Nasty, Brutish & Short

Weird Science Archives

Scientists Peeved They Don't Have All the Answers

June 3, 2008 10:06 AM

From the NYT:

A decade ago, astronomers discovered that what is true for your car keys is not true for the galaxies. Having been impelled apart by the force of the Big Bang, the galaxies, in defiance of cosmic gravity, are picking up speed on a dash toward eternity. If they were keys, they would be shooting for the ceiling.

“That is how shocking this was,” Dr. Livio said.

It is still shocking. Although cosmologists have adopted a cute name, dark energy, for whatever is driving this apparently antigravitational behavior on the part of the universe, nobody claims to understand why it is happening, or its implications for the future of the universe and of the life within it, despite thousands of learned papers, scores of conferences and millions of dollars’ worth of telescope time. It has led some cosmologists to the verge of abandoning their fondest dream: a theory that can account for the universe and everything about it in a single breath.

What a bunch of idiots.  Fools on fools' errands.  And such arrogance!  They want a theory that can account for no less than "the universe and everything about it."  And they're looking in telescopes to try to find it. 

Amusing though that they call this b.s. "dark energy."  Wonder who had a hand in that? 

More on the Cincinnati earthquake: If you want homeowners' coverage for one, you can't get it

May 9, 2008 01:32 PM

Well I never thought this would be an issue.  Just got the quote back from the insurance man for homeowners' coverage on the new house (yes, we're finally moving, no I haven't blogged about it.  Not enough hours in the day).  He gave me two quotes.  One for earthquake coverage, one without.  An explanatory note says the insurance company has suspended its agents' binding authority for earthquake coverage "until further notice."  So if I opt for earthquake coverage, they'll add it to the policy, if and when they are allowed to cover earthquakes again.

This is Ohio!  Talk about something that makes you think that "they" know something we don't.  The Big One is just around the corner and the only people who know it is Big Insurance! 

I say that in jest, of course.  Kind of.  It's been so long since I've blogged, my readers (if there are any left) may not know my sense of humor.

But anyway: If they are allowed to write coverage for earthquakes again, it will cost me $250 per year.  For something that supposedly is really, really unlikely.  Is $250 for earthquake coverage--in Ohio--a rip off?  The house is brick, so any damage would be really expensive to fix.  But what are the chances?

UPDATE:  I asked the agent about it, and he said that within an hour of the earthquake, he'd gotten an email informing him that he no longer had binding authority for earthquake coverage.  And, he says coverage is going to be getting a lot more expensive, not less.  But for $250 per year in earthquake coverage, I'd like to at least be within a 10 hour drive of a palm tree. 

Mansfield's Memories: The Earthquakes of 1811-1812

April 18, 2008 09:13 PM

The memories of the earthquake of 2008, Chez NBS, are not nearly so interesting.  It involved both of us waking up, and me, briefly thinking something was wrong with the furnace and making it thump.  But why would the furnace be kicking on?  And then it was, where's Henry?  Because it was like he was on the floor, scratching like crazy with a hind leg.  But he seemed fine, and once we established that, it was back to sleep for us.  You tend to do that when you have a new baby and it's not wailing.  Back to sleep, quick!  It did occur to me for a minute that it was an earthquake.  But I didn't speak up, and now wish I had.  What an authority I would have seemed!

But anyway, what about Mr. Mansfield?  If you've never read his Personal Memories: Social, Political and Literary with Sketches of Many Noted People 1803-1843, you're missing out.  It's life in Cincinnati circa those days, and it is extraordinarly interesting.  You think times are tough now?  You aren't at risk of getting scalped by Indians.

Here's how he recalls the earthquakes.  Yes, he says there was more than one.  He says it went on for several months:

In the midst of this work [his father surveying Northwestern Ohio and Indiana] an event occured which was memorable then, and hardly less so now.  On the night of the 16th of December, 1811, Cousin Mary and I were waked up by a rattling which we supposed to be rats, but which proved to be the handles of a trunk...

Mansfield was, by the way, from a wealthy family.  And yes, they apparently had rats.  I think everyone did.

...In a moment we found the room was shaking, and sprang up frightened.  Then we heard my father's voice calling us.  We rushed down stairs, and, with the whole family, ran into the yard.  While we ran out the bricks were falling from the roof of the house, the chimney having been shaken down...

Thank God this didn't happen to us, we just got an offer on the house, and the inspection is Sunday.

...There was a light snow on the ground, and a carriage in the yard.  My mother and little sister took refuge in the carriage, and my father went back to the house, saying there was more danger of rheumatism than of the house falling.

I like people who are sensible enough to be practical during natural disasters. 

Anyway, back to it:

In Cincinnati...

Mansfield was not technically in "Cincinnati," by the way, he was two miles away, at "Bates Place."  Bonus points to any commenter who can figure out where "Bates Place" was.  I can't tell where it was, but Mansfield says that in later years, it was called "Mt. Comfort" and that their house was "down the Hamilton Road from Cincinnati."  It sounds like was near Northside (f/k/a Cumminsville) but that community was established by then, so Mansfield must have been somewhere different. 

But back to what was going on in the big city:

...the Columbian Inn, at the Corner of Main and Columbia Streets...

Columbia Street must have been below what is now Third Street, and is probably under what is now Great American Ballpark.  There is no Columbia Street now, so far as I know.

...was the principal house of entertainment, where some of the first young men and ladies boarded.  It is said, that on that night the street in front of the Columbian Inn presented a strong contrast to the ordinary rules of propriety; in fact, there was more of nature displayed than of fashion...

I find it hard to believe that's true.  It was December, in the days before climate control.  I'm sure they dressed appropriately for bed, if it really was a respectible boarding house.

The earthquake of December 16, 1811, was the first of a series of earthquakes, which continued about five months.  My father, in order to test the state of things, put a very delicate pendulum inside one of our front windows, and that pendulum never ceased to vibrate in nearly five months.  In the meanwhile, there were, in January and February, several violent shocks....

At our house, the earthquake gave rise to a sort of new life.  Our family was, of course, much alarmed, and some of the gentlement in town would ride out and spend the night with us.... In this manner the winter passed.  Severe shocks of earthquakes occured frequently.  I remember one happening in the morning, when I was at a neighboring log-house.  There was corn on the upper floor, and I heard that corn roll from one side of the house to the other.  As I have said, these shocks did not cease until May.  At that time we were preparing to go to the East, and the government making ready its troops for the march on Canada.

Those Brits.  Still not happy about the whole independence thing. 

I remember talk of the earthquake here in the early '80s--it was in August, and we were in Michigan at the time.  It was the talk of the resort up there, since the resort is entirely made up of people from Cincinnati.  And I can remember hearing from my paternal grandmother, who was in downtown Cincinnati that day with her sister.  They saw a man running from a skyscraper, yelling that everyone should get away from the building, because there had been an earthquake.  "Oh that poor man," they said.  Because he seemed quite insane.  Not everyone felt that earthquake, I guess.

But I think most people felt the one we had this morning, unless they were sleeping really soundly.  I heard we had an aftershock around 10:30 am.  I didn't feel that.  Maybe we'll have more.  Maybe it will go on for five months!

"Expelled"--The Art House Film no Art House is Going to Show

April 2, 2008 10:30 PM

But it sure sounds interesting.

In fact, I wonder who, if anyone, is going to show this film. It obviously isn't typical indie film fare. And those who like indie films aren't open-minded enough to see it. We shall see if the independent film theaters in town--the Esquire in Clifton and the Mariemont--are actually brave enough to show it. My guess is no.

For one intellect's thoughts on the film, check out this learned prof:

He seems smart.

Sign of the Times: I have been invited to a CLE that focuses on "strategies to obtain or deny insurance coverage related to global warming claims."

February 19, 2008 02:39 PM

So now, apparently, companies are going to look to their insurer when they get sued for supposedly causing global warming:

Shades of North Korea in New Eco-Friendly Proposals for Californians

January 7, 2008 10:45 AM

From the American Thinker, there is word that proposed changes to California's building codes requires a PCT, which is a "programmable communicating thermostat."  Here's how that works:

Every new home and every change to existing homes' central heating and air conditioning systems will required to be fitted with a PCT beginning next year following the issuance of the revision.  Each PCT will be fitted with a "non-removable " FM receiver that will allow the power authorities to increase your air conditioning temperature setpoint or decrease your heater temperature setpoint to any value they chose.  During "price events" those changes are limited to +/- four degrees F and you would be able to manually override the changes.  During "emergency events" the new setpoints can be whatever the power authority desires and you would not be able to alter them.

Yes, you read that right.  Governmental authorities in the state capital get to control the thermostat.  It sounds to me like North Korea, where every home is equipped with a radio that plays government propaganda all day, every day.  You can turn it down, but not off.  It extolls the virtues of their Dear Leader, and passes on helpful "suggestions" such as "don't eat more than two meals a day," because more than two meals a day can be hazardous to your health.  Maybe that's next for California?  Why not have the PCT play tree-hugging propaganda?  It's a radio. You can bet they can make it talk to you. 

On the plus side to PCTs: The social savings.  Think of all the arguments that are eliminated when you farm all the decision-making out to the government!

Pet Detectives are real...

...I had no idea.  This family searched for six days, and the pet detective (and his bluetick) found their dog in six minutes.

They took Samantha to the place where Rudy was last seen - a broken backyard fence - and gave her a whiff of one of Rudy's toys. Samantha followed the scent of the little black dog to a neighbor's yard where the family had looked several times before. But this time, as they called Rudy's name, his little head popped up from a ditch and he barked.

He was pinned between a log and a fence in a neighbor's yard. He couldn't move his legs, but he was alive.

"I've never been so happy in my entire life!" said Ellis of the moment she saw her dog. "I was screaming 'That's my dog! That's my dog!"

Wouldn't that be a rewarding side job?  And he charges $350 a pop.  Not bad for a side gig doing what you enjoy. 

This is creepy though:  Rudy's owner had already hired a pet psychic, who told the dog was "near the house and couldn't move," but couldn't pin down the exact spot.

Turned out to be true!

At long last, the details on the Kucinich UFO sighting

January 2, 2008 02:22 PM

I've been interested in this ever since Shirley MacLaine chimed in last fall, and said that Dennis Kucinich had seen a UFO in the backyard of her house.  He's refused to give us the details, but now we've got 'em, thanks to the intrepid reporters at The Wall Street JournalThey spoke to the others who were there, Paul Costanzo, "a Juilliard-trained trumpet player and jujitsu black belt, who worked as Ms. MacLaine's assistant, personal trainer and bodyguard," and Mr. Costanzo's then-girfriend.

Ms. MacLaine was up performing her one woman show in Canada at the time, and wasn't home.  Dennis was living at her house, though, writing his memoirs after Clevelanders voted him out of office after one term as Mayor.  So it was just the three of them.  You know, hanging out at Shirley's place.

Anyway, back to the story:

The day was strange from the start. For hours, Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Costanzo and his companion noticed a high-pitched sound. "There was a sense that something extraordinary was happening all day," says the girlfriend. She and Mr. Costanzo say that none of the three consumed alcohol or took drugs.

As they sat down to a dinner, Mr. Kucinich spotted a light in the distance, to the left of Mount Rainier. Mr. Costanzo thought it was a helicopter.

But Mr. Kucinich walked outside to the deck to look through the telescope that he had bought Ms. MacLaine as a house gift. After a few minutes, Mr. Kucinich summoned the other two: "Guys, come on out here and look at this."

Mr. Costanzo and his girlfriend joined Mr. Kucinich, where they took turns peering through the telescope. What they saw in the far distance, according to both witnesses, was a hovering light, which soon divided into two, and then three.

After a few minutes, the lights moved closer and it became apparent that they were actually three charcoal-gray, triangular craft, flying in a tight wedge. The girlfriend remembers each triangle having red and green lights running down the edges, with a laser-like red light at the tail. Mr. Costanzo recalls white lights, but no tail.

Mr. Costanzo says each triangle was roughly the size of a large van, while his former girlfriend compares it to a "larger Cessna, smaller than a jet certainly." Neither recalls seeing any markings, landing gear, engines, windows or cockpits.

The craft approached to within 200 yards, suspended over the field just beyond the swimming pool. Both witnesses say it emitted a quiet, throbbing sound -- nothing like an airplane engine.

"There was a feeling of wanting to communicate something, but I didn't know what," says Mr. Costanzo.

The craft held steady in midair, for perhaps a minute, then sped away, Mr. Costanzo says. "Nothing had landed," he says. "No strange beings had disembarked. No obvious messages were beamed down. When they were completely out of sight, we all looked at each other disbelieving what we had seen."

At Mr. Kucinich's suggestion, they jotted down their impressions and drew pictures to memorialize the event. Mr. Kucinich kept the notes, according to Ms. MacLaine, who said he promised her recently that he would try to find them.

"It was proof to me that we're obviously not alone," says the girlfriend.

The next day, the group spotted what they thought to be military helicopters buzzing around the valley where they had made the sighting. And the high-pitched sound remained.

Mr. Kucinich called Ms. MacLaine in Canada to tell her what had happened. "He said it was beautiful, serene, and it moved him," says Ms. MacLaine, who is supporting Mr. Kucinich's candidacy. "He was not afraid of it, let's put it that way. Seeing something that close and sophisticated and gentle."

Ms. MacLaine says she has seen UFOs from a distance in New Mexico and Peru, but never up close. She was envious. "I'm the one who reports them, but they never make close visitation. What am I doing wrong?"

What is she doing wrong, indeed?

Also, where are those notes?  Dennis promised Shirley recently that he would try to find them.  Why doesn't he get on that?

And what about this:

Ms. MacLaine says she called Mr. Kucinich before she included his UFO sighting in her book, "Sage-ing while Age-ing," a recounting of her spiritual and professional journeys. "I can handle it," she says he told her.

Talk about things you can say when you know your Presidential campaign is going nowhere.  Here's how I imagine that conversation going down:

Drrrrrring.  Drrrrrrrrring.  [phone ringing].

Dennis:  "Howdy ho!"

Shirley: "Hey Denny it's Shirls."

Dennis: "Haaaaay Shirls!!!!"

Shirley: "Your voice.  Dennis.  God, I miss you.  When you need me in New Hampshire, I'm there for you."

Dennis: "I need to check with Elizabeth."

Shirley: "LOVE that girl.  You know Den, I was thinking..."

Dennis: "Talk to me Shirls!  Talk to me!"

Shirley: "...remember when you were staying with me twenty five years ago..."

Dennis: "OH YEAH.  KEEP TALKING.  OH YEAH!"

Shirley: "Well I was just down in Peru looking at cave art drawn here five million years by Our Friends and was thinking about that time you were at my house with Pauly and his girl, and you all had that special experience."

Dennis: "OH YEAH.  KEEP TALKING.  OH YEAH!"

Shirley:  "Dennis! (giggles)  I'm talking about the time you saw The Ship!  I was wondering if I could put that in my new book, Sage-ing While Age-ing."

Dennis: "Oh what the hell.  Why not."

Shirley: "Wonders, Den.  Wonders.  You're the best!  Hugs and kisses to Elizabeth!"

Dennis: "OH YEAH.  KEEP TALKING.  OH YEAH!"

Now I understand the "green" shopping movement...

December 13, 2007 12:31 PM

...it's an idiot tax, like lottery tickets.  Economic natural selection, but for rich, coastal people.  From The New York Times:

Some designs marketed as environment-friendly might include only a fraction of organic cotton, or a tag made of recycled paper. And some so-called green fashion may be downright silly, like the Goyard canvas shopping tote shown in the Barneys “Have a Green Holiday” catalog: the bag is $1,065, plus $310 for painted monogramming of a triangular recycle symbol in gold. The canvas, the catalog says, is “100% recyclable.”

Isn't it good to know you can recycle that $1,065 canvas bag ($1,375, if you get it monogrammed)?  What a great stewardship of resources!

And the old patchwork quilt has come full circle.  At Barney's, you can get a Duro Olowu dress that is made from a patchwork of “recycled fabric.”   And by that, he means "a mix of his own prints and some original, unused samples of leftover couture textiles he found."

It retails at $7,600.

NASA explores sex in space (face it, you've wondered about this)

December 4, 2007 10:36 AM

A new book says NASA had a mission codenamed STS-XX.  And guess what it was about?  Per the book's author:

"The issue of sex in space is a serious one," he says. "The experiments carried out so far relate to missions planned for married couples on the future International Space Station, the successor to Mir. Scientists need to know how far sexual relations are possible without gravity."

He cites a confidential Nasa report on a space shuttle mission in 1996. A project codenamed STS-XX was to explore sexual positions possible in a weightless atmosphere.

Twenty positions were tested by computer simulation to obtain the best 10, he says. "Two guinea pigs then tested them in real zero-gravity conditions. The results were videotaped but are considered so sensitive that even Nasa was only given a censored version."

Only four positions were found possible without "mechanical assistance". The other six needed a special elastic belt and inflatable tunnel, like an open-ended sleeping bag.

A special elastic belt and inflatable tunnel.  Hot.

Idiots Delight: "Green" galas are now the rage

November 30, 2007 03:01 PM

From The New York Times' House and Garden section, check out the events planner who tried to make his topiaries himself, out of 6,000 pounds of recycled paper strips:

It was the language of excess — those topiaries recalled the gardens of Versailles — expressed in the material of frugality.

But then he discovered that he couldn't use them in the museum where the event was to be held, because the material wasn't flame retardant:

“So then we had to find the organic fire retardant guy,” he continued, “and for two and a half months we were dipping 6,000 pounds of paper in fire retardant and then trying to dry it out by spreading it on the floors of our warehouse.” As the date of the event loomed closer, Mr. Stark looked out upon the soggy landscape, realized he needed help, and bought three energy-hogging commercial dryers to finish the job.

Organic fire retardant for the organic retardeds.  Incredible.

As were the hosts who planned this entertainment for the swells at a book party:

The décor was supplied by Gelitin, four male Viennese conceptual artists who wore high heels and buckets on their heads but no pants, and who spent the evening building a plywood structure over the bewildered guests’ heads. Anthony Roth Costanzo, a countertenor, sang a 16th-century melody called “Flow My Tears.” And then the Gelitin members, along with three Icelandic artists, also men, from a collective called Moms, took the buckets off their heads and urinated — with dead-eye accuracy, said Dodie Kazanjian, a Vogue editor and one of the events’ hosts — into one another’s pails.

Cultural trash.

Idiots Delight, Wednesday Edition: The ladies of The View discuss--in all seriousness--whether the earth is round. And at the very end, Barbara Walters is EXTREMELY confused about the internet and where babies come from.

September 19, 2007 10:25 AM

Thanks to Global Warming, Entire Point of Colonizing the Americas Now Realized!

September 17, 2007 12:54 PM

Yes, it's true.  The Northwest Passage is now open for thru traffic.  If this had happened 400 years ago, we could have gotten our opium directly from China instead of cocaine from South America.  So life as we know it today would be much, much different.  Yay, global warming!

I say call me when it's warm enough for tourism potential. 

Below: A young woman reassures her sea captain father that yes, one day we will be able to get poisonous dog food and toys containing dangerous quantities of lead shipped directly to the East Coast.

Image:Millais - Überfahrt nach Nordwest.jpg

The Northwest Passage, by John Everett Millais (1874).

HT: Dr. Mabuse, who says "Quick!  Someone call the Queen!  The Northwest Passage is open!"

New Study: Political Ideology May Be "Hard Wired" in the Brain

September 10, 2007 08:02 AM

Per a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.  This is good news, folks.  Perhaps liberalism can be cured!

Worthless Academic Study No. 3,678: "Men Want Hot Women, Study Confirms"

September 4, 2007 02:25 PM

From the AP:

Participants ranged in age from 26 to their early 40s and took part in "speed dating," short meetings of three to seven minutes in which people chat, then move on to meet another dater. Afterward, participants check off the people they'd like to meet again, and dates can be arranged between pairs who select one another.

Speed dating let researchers look at a lot of mate choices in a short time, Todd said.

In the study, participants were asked before the session to fill out a questionnaire about what they were looking for in a mate, listing such categories as wealth and status, family commitment, physical appearance, healthiness and attractiveness.

After the session, the researchers compared what the participants said they were looking for with the people they actually chose to ask for another date.

Men's choices did not reflect their stated preferences, the researchers concluded. Instead, men appeared to base their decisions mostly on the women's physical attractiveness.

The men also appeared to be much less choosy. Men tended to select nearly every woman above a certain minimum attractiveness threshold, Todd said.

I hope this study wasn't funded with taxpayer dollars.  Though I do wonder what they mean by "minimum attractiveness threshold?"  Is it like Hot or Not?

Hummer is vandalized in upscale tree-hugger neighborhood

July 19, 2007 01:11 PM

From the Washington Post:

On a narrow, leafy street in Northwest Washington, where Prius hybrid cars and Volvos are the norm, one man bought a flashy gray Hummer that was too massive to fit in his garage.

So he parked the seven-foot-tall behemoth on the street in front of his house and smiled politely when his eco-friendly neighbors looked on in disapproval at his "dream car."

It lasted five days on the street before two masked men took a bat to every window, a knife to each 38-inch tire and scratched into the body: "FOR THE ENVIRON."

Oh the open-mindedness of the modern American environmentalist.  You don't like something, destroy it.  Can't sensible people simply agree that Hummers and Priuses are both tacky, and have no place in our common life?

I love Tammy Bruce's take on Al Gore's son getting busted for DUI, possession of controlled substances, and driving 100 mph in his Prius. This is what happens when you have an outbreak of smug.

July 6, 2007 09:28 PM

Wright-Patt Attempted to Develop "Gay Bomb" in the '90s

June 12, 2007 08:51 AM

A Freedom of Information Act request to Wright-Patt shows that in the early '90s, the Air Force was considering how to develop a chemical weapon that would turn the enemy gay:

As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."

The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon.

"The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another," Hammond said after reviewing the documents.

A Department of Defense official said on Friday that the idea was quickly dismissed.  Apparently, they also considered spraying the enemy with bee pheromones and hiding bee hives behind enemy lines

Seriously.  This kind of creativity would not be necessary if liberals didn't get so exercised about us taking care of the enemy the old-fashioned way.

What I was not doing this weekend... participating in the World Naked Bike Ride!

June 11, 2007 08:33 AM

Of course, it's a protest against global warming:

The naked cyclists - and others with strategically-placed body paint, sticky tape or bum bags - were highlighting the damage caused by car dependency.

Here I am, 33 years old, and I've never even heard of a bum bag. 

One of the participants explains the larger point of the World Naked Bike Ride:

He said: "We are seeing an increasing number of stories of melting ice caps and Antarctica crumbling away and no government is doing anything serious about this.

"They are paying lip service to the problem so people have been taking to their bikes, unclothing, to express their feelings about it."

Never talk about paying lip service to a problem when you're bike riding naked.

Want pictures?  Of course you do!

 Photo

That's the World Naked Cyclists in Mexico City.  Hope these Mexicans don't want amnesty here, too!

Here they are in Vancouver:

Photo

Awww, too bad it rained!  Good weather in London, though:

Photo

A perfect day for a naked bike ride!  And, now everybody believes in global warming!

Previously: "It's spectacular!"

That Monster Hog Was No Wild Hog

June 7, 2007 11:10 PM

We're talking about the one we posted about, here.  It turns out it was a farm raised pig named Fred.  And it was killed in a fenced-in area.

Can you believe this thing was running around in the woods in Alabama?

May 29, 2007 03:33 PM

Photo

That's eleven year old Jameson Stone (top) and the wild hog he killed in 'Bama over the weekend.  It weighs 1051 pounds and is over nine feet long.

It feels really good," Jamison said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It's a good accomplishment. I probably won't ever kill anything else that big."

Well, not unless he takes out Dennis Kucinich's wife.  But in the meantime, what's going to happen to that hog?

The hog's head is being mounted by Jerry Cunningham of Jerry's Taxidermy. Cunningham said the animal measured 54 inches around the head, 74 inches around the shoulders and 11 inches from the eyes to the end of its snout.

"It's huge," he said. "It's just the biggest thing I've ever seen."

Mike Stone is having sausage made from the rest of the animal. "We'll probably get 500 to 700 pounds," he said.

Mmmmmm [smacks lips].  Tasty sausage.

And what is with The Times' Other Latest Obsession?

May 8, 2007 03:33 PM

And no, I don't mean preppies.  I mean animals and their love lives.  On April 30, it was the ducks:

Dr. Brennan was oblivious to bird phalluses until 1999.  While working in a Costa Rican forest, she observed a pair of birds called tinamous mating. “They became unattached, and I saw this huge thing hanging off of him,” she said. “I could not believe it. It became one of those questions I wrote down: why do these males have this huge phallus?” ...

Gazing at the enormous organs, she asked herself a question that apparently no one had asked before.  “So what does the female look like?” she said. “Obviously you can’t have something like that without some place to put it in. You need a garage to park the car.”

And then on May 3 it was the frogs:

Then Mr. Noonan said in a low voice, “Hey, come look at this.”

The glare of his flashlight showed a male frog locked onto the back of a female twice his size.

“They’re in amplexus,” Mr. Barker said, using the polite biological term, and the Latin word, for embrace.

Some embrace. It’s more like a lock hold. The male atop the female grasps her with his forelegs and hangs on for dear life as he fertilizes the eggs she releases into the water, all the while fending off other males trying to depose him.

“Look at them!” Mr. Barker said as we watched four or five desperate males fling themselves onto the mating pair, only to get a quick kick in the gut or go somersaulting over the female’s head.

And today it's the last giant tortoise in the Galapagos:

A few years later, in 1993, there was briefly a companion known as “Lonesome George’s girlfriend,” but she was not a tortoise. She was a 26-year-old graduate student in zoology from Switzerland named Sveva Grigioni.

By coating her hands in the genital secretions of female tortoises and gently stroking him, she managed to demonstrate a couple of times (in the course of several months’ work) that George was capable of an erection. But whereas her touch could induce other male tortoises to reach orgasm within a few minutes, with George she never managed to collect any sperm.

What the hell?  And where is this editorial trend heading next?

HT: Gawker

The Wonders of Modern Science...

April 30, 2007 03:24 PM

...they are developing a pill which boosts the libido and reduces the appetite.  Yes, it's an appetite suppressant and a sex pill all in one.

When it was given to monkeys, they displayed mating behaviour such as tongue-flicking and eyebrow-raising to the males, while female shrews displayed their feelings via "rump presentation and tail wagging".

But the animals also ate around a third less food than they normally would.

"Rump presentation" and "tail-wagging."  Those monkey chicks aren't too subtle, are they?

Delta Airlines Now Offering Carbon Offsets

April 19, 2007 08:20 AM

In an email from their SkyMiles program, they write:

Hello Mr. [NBS],

In a partnership with The Conservation Fund, we are the first U.S. airline to implement a voluntary carbon offset program — and we'd love to have you "onboard."

It's simple. Beginning June 1, 2007, you will be able to add a small donation to fund the planting of trees in sustainable managed forests around the globe when you book your ticket at delta.com. These trees will help off-set carbon emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it to oxygen as part of their natural processes.

Why not just make a charitable contribution directly to a tree hugging progam, if that is your wont?  All Delta is doing is adding a middle man.  And where's the information that shows just how much your donation needs to be to "offset" a trip somewhere?

The always interesting Camille Paglia...

April 11, 2007 09:05 AM

... talking a great deal of sense about global warming.

As a native of upstate New York, whose dramatic landscape was carved by the receding North American glacier 10,000 years ago, I have been contemplating the principle of climate change since I was a child. Niagara Falls, as well as the even bigger dry escarpment of Clark Reservation near Syracuse, is a memento left by the glacier. So is nearby Green Lakes State Park, with its mysteriously deep glacial pools. When I was 10, I lived with my family at the foot of a drumlin -- a long, undulating hill of murrain formed by eddies of the ancient glacier melt....

Climate change, keyed to solar cycles, is built into Earth's system. Cooling and warming will go on forever. Slowly rising sea levels will at some point doubtless flood lower Manhattan and seaside houses everywhere from Cape Cod to Florida -- as happened to Native American encampments on those very shores. Human habitation is always fragile and provisional. People will migrate for the hills, as they have always done.

Who is impious enough to believe that Earth's contours are permanent? Our eyes are simply too slow to see the shift of tectonic plates that has raised the Himalayas and is dangling Los Angeles over an unstable fault. I began "Sexual Personae" (parodying the New Testament): "In the beginning was nature." And nature will survive us all. Man is too weak to permanently affect nature, which includes infinitely more than this tiny globe.

She's right, of course. 

Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio Implicated in Controversal AIDS Research Program

April 6, 2007 08:52 AM

Well!  Here's something to chew on this Good Friday morning.  The Cincinnati Beacon, which is itself a somewhat controversal publication here in Cincinnati, has published a story implicating the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio in an extraordinarily controversal AIDS treatment program in Africa.

I do not have time this morning to get in to all the details, but the gist is this.  Non-locals may not realize this, but in recent years, Cincinnati medical hero Dr. Henry Heimlich has turned his attention away from rescuing chocking victims, and has instead focused on curing AIDs.  As I understand it, his research has not passed bio-ethical muster here in the U.S., so he's had to turn to sources overseas.  In layman's terms, his medical theory is this: AIDs can be cured by "frying" the virus at extremely high temperatures.  The malaria causes the immune system to go into overdrive, and attack not just the malaria, but HIV.  To achieve these temperatures, Dr. Heimlich introduces malaria to Third World AIDs victims, and allows their body temperature to soar to extraordinarly high levels.  The results are not pretty.

The World Health Organization has described this research as a modern medical monstrosity.  The FDA and the CDC are strongly opposed to it.  I, frankly, think it could be worth it if an AIDs cure can be found.  But it is hard not to have extremely serious reservations about performing this kind of medical research on humans.

Apparently, our late Bishop, Herbert Thompson, did not share those reservations.  It appears he was actively involved in soliciting patients for Heimlich Institute malariotherapy research.  Those patients came from Anglican parishes in Africa.

Is this what was going on last night?

February 5, 2007 03:32 PM

St. Louis: "Spectacle in Midwestern sky was probably meteor, officials say."

and

Minneapolis: "Bright Lights Reported Over Midwest Skies."

Something was going on last night... it was like white fireworks going off in the middle of the street, with explosive pops that sent the dog howling.  We never could figure out what it was.  It sounded like a transformer, but no electricity went off on our street.

Did this happen to anybody else?