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27 Sep 12:30

The final switch: Goldsboro, 1961

by Alex Wellerstein

The threat of nuclear weapons accidents isn’t a new one. Even in 1945, Los Alamos physicists sweated when contemplating all that could possibly go wrong with their bombs, if they went off at the wrong place or the wrong time. Or didn’t go off at all. That’s the bind, really: a nuclear state wants a weapon that always goes off exactly when you tell it to, and never goes off any other time. That’s a hard thing to guarantee, especially when the stakes are so high in both directions, and especially since these two requirements can be directly in tension.

Schlosser - Command and Control book

I recently heard Eric Schlosser give that elegant formulation at a talk he gave last week in support of the release of his new book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. I haven’t had a chance to read the book, yet (it’s currently en route), but I’m looking forward to it. I read Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation a decade (!) ago and found it completely eye-opening. But I went to his talk last week not sure what to expect. From McDonald’s to nuclear weapons accidents? Stranger things have happened, but I worried that maybe he would take the “easy” route with regards to the accidents, not bothering to learn to nitty-gritty technical details that let one talk about such things sensibly, or, at the very least, sensationalize the findings. So I was pretty pleased to find that neither seemed to be the case. Schlosser has seriously done his homework, spending 6 years digging through records, FOIAing documents, and interviewing weapons designers. His discussion of the risks seemed right on the mark so far as I could tell — they don’t need to be exaggerated one bit to be perfectly horrifying. He answered questions expertly, even a tough, devil’s-advocate one from Hugh Gusterson. So I’ve been looking forward to reading the full book.

Last week, the Guardian released a new document, obtained by Schlosser through a FOIA request, regarding one particular accident, the 1961 crash of a B-52 near Goldsboro, North Carolina, which resulted in the jettisoning of two Mark-39 hydrogen bombs. The document in question is a government nuclear expert’s evaluation of a popular account of the Goldsboro accident, in which he finds some major errors (like overstating the yield of the bomb), but ultimately concludes that at least one of the bombs was, in fact, pretty damned close to accidental detonation: “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe … It would have been bad news – in spades.

The bomb in question, stuck in the mud.

The bomb in question, stuck in the mud.

I’ve been watching how the above document has been discussed by people on the web. The most interesting response has been people saying, “I thought that bomb lacked a nuclear core?” You know that there have been too many nuclear weapons accidents when people start getting them confused with one another. The missing-bomb-that-maybe-lacked-a-core is the 1958 Tybee bomb, where a Mark-15 hydrogen bomb was lost near Savannah, Georgia. Different bomb, different day.

The other response I commonly saw was one that assumed that any such fears of a bomb going off accidentally were exaggerated. Now this is kind of an interesting response. For the one thing, they’re discounting a contemporary, internal, once-classified evaluation made by a relevant expert. In exchange, they’re parroting either general skepticism at the idea that a nuclear weapon could technically be unsafe, or they are parroting a standard line about how hard it is to set off an implosion bomb accidentally, because all of the lenses need to detonate at exactly the same time. Which is sometimes the right approach (though not all American bomb designs were “one-point safe” — that is, there were designs that ran a real risk of producing a nuclear yield even if just one of the explosive lenses accidentally fired), but in this case, it’s entirely irrelevant, for reasons I’ll explain below.

I’ve been in touch with Schlosser since the talk, and he shared with me a video he had (somehow) gotten his hands on produced by Sandia National Laboratory (the weapons lab that specializes in making bombs go off at just the right moment) about the Goldsboro accident. He’s put it up on YouTube for me to share with you. It is only a few minutes long and worth the watch.

I love the CGI — “all the sudden, now that weapon system is free.” The bomb looks so… liberated. And the part at the end, where they talk about how they had plenty of opportunities for future data, because there were so many accidents, is wonderfully understated. But the stuff that really hits you in your gut is the description of exactly what happened:

“All of the sudden now that weapon system [the Mk-39] is free. As the weapon dropped, power was now coming on, and the arming rods were pulled, the baroswitches began to operate.1 The next thing on the timing sequence was for the parachute to deploy. When it hit the ground, it tried to fire.” “There was still one safety device that had not operated. And that one safety device was the pre-arming switch which is operated by a 28 volt signal.” “Some people could say, hey, the bomb worked exactly like designed. Others can say, all but one switch operated, and that one switch prevented the nuclear detonation.” “Unfortunately there had been some 30-some incidents where the ready-safe switch was operated inadvertently. We’re fortunate that the weapons involved at Goldsboro were not suffering from that same malady.”

What’s amazing about the above, in part, is that everything in quotation marks is coming from Sandia nuclear weapons safety engineers, not anti-nuclear activists on the Internet. This isn’t a movie made for public consumption (and I’ve been assured that it is not classified, in case you were wondering). It’s a film for internal consumption by a nuclear weapons laboratory. So it’s hard to not take this as authoritative, along with the other aforementioned document. Anyone who brushes aside such concerns as “hysterical” is going to have to contend with the fact that this is what the nuclear weapons designers tell themselves about this accident. Which is pretty disconcerting.

There are further details in another document sent to me by Schlosser, a previously-classified review of nuclear weapons accidents from 1987 that clarifies that one of the reasons the Goldsboro bomb in particular almost detonated was because of the way it was tossed from the aircraft, which removed a horizontally-positioned arming pin. That is, an arming pin was supposed to be in a position that it couldn’t be removed accidentally, but the particulars of how violently the aircraft broke up as it crashed were what armed the bomb in question. The other bomb, the one whose parachute didn’t fire, just had its HE detonate while it was in the mud. From the 1987 review:

Before the accident, the manual arming pin in each of the bombs was in place. Although the pins required horizontal movement for extraction, they were both on a lanyard to allow the crew to pull them from the cockpit. During the breakup, the aircraft experienced structural distortion and torsion in the weapons bay sufficient to pull the pin from one of the bombs, thus arming the Bisch generator.2 The Bisch generator then provided internal power to the bomb when the pullout cable was extracted by the bomb falling from the weapons bay. The operation of the baroswitch arming system,3 parachute deployment, timer operation,4 low and high voltage thermal batteries activation, and delivery of the fire signal at the impact by the crush switch all followed as a natural consequence of the bombing falling free with an armed Bisch generator. The nonoperation of the cockpit-controlled ready-safe switch prevented nuclear detonation of the bomb. The other bomb, which free-fell, experienced HE detonation upon impact. One of the secondary subassemblies was not recovered.5

The secondary subassembly is the fusion component of the hydrogen bomb. Normally I would not be too concerned with a lost secondary in and of itself, because bad folks can’t do a whole lot with them, except that in this particular bomb, the secondary contained a significant amount of high-enriched uranium, and lost HEU is never a good thing. The government’s approach to this loss was to get an easement on the land in question that would stop anyone from digging there. Great…

Mk-39 ready-safe switch

From the video, I was also struck by the picture of the ready-safe switch then employed. I’d never seen one of these before. Presumably “S” means “safe” and “A” means “armed.” It looks ridiculously crude by modern standards, one little twirl away from being armed. This little electronic gizmo was all that stood between us and a four megaton detonation? That’s a wonderful thing to contemplate first thing in the morning. Even the later switches which they show look more crude than I’d prefer — but then again, probably all 1950s and 1960s technology is going to look crude to a modern denizen. And again, just to reiterate, we’re not talking about “merely” accidentally igniting the explosives on the primary bomb — we’re talking about the bomb actually sending a little electrical charge through the firing circuit saying “Fire!” and starting the regular, full-yield firing sequence, stopped only by this little gizmo. A little gizmo prone to accidentally firing, in some of the bombs.

Lest you think that perhaps Sandia overstates it (which seems rather unlikely), take also the testimony of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara into account. In January of 1963, McNamara explained at a meeting between the Defense and State Departments that he was opposed to Presidential pre-delegation of nuclear weapons in part because of the danger of accidental detonation — either ours or the Soviets’. In the meeting notes, posted some time back by the National Security Archive and forwarded to me by Schlosser, McNamara’s participation is listed as follows:

Mr. McNamara went on to describe the possibilities which existed for an accidental launch of a missile against the USSR. He pointed out that we were spending millions of dollars to reduce this problem to a minimum, but that we could not assure ourselves completely against such a contingency. Moreover he suggested that it was unlikely that the Soviets were spending as much as we were in attempting to narrow the limits of possible accidental launch. He went on to describe crashes of US aircraft[,] one in North Carolina and one in Texas, where, by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.

This one’s interesting because it embeds these accidents in a context as well — the possibility of either us, or the Soviets, accidentally launching a nuke and wondering if a full-scale nuclear exchange has to follow. It’s not quite Strangelovian, since that would require a rogue commander, but it is very Fail-Safe.

As to what the Goldsboro blast would look like, the only time we tested this warhead at full yield was the shot “Cherokee” at Operation Redwing, in 1958. It was a pretty big boom, far more impressive than some of the Hiroshima shots that have been posted along with the Goldsboro story:


And, of course, you can use the NUKEMAP to chart the damage. I’ve added the W-39 warhead to the list of presets in NUKEMAP2, using 4 megatons as the yield (the tested yield was 3.8 megatons, though the W-39 is often stated as an even 4. I rounded up, just because quibbling over 200 kilotons seemed pointless), and a fission fraction of 55%.6 It’s a pretty big explosion, with a fallout plume capable of covering tens of thousands of square miles with hazardous levels of contamination (and nearly a thousand square miles with fatal levels). Note that the Cherokee test was a true airburst (the fireball didn’t touch the ground), and so didn’t generate any significant fallout. The Goldsboro bomb, however, was meant to operate on impact, as a surface burst, and would have created significant fallout.

Again, one doesn’t have to exaggerate the risks to find it unsettling. The bomb didn’t go off, that final switch thankfully did work as intended. But that’s cold comfort, the more you learn about the accident. Our current nuclear weapons are much safer than the Mk-39 was, back in 1961, though Schlosser thinks (following the testimony of experts) there are still some unsettling aspects about several of our weapons systems. If we are going to have nukes, he reasons, we should be willing to spend whatever it costs to make sure that they’ll be safe. That seems to me like an argument guaranteed to appeal to nobody in today’s current political climate, with the left-sorts wanting no nukes and no modernization, and the right-sorts not really wanting to talk about safety issues. But I’ll get to that more another day, once I’ve read the book.

If that bomb had gone off, we’d speak of “Goldsboro” as a grim mnemonic, in the same way that we do “Chernobyl” today. One wonders how that would have changed our approach to nuclear weapons, had the final switch not held strong.

  1. The “arming rods” were pull-out switches that would activate when the weapon left the bomb bay. The baro(meter) switches were pressure sensitive switches that would make sure the bomb was nearing the appropriate height before starting the next sequence of arming. In the World War II bombs, the next stage in the sequence would be to consult radar altimeters to check the precise distance from the ground. The Goldsboro bombs were set to go off on ground impact.
  2. A Bisch generator, as the context implies, is an electrical pulse generator.
  3. Again, a pressure-sensitive switch that tried to guarantee that the bomb was roughly where it was supposed to be.
  4. Timer switches were often used to make sure that the bomb cleared the aircraft before seriously starting to arm.
  5. R.N. Brodie, “A Review of the US Nuclear Weapon Safety Program – 1945 to 1986,” SAND86-2955 [Extract] (February 1987).
  6. Chuck Hansen, in his Swords of Armageddon, estimates that shots Cherokee and Apache of Operation Redwing had an average fission fraction of 55%, but isn’t able to get it any more precise than that. Given what I’ve read about the bomb — that it used an HEU secondary, for example — I would expect it to be at least 55%, if not more. It seems like a pretty “dirty” weapon, emphasizing a big yield in a relatively small package over any other features. See Chuck Hansen, Swords of Armageddon, V-224 (footnote 325).
29 Sep 04:33

Been saving this 10MB GIF forever!

26 Sep 16:21

art-noveau-love: Art Nouveau interiors. This pleases me.


Art Nouveau interiors.

This pleases me.

29 Sep 00:49

Carl Sagan

Cary Renquist

One of my favorite Saganisms...

05 Sep 20:33

Libation for the Week

by Laoch of Chicago

I’ve been reading “The Thin Man,” by Dashiell Hammett, so I am now craving a 1920’s cocktail.  So this week we will be sampling the:

Red Death


  • 1 ounce of vodka
  • 1 ounce of triple sec
  • 1 ounce of amaretto
  • 1 once southern comfort
  • 1 ounce of sloe gin
  • 1 ounce of orange juice
  • 1 ounce of lime juice
  • 1 maraschino cherry as garnish


Pour the ingredients into your elegant shaker.  Shake, shake shake: shake, shake shake.  Add ice into a very tall glass.   Pour the concoction into your handsome glass.  Add your lucky cherry on top.  Drink heartily while pondering the eternal verities.

25 Sep 16:29


by Arjendu

I have been reading about energy — both fossil fuel and non-fossil-fuel — for the last few weeks. It’s part of an attempt to understand something new during my sabbatical and re-tool for my return the physics department and to the classroom.

As I read, I plan to post comments on books and articles that I’ve read. I will start with those that are not very technical.

The first is ‘Powering the future’ by Robert Laughlin. This book takes the perspective of looking at how the world will use energy in about 200 years or so. Taking this long view allows Laughlin to not get too deep into analyzing the technology race between different non-fossil-fuels. It allows him to cut to the bone of the physics behind sources of energy, and do ‘back-of-the-envelope’ sort of calculations to predict how it will work out in the long-term future. His analysis is extremely compressed (the actual text is 122 pages, though there are a further 90+ pages of endnotes including citations and calculations) and the brilliance of his thinking shows. (He *is* a Nobel Prize winner in Physics after all, though about something far from the topic of this book — on the Quantum Hall Effect). He is also a provocative and entertaining writer (there is a remarkable section on robots and how they will tend compressed-air energy storage on the bottom of the ocean, for example). I enjoyed the book tremendously and it clarified the intellectual landscape for me (albeit as a physicist) in a way that previous books had not managed. I would recommend this book strongly to anyone looking for a broad sweep understanding, though I do believe you’d probably benefit a lot more from it if you have a technical background.



23 Sep 13:55

A Factory Pump by Heiko Klug

by Vanessa Ruiz

Untitled Heiko Klug factory anatomical heart (4)

Untitled Heiko Klug factory anatomical heart (3)

Untitled Heiko Klug factory anatomical heart (2)

Untitled Heiko Klug factory anatomical heart (1)

Gritty factory inspired work by Germany based art director, Heiko Klug. What started as a test scene in 3ds Max became a full fledged personal project. As Heiko added more detail, he transformed a basic anatomical heart into something that could be found deep in a dark basement of an old building slowly pumping away.



22 Sep 19:14

"I am not young enough to know everything."

“I am not young enough to know everything.”

- Oscar Wilde
24 Sep 22:03

"They are the earliest painted portraits that have survived;...

"They are the earliest painted portraits that have survived; they were painted whilst the Gospels of the New Testament were being written. Why then do they strike us today as being so immediate? Why does their individuality feel like our own? Why is their look more contemporary than any look to be found in the rest of the two millennia of traditional European art which followed them? The Fayum portraits touch us, as if they had been painted last month. Why? This is the riddle.”

-John Berger, from “The Fayum Portraits”

25 Sep 02:45


25 Sep 16:38

What they say/What I hear

25 Sep 19:58

tastefullyoffensive: Mom Con [jimbenton] As a mom, I’m...


Mom Con [jimbenton]

As a mom, I’m pretty pissed someone revealed our secret meetings.

26 Sep 00:21

Going to hell for this

26 Sep 14:39

This map, by Douglas Coupland, shows an imagined balkanization...

This map, by Douglas Coupland, shows an imagined balkanization of the US and Canada by 2092.

22 Sep 01:57

Fucking squirrel (by jomeister09)

Cary Renquist

Wait for it....

Fucking squirrel (by jomeister09)

19 Sep 18:00

20 Most Magnificent Places To Read Books

by Anna Chui

Where do you usually read? On your bed, in the backyard or in a coffee shop?

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” - Mark Twain

If you too agree with what Mark Twain said, just imagine how you’d feel reading your book in one of these most magnificent reading places…

1. Stuttgart Library, Germany

Stuttgart Library, Germany

2. Jose Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City, Mexico

Jose Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City

3. The Vennesla Library and Culture House, Vennesla, Norway

The Vennesla Library and Culture House, Vennesla, Norway

4. Joe & Rika Mansueto Library, University of Chicago, USA

Joe & Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago

5. Book Mountain Library, Spijkenisse, The Netherlands

Book Mountain Library, Spijkenisse, The Netherlands

6. Los Angeles Central Library, Los Angeles, USA

Los Angeles Central Library

7. New York Public Library, New York, USA

New York Public Library

8. Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA

Library of Congress

9. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio, Brazil

Royal Portuguese Reading Room

10. The Hearst Castle Library, California, USA

The Hearst Castle Library

11. Librería El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Libreria El Ateneo Buenos Aires

12. The Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Trinity Colleage Library Dublin Ireland

13. Jay Walker’s Private Library, USA

Jay Walkers Private Library USA

14. Skywalker Ranch Library, California, USA

Skywalker Ranch Library USA

15. House On The Rock, Wisconsin, USA

House On The Rock

16. Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

shakespear and company paris

17. The Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, ItalyLibreria-Acqua-Alta-Venice

18. Taipei Public Library, Taiwan

Taipei public library

 19. Liyuan Library, China

Liyuan Library

20. Old Market Library, Min Buri, Bangkok

Old Market Library, Min Buri, Bangkok

Images speak louder than words: 18 Images Shown Where Children Sleep Around the World

The post 20 Most Magnificent Places To Read Books appeared first on Lifehack.

21 Sep 19:12

Courageous Heart

Cary Renquist

I miss the cards -- it was always interesting to see who had checked out the book before you....

20 Sep 20:57

Found this really helpful

20 Sep 20:30

The Great Slang Debate: 107 Regional Slang Words To Know

by Joe Vennare

Do you say pop or soda?

Ah yes, the timeless regional slang debate that can quickly turn a friend into a foe. Or, at least have us wondering what the heck that guy was talking about when he said he wears a toboggan on his head.

For the record, southerners wear a toboggan (aka knit cap) on their head, while our friends up north ride on a toboggan (aka sled) in the snow.

Unlike politics and religion, we’re free to argue over pronunciations and local dialect in mixed company. And, most of us do. That’s because, depending on where we were raised, our pronunciation and even definition of certain words can differ drastically.

For instance, is it Jimmies or sprinkles, cellar or basement? That depends on who you ask.

Have you ever played on a teedle board? How about a tilt? If you’ve ever been on a seesaw the answer to both questions is yes. They’re all the same thing; a teeter totter.

Wow that’s confusing!

Thankfully, a new video from the team over at Mental Floss is helping to make sense of the great slang debate.

107 Regional Slang Words | Mental Floss

Being a freelance writer, I often find myself messing up common phrases. 25 Common Phrases That You’re Saying Wrong

The post The Great Slang Debate: 107 Regional Slang Words To Know appeared first on Lifehack.


21 Sep 05:18

Extreme Microbe Brewing: the Curse of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

by timothy
Cary Renquist

C'mon yoplait, when are you going to make a pro-biotic yoghurt that will let me make beer in my belly?

An anonymous reader writes with a story excerpt that may inspire envy in some readers: "Most beer guts are the result of consuming fermented brew, but a new case study describes a rare syndrome that had one man's gut fermenting brew, not consuming it. It's called gut fermentation syndrome or auto-brewery syndrome, and it's 'a relatively unknown phenomenon in Western medicine' according to a study published in July's International Journal of Clinical Medicine. 'Only a few cases have been reported in the last three decades' according to Dr. Barbara Cordell, the dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, Texas, and Dr. Justin McCarthy, a Lubbock gastroenterologist, the study's authors." (More at NPR.)

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

19 Sep 18:10

Jessica Harrison’s Gutsy Porcelain Exhibition

by Vanessa Ruiz

Jessica Harrison Ethel

Jessica Harrison Karen

Jessica Harrison Bridget

Jessica Harrison Isobel

Jessica Harrison Clare

Jessica Harrison Sibyl

We’ve posted these twisted takes on the classic porcelain figurine by Jessica Harrison before on Street Anatomy and have been waiting patiently to see if she’d create more in the creeptastic series. Well to our morbid delight she has!

Jessica just announced a new exhibition of her work opening this month called Body & Soul: contemporary international ceramics at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York. The exhibition will feature 10 of her new figurines alongside the work of 25 international artists exploring the human body through the medium of clay.

Body & Soul: contemporary international ceramics
24th September – 2nd March 2013
Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York

Having begun studies in sculpture in Scotland in 2000, Jessica recently completed a practice-led PhD from the Edinburgh College of Art this year funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She “unravels imaginative touch” in creating her sculptures, something clearly seen here as she shows these beautiful female porcelain figures so gruesomely tearing out their innards.

View more of Jessica Harrison’s work at and visit her online shop with prints!



16 Sep 05:00

Kids are Trapped in the Darndest Things

by Adam


12 Sep 18:00

Picking Through George Washington's Trash

by Rebecca Onion
Cary Renquist

Digging in the old dump by our house was one of my favorite activities when I was a kid...

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Here are five things found in a garbage pile excavated at George Washington’s plantation home in Virginia between 1990 and 1994. The Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association has put a collection of these finds online, in a searchable database, along with item descriptions. Over 300,000 artifacts have been unearthed in all.

Workers at Mt. Vernon found the midden (a word archaeologists use to describe a pile of waste produced by the normal activities of daily life, including cooking and eating) in 1948 when they dug a hole to plant a tree. Located in a spot near the former location of the Washingtons’ kitchen, the midden contained materials dating from 1735 through 1990. (Washington owned Mt. Vernon between 1761 and his death in 1799.)

Browsing the website is an oddly hypnotic experience. The best way to do so is to visit the “objects” page and hit “refresh.” The trash—fragments of pots, buttons, pieces of ladies’ fans, nails, thimbles, animal bones, marbles—flashes by in a neatly arranged digital heap.

Clicking on a particular piece yields a surprisingly deep history about the way that the Washingtons lived.  A cherry pit: Washington “grew several cherry varieties in his fruit garden” before the Revolution. A bit of broken wig curler: Colonial men and women would wrap these in wet paper and then wind wig hair around them, before setting the whole wig into an oven to dry. Parts of a pig skull: Colonial elites used to eat pig heads “boiled, hashed, or roasted.”

The most interesting objects are those that, like the cowrie shell below, bear some witness to the presence of enslaved laborers. This particular species of cowrie was native to Africa, and probably came to Mt. Vernon along with a newly purchased person.

12 Sep 21:45

Listen to the sound of your preconceived gender norms shattering...

Listen to the sound of your preconceived gender norms shattering under the weight of knowledge about the mothers of science fiction.

13 Sep 03:51

Panoramic photo gone wrong

13 Sep 05:43

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss

by rachel

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss

Los Angeles designer Isaac Krauss has crafted this pristine octopus table by hand, and it’s finished with a molten bronze that gives the natural brown color and a round glass top. Sand blasting, glass eyes and extreme details are just a fraction of what is shown on Krauss’ website that shares the entire process through a series of photos.

Built piece by piece in his LA workshop, Krauss first made the skeleton of the base and continued on by molding each major part from aluminum wire, steel, and seven to eleven coats of ceramic. Artists like Maximo Riera have created furniture incorporating great animals of our earth– but this 1500 hour project is a beauty to the testament of patience and dedication.

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss (5)

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss (4)

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss (3)

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss (2)

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss (1)

Life-like Octopus Table by Isaac Krauss is a post from Inthralld.

14 Sep 16:57

almost invisible

15 Sep 10:59

Saw this guy making an illegal uturn on my way home today

15 Sep 15:42

What Makes Good Bacteria Go Bad? It’s Not Them, It’s You Imagine...

What Makes Good Bacteria Go Bad? It’s Not Them, It’s You

Imagine a friend of a friend brings his family to stay with you — his family of tiny survivalists. For weeks or months you all live quietly side by side with no problems. You share meals. Your kids play together.

Then one day you get sick — maybe felled by a bad cold or the flu. Suddenly certain the end is near, your jittery houseguest breaks out an armory’s worth of chemical weapons. He abandons his community to save himself and hunt for a new home, wreaking havoc on the way out the door.

That’s essentially the story line microbiologists in Buffalo, N.Y., have now worked out for why colonies ofStreptococcus pneumoniaebacteria (akapneumococcus) can camp out happily and harmlessly for months at a time in the nose and throats of humans, then abruptly turn on their hosts. The germs sometimes trigger painful earaches or even meningitis in kids, and often pneumonia in the elderly and others with weak immune systems.

Read the rest on NPR’s Shots health blog.

(Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control)

15 Sep 17:45

Awesome GIFs of "Flare Surfing"

by Pinar

A couple of years ago, while on the Red Bull Minor Threat trip in Indonesia, professional surfer Bruce Irons decided to take his sport to the next level by strapping a few flares onto his board. What resulted is a stunning visual spectacle that looks almost like a man riding the waves on a board of flames. Irons admits that he wasn't too keen on the idea when fellow team member Sam McIntosh suggested the "flare surfing" idea to him. However, in the end, he opted to perform the stunt, not knowing just how awesome the blazing trail of inferno would look at night through the water.

Check out the video, below, of Irons in action and talking about the incredible trick.

via [reddit, Chicka-Chicka Gifs]