via The Disney Blog)