Archive for the 'Cool Stuff' Category
Some Calvin and Hobbes fans have made a fake trailer for a movie where Calvin is now an adult and his imagination is even more powerful—but it’s turning darker. And all I can say is “Wow.”
ISS Commander Chris Hadfield was asked by high school students to demonstrate what happens when you wring out a washcloth in zero gravity. The result is pretty cool and is all about surface tension!
The New Yorker gives an in-depth look at Apollo Robbins, a professional magician and lecturer whose act revolves around picking pockets. He’s so good at it that he can remove people’s glasses and engagement rings without them realizing it. This level of skill requires significant knowledge of human cognition, and he lectures about what he’s learned to law enforcement, the military, corporations, and neuroscientists. This knowledge of human nature is actually the most important part of being a master pickpocket, as opposed to manual dexterity (which is also a necessity, of course, but it’s not sufficient in and of itself). Also interesting is that he learned everything intuitively, and it was only after he studied the field of human cognition that he was able to put words to what he knew.
I guess the best way to describe cliodynamics is to say that it applies statistical methods to human society and history, in an effort to find patterns that can be generalized to predict future trends and events. The difficult part is determining which factors should be considered, as human societal behavior doesn’t lend itself to straightforward analysis.
One very interesting result is two cycles of political unrest that have occurred throughout human history and can even explain the timing of the recent Egyptian uprising. The first cycle repeats about every 200-300 years and is the result of labor supply outstripping demand due to population growth. This forms a class of elites who end up fighting for power. The second cycle occurs about every 50 years, or approximately two generations. Here in the United States, we’re due for the next one sometime around 2020.
Fifth grader Tyler Sullivan missed school to meet President Obama, who gave him a hand-written, signed excuse note on presidential stationary. It says, “Mr. Ackerman — Please Excuse Tyler … he was with me! <signed Barack Obama>”. How cool is that!
This year’s Ig Nobel prizes were awarded on September 20th. Here are some of the winners:
- Peace Prize: The SKN Company, for converting old ammunition into diamonds.
- Neuroscience Prize: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford, for showing that false positives will occur naturally in fMRI tests—by demonstrating meaningful brain activity in a dead salmon.
- Literature Prize: The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
- Anatomy Prize: Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.
- Medicine Prize: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti, for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.
This heavy lift ship, the VB 10,000 by Versabar, is known as “The Claw”. It’s used to lift sunken oil rig platforms from the ocean floor and has a rated lift capacity of 7500 tons. What gets me is that they probably pay someone to operate this machine—I’m pretty sure that any red-blooded American male would gladly pay them for the privilege of using this equipment.
This gold ring includes a band made from a meteorite, with embedded gems representing the nine planets (yeah, yeah, I know). Way cool! And it can be yours for only $4200.
Sealand is a decommissioned anti-aircraft platform seven miles off the English coast. The occupants have declared it to be a sovereign nation, but it’s not recognized as such, and the UK government has just decided to ignore them. Back in the year 2000, a company named HavenCo installed computer servers in Sealand, making it the ultimate data haven, unfettered by governments, laws, or regulations. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. The linked article has the full story.
After a certain battle during the American Civil War, some soldiers discovered that their wounds were glowing in the dark. And these men were more likely to recover from their injuries. Modern researchers have concluded that the culprit was a bioluminescent bacteria named Photorhabdus luminescens. And one of the things that P. luminescens does is release a toxin that kills other, competing bacteria—thus acting as a primitive antibacterial.