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11 Jul 04:00

those incredibly, incredibly hot stars

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– Ryan

08 Jul 04:00

Some countries are born great, some achieve greatness, but all have greatness thrust into their national anthem

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July 8th, 2014: La Marseillaise, ladies and gentlemen!

I actually don't know what the anthem of the Klingon Empire is :( :( D:

– Ryan

09 Jul 04:00

*runs up from out of nowhere directly towards you, panting and out of breath* I KNOW A LOT ABOUT SPERM

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July 9th, 2014: If you're not starting every answer with "First off: how much do you know about sperm?" then all I can say is, wow, you're probably getting asked more questions than me, huh??

– Ryan

26 Jun 04:00

i am a walking poo factory

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June 26th, 2014: Midas Flesh #7 is out now! SECOND-LAST ISSUE, you guys! What crazy things will happen in it?? HINT: ALL THE CRAZY THINGS. EVERY SINGLE CRAZY THING. Here's a preview!

– Ryan

14 Jul 21:31

The concept of stress, sponsored by Big Tobacco

by vaughanbell

NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.

They did this by funding, guiding and editing the work of renowned physiologist Hans Selye who essentially founded the modern concept of stress and whose links with Big Tobacco have been largely unknown.

For the past decade or so, [Public Health Professor Mark] Petticrew and a group of colleagues in London have been searching through millions of documents from the tobacco industry that were archived online in the late ’90s as part of a legal settlement with tobacco companies.

What they’ve discovered is that both Selye’s work and much of the work around Type A personality were profoundly influenced by cigarette manufacturers. They were interested in promoting the concept of stress because it allowed them to argue that it was stress — not cigarettes — that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.

“In the case of Selye they vetted … the content of the paper, they agreed the wording of papers,” says Petticrew, “tobacco industry lawyers actually influenced the content of his writings, they suggested to him things that he should comment on.”

They also, Petticrew says, spent a huge amount of money funding his research. All of this is significant, Petticrew says, because Selye’s influence over our ideas about stress are hard to overstate. It wasn’t just that Selye came up with the concept, but in his time he was a tremendously respected figure.

Despite the success of the campaign to associate smoking with stress relief, the idea that smoking alleviates anxiety is almost certainly wrong. It tends to just relieve anxiety-provoking withdrawal and quitting smoking reduces overall anxiety levels.

Although the NPR article focuses on Selye and his work on stress, another big name was recruited by Big Tobacco to promote their theories.

It’s still little known that psychologist Hans Eysenck took significant sums of cash from tobacco companies.

They paid for a lot of Eysenck’s research that tried to show that the relationship between lung cancer and smoking was not direct but was mediated by personality differences. There was also lots of other research arguing that a range of smoking related health problems were only present in certain personality types.

Tobacco companies wanted to fund this research to cite it in court cases where they were defending themselves against lung cancer sufferers. It was their personalities, rather than their 20-a-day habit, that was a key cause behind their imminent demise, they wanted to argue in court, and they needed ‘hard science’ to back it up. So they bought some.

However, the link between ‘father of stress’ Hans Seyle and psychologist Hans Eysenck was not just that they were funded by the same people.

A study by Petticrew uncovered documents showing that both Seyle and Eysenck appeared in a 1977 tobacco industry promotional film together where “the film’s message is quite clear without being obvious about it — a controversy exists concerning the etiologic role of cigarette smoking in cancer.”

The ‘false controversy’ PR tactic has now became solidified as a science-denier standard.

Link to The Secret History Behind The Science Of Stress from NPR.
Link to paper ‘Hans Selye and the Tobacco Industry’.

07 Jul 23:00

Female Characters

by Graham Stark

Look, making games is harder that you think, okay?

11 Jul 04:00


'Hello, Ghostbusters?' 'ooOOoooo people born years after that movie came out are having a second chiiiild right now ooOoooOoo'
14 Jul 19:29

The Process

by Reza


02 Jul 12:00

18th Century Marriage Customs

by Holly Tucker

By Stephanie Cowell (Regular Contributor)

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.35.45 AMMozart married at the age of 25 in Vienna’s Stephansdom Cathedral, where you can still go today and kneel near the spot where he knelt with his bride. He was a city man, and sophisticated, so he may not have participated in some of the usual wedding customs…but perhaps he did. Nevertheless, we do know that he set to work at once to get his bride between the sheets (what mattered in his eyes).

Good Fortune and Good Luck

For good fortune, the bride of the late eighteenth-century must not sew the last stitch of her wedding dress until it was time to leave for the church (we hope she remembered to remove the needle); once on her way, she must not look in a mirror. Brides on the way to marriage were considered susceptible to evil spirits. As they walked, her bridesmaids, often dressed in a similar way so that such spirits could not distinguish them from each other, clustered around her protectively. It was good luck to see a chimney sweep or a black cat. Wednesday was the most propitious day for marriages; Fridays and Saturdays were bad. If snow fell on her wedding day, it would bring fertility and wealth.

On leaving her house, the bride would step over piles of broken dishes. The night before the wedding was the Polterabend, where friends and family would small all chipped crockery or glass for good luck and hurl them out the windows.

Dressing for the Day

The wedding procession was led by a fiddler and, on the wedding morning, the bride was sent a morgen-gabe–a morning gift–from her groom. She in turn sent him a shirt she had sewn for the wedding day, which he was to keep all his life.

The bride’s dress was often white, which stood for joy, not purity; she often wore a blue band at her hem, representing purity. Her veil was another way to hide her from the spirits until safely in her husband’s care. But the first one to buy anything after the marriage would dominate the relationship; brides sometimes arranged to buy a pin from a bridesmaid. (This was before you could place an order by cell phone while walking back up the aisle.)

Weddings and Married Life

During the reception, the bride danced the wreath dance, sometimes called “dancing off the bridal crown,” the wreath which symbolized her maidenhood. Married women danced about her until their circle was broken by their fatigue or roughly intruding groomsmen, who then stole the wreath. Guests tried to take home a part of the broken wreath, which mean they would be married within the year. The bride then put a matron’s cap on her likely disheveled hair. Following the wedding, the best man would often steal the bride, leaving the groom to find her. Events could turn bawdy.

After marriage, a woman’s life would consist of kinder, kleider, kirche, and kuche–children, clothes, church, and cooking. Of course, for many women, there was much more than that.

While we may not know how many of these traditions Mozart and his wife engaged in, we do know that their marriage was a joyful one despite their being poor. His love letters during their married life are tender, bawdy, and filled with the greatest love.

This post originally appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 18 December 2008.



Wonders and Marvels

04 Jul 12:37

Do we really hate thinking so much we’d electrocute ourselves rather than do it?

by tomstafford

By Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield

The headlines

The Guardian: Shocking but true: students prefer jolt of pain than being made to sit and think

Nature: We dislike being alone with our thoughts

Washington Post: Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts


The story

Quiet contemplation is so awful that when deprived of the distractions of noise, crowds or smart phones, a bunch of students would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit and think.


What they actually did

Psychologists from the universities of Virginia and Harvard in the US carried out a series of 11 studies in which participants – including students and non-students – were left in an unadorned room for six to 15 minutes and asked to “spend time entertaining themselves with their thoughts.” Both groups, and men and women equally, were unable to enjoy this task. Most said they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered.

In one of the studies, participants were given the option to give themselves an electric shock, for no given reason or reward. Many did, including the majority of male participants, despite the fact that the vast majority of participants had previously rated the shocks as unpleasant and said they would pay to avoid them.


How plausible is this?

This is a clever, provocative piece of research. The results are almost certainly reliable; the authors, some of whom are extremely distinguished, discovered in the 11 studies the same basic effect – namely, that being asked to sit and think wasn’t enjoyable. The data from the studies is also freely available, so there’s no chance of statistical jiggery-pokery. This is a real effect. The questions, then, are over what exactly the finding means.


Tom’s take

Contrary to what some reporters have implied, this result isn’t just about students – non-students also found being made to sit and think aversive, and there were no differences in this with age. And it isn’t just about men – women generally found the experience as unpleasant. The key result is that being made to sit and think is unpleasant so let’s look at this first before thinking about the shocks.

The results fit with research on sensory deprivation from 50 years ago. Paradoxically, when there are no distractions people find it hard to concentrate. It seems that for most of us, most of the time, our minds need to receive stimulus, interact with the environment, or at least have a task to function enjoyably. Thinking is an active process which involves the world – a far cry from some ideals of “pure thought”.

What the result certainly doesn’t mean, despite the interpretation given by some people – including one author of the study – is that people don’t like thinking. Rather, it’s fair to say that people don’t like being forced to do nothing but think.

It’s possible that there is a White Bear Effect here – also known as the ironic process theory. Famously, if you’re told to think of anything except a white bear, you can’t help but think about a white bear. If you imagine the circumstances of these studies, participants were told they had to sit in their chairs and just think. No singing, no exploring, no exercises. Wouldn’t that make you spend your time (unpleasantly) ruminating on what you couldn’t do?

In this context, are the shocks really so surprising? The shocks were very mild. The participants rated them as unpleasant when they were instructed to shock themselves, but we all know that there’s a big difference between having something done to you (or being told to do something) and choosing to do it yourself.

Although many participants chose to shock themselves I wouldn’t say they were avoiding thinking – rather they were thinking about what it would be like to get another shock. One participant shocked himself 190 times. Perhaps he was exploring how he could learn to cope with the discomfort. Curiosity and exploration are all hallmarks of thinking. It is only the very limited internally directed, stimulus-free kind of thinking to which we can apply the conclusion that it isn’t particular enjoyable.


Read more

The original paper: Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind.

You can see the data over at the Open Science Framework.

Daniel Wegner’s brilliant book on the White Bear problem.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

25 Jun 05:01

Experimenting on the Innocent: The U.S. Army’s Secret Chemical Testing in the 1950s & 1960s

by Jack El-Hai

By Jack El-Hai (Regular Contributor)

In 1953, students at Clinton Elementary School in Minneapolis began taking part in a strange ritual. As they stood in a line outside the music room, a man passed a fluoroscope tube over their clothing and shoes. He was testing for traces of a chemical called zinc cadmium sulfide.

U.S. biological warfare researchers at work at Fort Detrick, Maryland, c. 1968

U.S. biological warfare researchers at work at Fort Detrick, Maryland, c. 1968

Preparations and Chemical Mimesis

For several weeks that year, the U.S. Army sprayed this chemical into the air around the school in an attempt to mimic the effects of a biological warfare attack. Simple to track with air filtering devices and easy to spread by wind currents, zinc cadmium sulfide was a “tracer” that the Army used to simulate how living microbes would spread as biological invaders in cities.

From 1952 through 1969, the Army dropped thousands of pounds of zinc cadmium sulfide in nearly 300 secret experiments conducted in such places as Fort Wayne, Indiana (1964-66); St. Louis (1953, 1963-65); San Francisco (1964-68); Corpus Christi (1962); and Oceanside, California (1967). Remote areas were also targeted: During 1964 the Army dropped zinc cadmium sulfide on Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest.

Millions of Americans who escaped these experiments received exposure to zinc cadmium sulfide in 1957-58 during the Army’s high-altitude scattering of the chemical from a cargo plane that flew from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. In all of these tests, the military kept secret the purpose of the studies.

In Minneapolis, the Army’s tests took place over 195 square blocks of the city’s south side. Brigadier General William M. Creasey had earlier told the mayor, Eric Hoyer, that the purpose of the testing would be “to conduct certain meteorological studies regarding the smoke screening of cities from aerial operations.” This explanation was itself a smoke screen for the Army’s real intent to investigate how fake germs could scatter in a northern city whose climate and geography resembled that of many cities in the Soviet Union. These were, after all, some of the darkest days of the Cold War.

(Non) Consent

A few months later, unknown to Clinton Elementary students, teachers, and their families, machines mounted in trucks and on rooftops began systematically spraying zinc cadmium sulfide into the air of the school’s neighborhood, and about 80 collection boxes on the school’s grounds recorded residue levels.

In the volumes of paperwork from the testing that has surfaced in declassified documents since the 1990s, the Army’s experimenters raise no concerns over the wisdom of exposing countless people to zinc cadmium sulfide. Even so, Army staff conducting the tests in Minneapolis wore protective garb. One resident who lived in the test area in 1953 recalled workers scattering the chemical outside late at night. “They were wearing masks and operating what looked like a big fog machine,” he said. “I asked them what they were doing, and they said they were spraying for bugs…. It was blowing all over, and there was a residue left on the cars.”

In St. Louis, Army researchers mounted apparatus to spray zinc cadmium sulfide from atop the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, a residence for thousands of low-income people. In 2012, researcher Lisa Martino-Taylor presented evidence suggesting that the Army may have mixed radioactive particles with the zinc cadmium sulfide.

Government Assertions v. Scientific Studies

The Army has long maintained that zinc cadmium sulfide is an inert substance, harmless to humans in the concentrations sprayed in the air in Minneapolis, St. Louis, and the other test sites. But at least fifteen studies published before or during the Army’s testing established the danger to human health of one prominent ingredient, cadmium. One, published in the Journal of Industrial Hygiene in 1932, concluded that “cadmium, no matter how small the amount taken into the lungs, causes pathologic changes…. There is, therefore, no permissible amount of cadmium” safe for human exposure. Cadmium is now a suspected human carcinogen that causes kidney damage, and it also can contribute to liver disorders, nervous system problems, and perhaps reproductive health problems.

In 1995 a Toxicology Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, in a Congressionally ordered review of the Army’s testing, observed that research on potential dangers was scanty and based only on animal studies. It concluded, however, that the Army did not endanger the public through exposure to the zinc cadmium sulfide. Critics of that review, however, pointed out that the chemical can persist in the soil and in homes for a long time and that its resuspension by people’s activities and the wind may have lengthened exposure times long beyond what the Army expected.

More than 60 years after the experimentation began, the U.S. Army has not acknowledged the possibility of harm from the testing and has commissioned no follow-up studies.


Further reading:

Cole, Leonard. The Eleventh Plague: The Politics of Biological and Chemical Warfare. Holt, 1996.

LeBaron, Wayne. America’s Nuclear Legacy. Nova Science Publishers, 2013.

Subcommittee on Zinc Cadmium Sulfide, National Research Council, et. al. Toxicologic Assessment of the Army’s Zinc Cadmium Sulfide Dispersion Tests. National Academies Press, 1997.

04 Jul 05:00

#1043; As the Founders Intended

by David Malki

is lighting off explosions to commemorate a war analogous to wearing a cross to commemorate a crucifixion

02 Jul 21:52

Communism on Mars

by Eric Laursen

By Eric Laursen (Regular Contributor)


A Bolshevik Utopia

A decade before the Bolshevik revolution, Aleksandr Bogdanov published Red Star: Novel-utopia (1908). Known as the “first Bolshevik utopia,” it chronicles an Earth-man’s journey to the planet Mars, where he is treated to a wondrous vision of a communist future, complete with flying cars and 3D color movies. As the Bolsheviks predicted, archaic institutions such as government and family have withered away, and the Earth-man is confronted with all his fondly held principles of equality and community come to life. Children are raised communally, all important decisions are made by a large council, and people are directed to fulfilling and creative work by a central economic agency that measures planet-wide needs. Men and women have become full equals, and they have evolved so that the Earthling cannot distinguish the sex of his large-eyed comrades, causing him to become increasingly anxious about his attraction to one of them. The Earthling is greatly relieved upon learning that he is a she.

The Martians have one world-wide society and one language. All dialect variation has faded, allowing instant communication between any two citizens. Moreover, since the Martians have achieved equality, the hierarchy implicit in language etiquette is missing, and, Красная_звездаtherefore, titles, greetings, and expressions of gratitude are noticeably absent. Gender is also absent from the Martian language. Most important, since the Martians have gained a conscious understanding of all of history—past, present, and future—their nouns are declined “temporally.” Bogdanov was a proponent of adopting a universal language, and suitably Red Star was published in Esperanto in 1929.

Trouble in (Communist) Paradise

Despite the many achievements of the Martians, there is trouble in communist paradise. Mars is a dying planet whose resources are too meager to continue to support life. The Martians are running out of fuel and must choose between Earth and Venus to find more. Both planets are closer to the sun’s life-giving energy and therefore more vigorous than aging Mars, a cold, dying desert planet. Yet each planet has its unique challenges. Though Venus has vicious dinosaurs and active volcanos, Earth has something even more dangerous: capitalism! In the end they choose Venus, bowing to the argument that Earth offers something that Mars lacks. The Martian men have grown cold along with their planet, and the two main Martian men that we meet cannot satisfy their wives sexually or provide them with the children they so desperately want. Moreover, they have developed their intellects at the expense of emotion and compassion, an imbalance that allows them to consider liquidating Earth’s population in order to get the resources Mars needs. The hot-blooded Earthling’s love affair with one of the frustrated Martian women signals a happy medium, a fusion of Earth’s revolutionary heat and Mars’s intellectual and physical cold that gives hope for the upward progress of life in the universe.

Bogdanov plays chess with Lenin while Maksim Gorky looks on (1908)

Bogdanov plays chess with Lenin while Maksim Gorky looks on (1908)

New Iterations for Red Star

After the 1917 revolution, Red Star came out in multiple editions and was adapted for the stage. Bogdanov was the founder of Proletkult, the Proletarian Cultural Organization that trained workers to become artists, writers, and scientists. He published multiple volumes of philosophy, and his “tectology” is often put forth as a precursor for systems theory. Although Bogdanov was an early contender for Party leadership, he soon lost political power after the revolution and returned to his scientific research on blood transfusion full-time. In Red Star, the Martians maintain youthful vitality through frequent exchange of blood. In 1926 Bogdanov attained his dream of founding an institute dedicated to the study of blood transfusion and died two years later while conducting a blood transfusion experiment on himself.

14 Jun 09:48

Unstealing Treasures: A Reverse Burglary

Unstealing Treasures: A Reverse Burglary

I've got this friend, Craig. He's not exactly an outlaw, but if the world needs something moved that is not supposed to be moved, he will move it anyway. Only in the interest of justice. Like Batman.

A still from Finders Keepers. i i
MinutePhysics and RadioLab

What he moved (or removed) was a small pot made by a Native American potter 700 or 800 years ago. It's what is called a seed jar, and he found it in a reading room. There were once thousands of these pots in the American Southwest, buried or stashed in nooks or graves where the Salado people used to roam, but the precious things have been mostly pillaged. First archaeologists, then private collectors, streamed across the desert, dug them up, and put them into private collections.

The museum world is now chock-full of Indian baskets and pots. The desert has almost none left.

Which is why we at Radiolab, and the wonderful Henry Reich at Minute Physics, decided to tell the story of Craig's very private act of liberation, which took place many years ago.

Additional Information:


Craig Childs' story can be found in his book Finders Keepers, A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession. We at Radiolab did the video with Henry to celebrate our current series on the nature of things, which started with a podcast, Things, a couple of weeks ago, and continues with our newest one, about the fragile state of the kilogram, just released.

Henry, by the way, has produced another Craig Childs story, this one for your ears, which can be found at

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit
24 Jun 16:43

A Softer World

23 Jun 04:00

Throwing Rocks

::PLOOOOSH:: Looks like you won't be making it to Vinland today, Leaf Erikson.
19 Jun 06:34

The Kangaroo’s Tale: How an errant elevator door ended an odd form of popular entertainment

by Jack El-Hai

By Jack El-Hai (W&M Contributor)

When an elevator door slammed shut at the Minneapolis Auditorium on March 20, 1940, an era of American entertainment came to a bloody end. The door crushed the six-foot-long tail of Peter the Great, a famed boxing kangaroo, who was touring the U.S. and had just demonstrated his skills to a Minneapolis audience.

Peter’s owners and managers, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Elder, considered the injury minor and wrapped the marsupial’s tail with a bandage. They began driving Peter to his next engagement in Omaha, but it became obvious along the way that the kangaroo was in distress. The Elders rushed Peter back to the O.B. Morgan Dog and Cat Hospital in Minneapolis, and they were about to have the damaged body part amputated when the 160-pound kangaroo died.

Peter, a singularly famous boxing kangaroo, had made a notable impression on American popular culture. Less than a year before, he fought a boxing match with “Two Ton” Tony Galento, a pugilist who had once floored Joe Louis. During an exchange of blows, Peter dropped back on his tail and kicked Galento in the groin. The man-versus-beast match ended in a draw. A wave of publicity carried Peter to shows around the country.

If Peter had lived, he would have played a role in U.S. electoral politics. He was scheduled to appear with comedienne Gracie Allen and serve as the mascot for her 1940 mock run for the Presidency. Without Peter’s help, Allen’s Surprise Party never found traction, and Franklin Roosevelt won the 1940 election without a satirical opponent.

In a lawsuit they filed against the city of Minneapolis, the Elders claimed that Peter’s boxing and entertainment talents resulted from his special training. “Peter the Great,” Mrs. Elder testified, “was no ordinary kangaroo.” The city countered that swinging and kicking when threatened is instinctive behavior for his species. A jury sided with the city, and Peter’s owners did not receive the $75,000 they sought in compensation for their loss.

No other kangaroo rose to Peter’s level of fame after his death. As exploitations of stage animals began to smell of cruelty, boxing kangaroos disappeared except as cartoonish symbols of Australian resilience. Today we never encounter them in the flesh. Peter the Great’s fame and profession belong to the past.


“Jury Refuses Damages for Death of Kangaroo.” Milwaukee Journal, October 8, 1940.

“Peter, Boxing Kangaroo, Dies.” The New York Times, March 24, 1940.

Zahn, Thomas R. The Minneapolis Auditorium and Convention Center: The History. 1987.


Jack El-Hai is the author of The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and his Tragic Quest to Rid the World of  Mental Illness and the forthcoming book The Nazi and the Psychiatrist. He often writes about medicine and history.

This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 6 August 2012.



18 Jun 02:39

backcomic: Welcome to the tumblr feed of BACK. by Anthony and...


Welcome to the tumblr feed of BACK. by Anthony and KC. We will be posting pages simultaneously on here as well on the main site, so choose whichever for your viewing pleasure. We update Wednesdays with 2 pages an update. For the occasion tho, here are the first 8 pages of the prologue. See you next week.

10 Jun 21:56

Morning scenes by early risers

by Arnold Chao
Scott Akerman

Damn! All of these pictures.

At the break of dawn, many of you are already up and busy shooting landscapes bathed in dramatic sunlight. There’s a staggering abundance of exceptional pictures from a “morning landscape” image search, and we can only highlight a portion of the ones we appreciate, including a few captions from the photographers:

Dockey Wood Morning Light
Damian_WardDockey Wood Morning Light

“I’m lucky enough to live about 30 minutes away from Dockey Wood, which is well regarded as on of the finest bluebell woods in England. As part of the Ashridge Estate, it is owned and managed by the National Trust and offers clean and uncomplicated woodland views full of bluebells.” – Damian Ward


“A classic spot at Lake Constance. The Turmhof castle in Steckborn, Thurgau, Switzerland” – Philipp Häfeli


“This morning I finally managed to get back out there and experience the odd euphoria of having made it to the top of a hill at 5am as the sun rises, knowing that a world of more sensible people are still asleep. Bit of a mixed bag of conditions today so I didn’t quite get what I wanted, although this little burst of early light through the mist was kind of spectacular for a few minutes.”

“Squint and you can just make out Firle Tower amidst the furthest clump of trees, a squat little castle turret folly that was built as a gamekeepers watchtower in the 1800s. I think its now a house.” – Finn Hopson


Sunrise in Taiwan.

Crummock Water bathed in Light
VemsterooCrummock Water bathed in Light

“After I took the long way from Buttermere to Crummock which involved scrabbling up the hillside to escape a herd of cows and calves who were unimpressed with my presence (cows can be scary), I finally emerged by Crummock Water as the morning light began to catch, revealing the ridges and rolls of the landscape, almost flowing down the hillside.” – Vemsteroo

Carillion - Canberra, ACT
Rowland CainCarillion – Canberra, ACT

National Carillon tower, Canberra, Australia.

The Morning After
jactollThe Morning After

“A day after my last post … couldn’t resist shooting again because of the denser layer of river mist.” – David Dean

“Last shot from the series I took a few weekends ago from the South Downs on a beautiful misty Spring morning.” – Richard Paterson

Morning mist in Gloucestershire, England.

Morning Sun
Dave-B2012Morning Sun

“Cranes along the River Thames during sunrise.” – Dave Banbury

See, and share, more photography in the Morning light gallery and Morning Glory group.

06 Jun 06:43


by Greg Ross

The programming language Chef, devised by David Morgan-Mar, is designed to make programs look like cooking recipes. Variables are represented by “ingredients,” input comes from the “refrigerator,” output is sent to “baking dishes,” and so on. The language’s design principles state that “program recipes should not only generate valid output, but be easy to prepare and delicious,” but many of them fall short of that goal — one program for soufflé correctly prints the words “Hello world!”, but the recipe requires 32 zucchinis, 101 eggs, and 111 cups of oil to be combined in a bowl and served to a single person. Mike Worth set out to write a working program that could also be read as an actual recipe. Here’s what he came up with:

Hello World Cake with Chocolate sauce.

This prints hello world, while being tastier than Hello World Souffle. The main
chef makes a " world!" cake, which he puts in the baking dish. When he gets the
sous chef to make the "Hello" chocolate sauce, it gets put into the baking dish
and then the whole thing is printed when he refrigerates the sauce. When
actually cooking, I'm interpreting the chocolate sauce baking dish to be
separate from the cake one and Liquify to mean either melt or blend depending on

33 g chocolate chips
100 g butter
54 ml double cream
2 pinches baking powder
114 g sugar
111 ml beaten eggs
119 g flour
32 g cocoa powder
0 g cake mixture

Cooking time: 25 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Put chocolate chips into the mixing bowl.
Put butter into the mixing bowl.
Put sugar into the mixing bowl.
Put beaten eggs into the mixing bowl.
Put flour into the mixing bowl.
Put baking powder into the mixing bowl.
Put cocoa  powder into the mixing bowl.
Stir the mixing bowl for 1 minute.
Combine double cream into the mixing bowl.
Stir the mixing bowl for 4 minutes.
Liquify the contents of the mixing bowl.
Pour contents of the mixing bowl into the baking dish.
bake the cake mixture.
Wait until baked.
Serve with chocolate sauce.

chocolate sauce.

111 g sugar
108 ml hot water
108 ml heated double cream
101 g dark chocolate
72 g milk chocolate

Clean the mixing bowl.
Put sugar into the mixing bowl.
Put hot water into the mixing bowl.
Put heated double cream into the mixing bowl.
dissolve the sugar.
agitate the sugar until dissolved.
Liquify the dark chocolate.
Put dark chocolate into the mixing bowl.
Liquify the milk chocolate.
Put milk chocolate into the mixing bowl.
Liquify contents of the mixing bowl.
Pour contents of the mixing bowl into the baking dish.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Worth confirmed that this correctly prints the words “Hello world!”, and then he used the same instructions to bake a real cake. “It was surprisingly well received,” he writes. “The cake was slightly dry (although nowhere near as dry as cheap supermarket cakes), but this was complimented well by the sauce. My brother even asked me for the recipe!”

While we’re at it: Fibonacci Numbers With Caramel Sauce.

09 Jun 21:51

Purnululu National Park

by Arnold Chao

Around 350 million years ago, the sedimentary rock domes of the Bungle Bungle Range in Australia were formed. Their layering of orange and grey bands in beehive-like shapes make up a distinctive landscape in Purnululu National Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.

Lost City, Purnululu National Park
Ian I LeeLost City, Purnululu National Park
Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle Range)
Grey AlbatrossPurnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle Range)
DSC_0434 c
Tartarin2009DSC_0434 c
Purnululu National Park
Erik HartbergPurnululu National Park
Bungle Bungle cone karst
loveexploringBungle Bungle cone karst
Bungle Bungles
SvenHoenischBungle Bungles

See, and share, more photos in the Rocks of Purnululu gallery and Western Australia! group.

03 Jun 10:00

First Round

by Justin Boyd

First Round

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02 Jun 14:10

Cleopatra and Antony Go Fishing

by AdrienneMayor

10_scorpionfishCREDSBy Adrienne Mayor (Wonders and Marvels contributor)

Cleopatra had a thousand ways of flattering Mark Antony, remarked Plutarch in his biography of the Egyptian queen’s Roman lover. With a raptor’s vigilance she monitored Antony’s moods day and night and was always ready with some new diversion or novel adventure to distract and charm  him. Cleopatra was his drinking buddy and his gambling partner at dice; she accompanied him whenever he exercised, hunted, and practiced with his weapons. Dressed in disreputable disguises, the couple enjoyed rambling recklessly around town in the middle of the night like hooligans, pounding on people’s doors and shouting insults at their windows.

One day Cleopatra took Antony fishing on the Nile on her barge, accompanied by a flotilla of smaller fishing boats. Everyone pulled up a good number of Nile perch on their lines that day except Anthony. Feeling humiliated in front of his mistress and determined not to be skunked again, Anthony devised a plan. The next day he secretly paid several fishermen to dive underwater and place their own freshly caught fish on his hook. Over the next hour or so Antony drew up fish after fish. The Egyptians marveled at the heap of silvery blue fish on the deck and wondered at the speed at which the perch were taking the Roman’s bait.

Cleopatra immediately figured out Antony’s ruse but she feigned great admiration, crowing over what a natural fisherman he was. Boasting that his haul would be even more impressive tomorrow, she invited everyone back for another day of fishing.

The next day Cleopatra arranged her own trick. As soon as Anthony let down his line, she had her servants “dive down and affix a large salted fish from the Black Sea on Anthony’s hook.” Feeling the tugging on the line Anthony quickly landed the heavy fish. As everyone stared at his catch it was instantly obvious that he’d pulled up a big fish that was not only long dead but definitely not a denizen of the Nile. As Plutarch comments, you can imagine the guffaws and hoots that ensued. Cleopatra, giggling mischievously, diverted Antony’s irritation with flattery: “Better to leave fishing to us poor Egyptians—your game is conquering kingdoms.”

Nile perch (Lates niloticus) have a high fat content so they were preserved by smoking instead of drying and salting. Black Sea fisheries exported vast stores of salted fish around the ancient Mediterranean world. The large salt-cured fish from the Black Sea “caught” by Antony in the Nile was most likely a tuna. Great schools of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) used to dominate the Black Sea but went extinct there in antiquity; today they are endangered in the Atlantic.

About the author: Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of “The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myths in Greek and Roman Times” (2011), “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy,” a nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, and “The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World” (fall 2014).


28 May 17:56

Sea explorer: Alexander Semenov

by Arnold Chao

According to, Alexander Semenov has a wish “to grow gills so that he doesn’t have to leave the water and perform cumbersome tasks, such as changing oxygen tanks.” And when you take a look at the photography from his research, you’ll understand what his wish is all about.

Tubularia indivisa
Alexander SemenovTubularia indivisa
Bolinopsis infundibuliformis
Alexander SemenovBolinopsis infundibuliformis

As the Head of the Divers’ team at Moscow University’s White Sea Biological Station, he’s been a photographic contributor for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and major magazines. His extraordinary photos of jellyfish and other fascinating organisms of Russia’s White Sea give us a glimpse of an underwater world that seems alien to us.

Hyperia kid on the Baloon
Alexander SemenovHyperia kid on the Baloon
Leucothea sp.
Alexander SemenovLeucothea sp.

Alex is also the squad leader of the Aquatilis Expedition, a diving project to find and study the unknown creatures of the deep sea. The expedition has yet to begin because the required funding to launch the squad’s journey — a proposed 30,000 nautical miles in three years — hasn’t been acquired. He’s fundraising via Indiegogo and hopes to pursue soon what the expedition’s website states as the staggering 80% of marine life living in our oceans that have yet to be discovered.

Aurelia aurita
Alexander SemenovAurelia aurita
Cyanea capillata
Alexander SemenovCyanea capillata
Lophius sp. probably?
Alexander SemenovLophius sp. probably?

These photos show only a small sample of what’s available from Alex. Take a gander at Alex’s underwater album to view nearly 1,000 outstanding shots of sea life.

28 May 17:28

World War I: Unseen Images from the front

A viscount in the Armoured Cavalry Branch of the French Army left behind a collection of hundreds of glass plates taken during World War I that have never before been published. The images, by an unknown photographer, show the daily life of soldiers in the trenches, destruction of towns and military leaders. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the WWI. --Reuters (18 photos total)

A French officer stands near a cemetery with recent graves of soldiers killed on the front lines of World War I at the Saint-Jean-sur-Tourbe on the Champagne front, eastern France on Dec. 19, 1916.
26 May 18:08

Wild Koala House

by Reza


20 May 19:22

Awe-inspiring landscapes

by Arnold Chao
Lagangarbh - Glencoe
Phil Hunter (VividVista)Lagangarbh – Glencoe
Garden of the Gods on May 14th, 2014
Tycho's NoseGarden of the Gods on May 14th, 2014
windy peak
dretwindy peak
New Mexico
grobinetteNew Mexico

We thought you’d appreciated a weekday break by viewing this selection of serene places that beckon photographers.

Explore more photos of these locations: Horeshoe Bend, Arizona | Glencoe, Scotland | Garden of the Gods, Colorado | Shizukuishi, Japan | Canton of Bern, Switzerland | Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

Enjoy, and share, more photography in the Lovely landscapes gallery.

18 May 06:05

Never Give Flat Stanley to a Cartoonist

by Adam

You guys ever heard of this thing called “Flat Stanley”? It’s this class project for elementary school students where they mail a paper doll to an adult and instruct him or her to show the doll around town, take photographs, and send the whole thing back to the students can so they can, most likely, be bored to tears.

Well last month I learned something about my six-year old niece – she apparently has my home address.

0 Flat Blake in the mail

Boom! There it was, waiting for me in my mailbox – an envelope containing the paper doll (named “Flat Blake” by the class), a letter of request by some kid in my niece’s class (horrible penmanship BTW), and a form for me to fill in, detailing our adventure. It was like being the biographer for a tiny comatose man.

So, rather than putting any effort into it, I decided instead to just scan Flat Blake, do a little Photoshop nonsense, and print the whole shebang on photo paper. Here’s what I sent back to the class:


1 Letter 2 cow 3 airplane-seat 4 plane-window-1 5 beach 6 beach 7 beach 8 godzilla 9 blake-meets-iron-man 10 blake-and-iron-man 11 blake-flies-with-iron-man-2 12 blake-flies-with-iron-man 13 iron-man-vs-godzilla-1 14 godzilla-leaves-hawaii 15 blake-and-iron-man-celebrate

The initial letter I received said the class would put my pictures on display. Not too long ago my mom visited my niece’s school and I asked her to look for it. Here’s the photo she sent back:

16 Class display

18 May 09:27

Intriguing Lime Green Blobs Appear In The Andes Mountains. Are They Alive?

Intriguing Lime Green Blobs Appear In The Andes Mountains. Are They Alive?


Someone dropped lime sherbet on the desert — and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?

Nobody. Because this — believe it or not — is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey. It's solid to the touch, so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.

What kind of plant is this? In Spanish it's called llareta, and it's a member of the Apiaceae family, which makes it a cousin to parsley, carrots and fennel. But being a desert plant, high up in Chile's extraordinarily dry Atacama, it grows very, very slowly — a little over a centimeter a year.

Think about that. If you asked one of these plants, "What did you do during the 20th century?" it would answer, "I grew a meter bigger." At that rate, plants rising to shoulder height (covering yards of ground, lump after lump) must be really, really old. In fact, some of them are older than the Giant Sequoias of California, older than towering coast redwoods. In Chile, many of them go back 3,000 years — well before the Golden Age of Greece.

They look like green gift-wrapping. One imagines that they are mold-like, wrapping themselves around boulders. But that's wrong. The truth is much weirder. That hard surface is actually a dense collection of tens of thousands of flowering buds at the ends of long stems, so densely packed, they create a compact surface. The plant is very, very dry, and makes for great kindling.

As the Bolivian guide explains in the video below (the plant can be found throughout the Andes), llareta is such good fuel that, even though it's very ancient, people regularly use it to start campfires and even, back in the day, to run locomotives. (That's 3, 000 to 4,000 years of captured sunshine thrown into a steam engine for a quick ride — I'm trying not to think about that.) It's also good for muscle pain.


The best thing about llareta is what it looks like. It's like nothing else. You climb 10,000 to 15,000 feet up into the Andes; there are boulders, loose rocks, jagged edges all about, and suddenly you come upon this soft-looking round thing that resembles a lime-green beach ball, and you think, "What is this?" When artist/photographer Rachel Sussman saw her first llareta, she apparently did a little happy dance. As she writes in her new book, "Every once in a while you see something so ludicrously beautiful that all you can do is laugh."

Me too.

Artist/photographer Rachel Sussman has some pretty nice photos of llareta in her new book, The Oldest Living Things in the World. You can see and hear Rachel talking about her photos here. Our llareta photos come courtesy of the Terrace Lodge, in Putre, Chile, very near Lauca National Park where, due to melting ice and water vapor floating in, there's just enough moisture to keep the plants growing.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit
16 May 13:00

Kaija’s painfully funny self-portraits

by Ameya Pendse

When we first came across a self-portrait by Kaija Straumanis, we couldn’t help but scratch our heads in wonder. “Who, what, how, and ouch” were popular reactions among our team. We later learned that we weren’t alone. Nearly 3 million people had similar responses — making Kaija’s photography a viral sensation.

“The reaction I’m trying to get from my photography is pretty much amusement, laughter, and the sense of being entertained,” Kaija tells The Weekly Flickr in the accompanying video. “If I can achieve that — or even have someone ask ‘Hey, did it hurt?’ — then I’m happy and know I got what I set out to do!”

Kaija’s love for photography began in college when she embarked on a 365 project to take a self-portrait every day for a year. Throughout this time, she sought out inspiration from other photographers on Flickr.

1:365 she's back.
kleine_moewe1:365 she's back.

“I learned a lot from them, and they gave me lots of advice,” Kaija says. “I also spent a lot of time outdoors, which works as a general inspiration both for settings and props … for what you can and can’t do in your photo. As far as specific ideas go, I think I just liked being a little goofy, and wanted to make people laugh.”

Kaija’s Shots-to-the-Head series happened spontaneously in 2011.

24:365 page turner.
kleine_moewe24:365 page turner.

“It was just another entertaining idea to think up and execute in front of the camera,” Kaija says. “I wanted to do something bigger than I had done before, sort of step out of my own boundaries. The first picture with a kickball was my very first picture [from the series]. I’d found the ball as a prop and thought the image of getting hit in the face would get some laughs from family and friends.”

The shots are composites; taken frame by frame. Kaija spent a couple weeks sitting in front of her bathroom mirror, holding the ball against her face, trying to figure out the best placement and angles to make the perfect photo.

75:365 happy halloween.
kleine_moewe75:365 happy halloween.

“Mimicking physics and self-injury apparently requires some practice and research,” Kaija admits. “Once I had my frames ready, I went out and shot with my camera. Later, I piece the photos together in Photoshop by cleaning up the parts I don’t need.”

Kaija posted the photo on Flickr, and it received positive reactions from her family and friends.

“After that point, I thought this is a nice idea that you can reuse; it’s very easily recycled,” Kaija explains. “The rest of the pictures were just a matter of the right place and the right time. It was definitely fun just sort of going out and doing that on a whim, so I kept doing it.”

47:365 hard headed.
kleine_moewe47:365 hard headed.

Despite the fact that Kaija’s photos were posted three years ago, they were posted on Tumblr about a month ago and became an instant hit — a complete shock to Kaija.

“It was kind of amusing,” Kaija says. “Over the course of a weekend, I’m getting 800 thousand, a million, and then three million hits on my Flickr account. It was insane. I’ve never had that much attention. I’ve never had a 15-minutes-of-fame … but I got it, and that was great … and I really appreciated it.”

“It’s nice to know that you’ve done something that, initially, you just wanted to do it for yourself and for a group of friends, because you thought it would be funny,” Kaija says. “And now people are looking at it in the middle of their work day, cracking up, and it’s added some sort of minute of laughter to their lives.”

62:365 the corner.
kleine_moewe62:365 the corner.

Visit Kaija’s photostream to see more of her photography.

Previous episode: Invisible girl self-portrait goes viral overnight

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