The Southwest Bike Tire Massacre

6:42:18 PM, Friday, May 06, 2011

"I recently visited Tucson, Arizona and was happy to see a fair amount of people riding bicycles rather than driving through the city’s downtown area. There are wide bike lanes and plenty of racks for parking, and even a monthly street fair where bikers can pick up new and used parts or equipment. All this plus a mostly sunny forecast made Tucson seem like an ideal biking locale, until a friend who lives in the area pointed to the numerous needles and burrs sticking out of his bike tires. “They make it kind of miserable to ride,” he said. “You begin to feel like the plant life in Arizona hates bicycles and the people who ride them.”

Most likely, the bike tire massacre was due to the puncture plant, a species that was causing problems in Arizona and California when it was reported on in Scientific American’s September 10, 1921 issue. “Specifically this weed is known as Tribulus Terrestris probably because it spreads tribulation and terror among all owners of inflated-tire vehicles.” The plant is native to Southern Europe and is believed to have spread to the United States via the fleeces of imported sheep.

When the plant matures, its fruit (the burr) splits into 5 sections, each covered in needles. As they scatter, they lay needle face-up, waiting to puncture any tire that dares ride over. Once embedded in the rubber, they are very hard to remove and can stay in the tire for long distances, making it easy for seeds to spread.

“The possibilities for damage from this plant are well illustrated by the experiences of a California motorist who reported 70 punctures in one tire, all due to the puncture vine. In some sections where the puncture plant has become established, one-half of the bicycle tire and approximately one-quarter of the automobile tire punctures result from the spiny burs of this plant which are distributed along the wayside.”

Mowing was attempted to control the growth of the plant, but was ultimately unsuccessful. It is now considered a noxious weed by the USDA and is “restricted” and “controlled” in many states, including Arizona. However, while the puncture plant may seem like nothing but a menace, it has proven to be useful as a weapon when covered in poison while its extract can be turned into a potent male sexual enhancement drug."

-- Damn nature, you scary!!!



Earliest American Dogs May Have Been Dinner

6:36:50 PM, Friday, May 06, 2011

"In 1912, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team fought more than exhaustion and cold on their famous quest to become the first humans to reach the South Pole. The rations they had packed for the arduous dog-sled journey across Antarctica proved insufficient, so Amundsen and his men decided to shoot and eat some of their dogs. The explorer later described the fare as delicious, adding that "it is anything but a real hardship to eat dog flesh."

Amundsen may have come up with the idea after hearing stories of aboriginal hunters in Greenland eating their sled dogs in winter. But just how long have humans regarded Fido as food? In a paper published online this month in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, a team headed by geneticist Raul Tito at the University of Oklahoma in Norman reports finding a dog bone in 9260-year-old naturally preserved human feces. According to team member Samuel Belknap III, a graduate student at the University of Maine, Orono, it is the earliest incontrovertible evidence for domestic dogs in the New World. "And I feel fairly confident that it's the oldest direct evidence of human consumption of dog in the world," notes Belknap.

Belknap discovered the bone while identifying the contents of ancient human feces excavated from a lower layer at a rock shelter known as Hinds Cave in Texas. The ancient fecal material, or coprolite, was littered with seared prickly pear seeds—a food prepared and cooked by humans—and flecked with small bones from fish, birds, and rodents. Belknap was initially surprised to find the bone of a larger mammal. Further analysis suggested that it was part of a dog's skull—the occipital condyle, a knoblike structure on the back of the head, near the first vertebra—and studies by fellow University of Maine graduate student Robert Ingraham at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology showed that it closely matched that from a Native American dog collected in New Mexico. That dog weighed about 25 to 30 pounds in life and possessed a short nose. "Our dog probably represents the ancestor of those dogs," says Belknap.

The team obtained the date of 9260 years ago for the coprolite by radiocarbon dating one of the prickly pear seeds inside. But the early date, says Belknap, necessitated a more definitive identification of the bone. Research teams elsewhere had advanced claims for other dogs in this time range in the New World, but critics had frequently disputed the findings. The best evidence of an early dog in the New World came from a 9400-year-old skeleton from the Koster site in Illinois, but the dog was dated only in association with charcoal from a hearth, and the identification was based on just one line of evidence: skeletal characteristics..."



Euthanasia Coaster

9:35:55 PM, Thursday, May 05, 2011

"The Euthanasia Coaster is a concept for a steel roller coaster designed to kill its passengers. In 2010, it was designed and made into a scale model by Julijonas Urbonas, a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art in London. Urbonas, who has worked at an amusement park, stated that the goal of his concept roller coaster is to take lives "with elegance and euphoria". As for practical applications of his design, Urbonas mentioned "euthanasia or execution". John Allen, who served as president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, inspired Urbonas with his description of the ideal roller coaster as one that "sends out 24 people and they all come back dead". As a hypothetical means of euthanasia, the design led to concern from anti-euthanasia associations such as Care Not Killing..."

-- I wonder if it has a height requirement for occupants.



The 5-Year-Old Screenwriter Of Behind the Fast and the Furious Franchise, “Fast Five”

10:40:27 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Today Now! Interviews The 5-Year-Old Screenwriter Of "Fast Five"


Photos from the Osama bin Laden Compound

8:39:48 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Photographs acquired by Reuters and taken about an hour after the U.S. assault on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan show three dead men lying in pools of blood, but no weapons.

The photos, taken by a Pakistani security official who entered the compound after the early morning raid on Monday, show two men dressed in traditional Pakistani garb and one in a t-shirt, with blood streaming from their ears, noses and mouths.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, sold the pictures to Reuters.

None of the men looked like bin Laden. President Barack Obama decided not to release photos of his body because it could have incited violence and used as an al Qaeda propaganda tool.

"I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk," Obama told the CBS program "60 Minutes."

Based on the time-stamps on the pictures, the earliest one was dated May 2, 2:30 a.m., approximately an hour after the completion of the raid in which bin Laden was killed.

Other photos, taken hours later at between 5:21 a.m. and 6:43 a.m. show the outside of the trash-strewn compound and the wreckage of the helicopter the United States abandoned. The tail assembly is unusual, and could indicate some kind of previously unknown stealth capability.

Reuters is confident of the authenticity of the purchased images because details in the photos appear to show a wrecked helicopter from the assault, matching details from photos taken independently on Monday.

U.S. forces lost a helicopter in the raid due to a mechanical problem and later destroyed it..."

-- I guess showing photos of OTHERS killed in the raid is cool, just not Osama bin Laden... These are some of the photos released by Reuters, apparently there are more out there. This shows photos of 3 men, the stealth helicopter wreckage and a few of the compound. GRAPHIC! Don't click if you'd rather not see! Though you've probably seen much worse on TV, or movies.



Man Shaves for the First Time Since 9/11

3:16:23 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"A US man, who grew his beard for nearly ten years, has finally shaved it off to welcome the death of Osama bin Laden.

High school teacher Gary Weddle, of East Wenatchee, Washington, made an outlandish vow on 11 September 2001 to stay unshaven until the Al Qaeda mastermind was captured or killed.

When Mr Weddle made the pledge at the time of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks, he didn’t anticipate that bin Laden’s downfall would eventually come ten years later.

Moved by the 9/11 tragedy, he grew the beard to remind his pupils of America’s most deadly terror attack.

The beard then began making headlines in 2002, receiving more press coverage on the fifth anniversary of the attacks.

As years went by, the teacher started to believe that he would still be wearing the grey 15-inch-long beard a decade after the attacks which killed 3,000 people.

Weddle was working in the garden at 7.48pm (US Pacific Standard Time) on Sunday when a work colleague called to tell him that bin Laden was dead.

On hearing the news that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been killed, Weddle reached for a razor and scissors, with the momentous occasion witnessed by his thrilled wife and friends..."



Russia Begins Test Flights of Su-35S Series Fighter

2:57:44 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Russia's Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer has started test flights of its first series-produced Su-35S Flanker-E multirole fighter, the company said on Tuesday.

The aircraft took off from the Komsomolsk-on-Amur airfield in Russia's Far East, spending one and a half hours in the air testing propulsion and control systems.

The Su-35 Flanker-E superiority fighter is powered by two 117S engines with thrust vectoring. It can effectively engage several air targets simultaneously using both guided and unguided missiles and weapon systems.

The aircraft has been touted as "4++ generation using fifth-generation technology."

After the tests are completed, the Su-35 will be transferred to the Russian Defense Ministry.

MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti)"



Chimps Are Self Aware

2:44:51 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Chimpanzees are self-aware and can anticipate the impact of their actions on the environment around them, an ability once thought to be uniquely human, according to a study released Wednesday.

The findings, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, challenge assumptions about the boundary between human and non-human, and shed light on the evolutionary origins of consciousness, the researchers said.

Earlier research had demonstrated the capacity of several species of primates, as well as dolphins, to recognize themselves in a mirror, suggesting a fairly sophisticated sense of self.

The most common experiment consisted of marking an animal with paint in a place -- such as the face -- that it could only perceive while looking at its reflection.

If the ape sought to touch or wipe off the mark while facing a mirror, it showed that the animal recognized itself.

But even if this test revealed a certain degree self-awareness, many questions remained as to how animals were taking in the information. What, in other words, was the underlying cognitive process?

To probe further, Takaaki Kaneko and Masaki Tomonaga of the Primate Research Institute in Kyoto designed a series of three experiments to see if chimps, our closest cousins genetically, to some extent "think" like humans when they perform certain tasks.

In the first, three females initiated a video game by placing a finger on a touch-sensitive screen and then used a trackball, similar to a computer mouse, to move one of two cursors..."



The Rasmus - In The Shadows

2:33:23 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

-- Haven't listened to this song in awhile.



Nissan Wins Bid for New York's Iconic Yellow Cabs

1:17:52 PM, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Japan's Nissan Motor Co Ltd won a 10-year contract to build the next generation of New York's iconic yellow taxis, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Tuesday.

Nissan beat Turkish manufacturer Karsan Otomotiv and U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co for a deal city officials estimated at around $1 billion.

Nissan's design will be based on its NV200 minivan model.

"It's going to be the safest, most comfortable, and most convenient cab the City has ever had," Bloomberg said.

"We started this process to leverage our taxi industry's purchasing power to get the highest quality taxi," he noted. "The new taxis will be custom-designed to meet the specific demands of carrying 600,000 passengers a day."

On a conference call, Nissan officials said they expected to provide up to 26,000 taxi cabs over the lifetime of the contract starting in 2013, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of about $29,000.

"It's very important for Nissan," said Carlos Tavares, Nissan's chairman in the Americas. "We deserve a better presence (in the United States) than we have today despite progress in recent years."

Officials at Nissan, which also provides taxis for Tokyo and Mexico City, said they also expected a marketing boost for the brand from television and film exposure.

The city's world famous yellow cabs feature in just about every feature film or television series based in New York. They were even the basis for the award-winning series "Taxi" that ran from 1978 to 1983, whose cast included Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd..."



Tropical Peat Forests in Trouble

7:15:58 PM, Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"Southeast Asia boasts nearly 250,000 square kilometers of peat swamp forests, which host creatures such as orangutans and the world's smallest fish, and store vast quantities of carbon. But these peat swamps are in trouble, according to a new study of deforestation in the region. If people continue to chop, drain, and burn at current rates, researchers report, by 2030 no native swamps will remain and billions of metric tons of carbon will be lofted into the atmosphere.

Almost all peatland in Southeast Asia is found in peninsular Malaysia and an archipelago of islands that includes Borneo and Sumatra. Rain trickles down mountains and through forests there, ultimately ending up in low-laying lands that can't quickly drain. Plant matter can't fully decay and turns into a peaty, acidic stew, trapping carbon and forming a unique environment for wildlife. Although Southeast Asian swamps comprise between 6% and 7% of global peatland, they store roughly 64 billion metric tons of carbon—about nine times the global emissions from fossil fuel combustion in 2006.

Globalization eventually reached Southeast Asia in the 1980s, driving farmers to fell peat forest trees for cash and replace the swamps with palm oil plantations. Earth-monitoring satellites have visually documented such destruction for decades, but researchers had never precisely quantified the loss for the region over a long period of time. Sorting out which pixels in the images belonged to swamps, palm oil plantations, urban areas, and the like is also difficult work that's impossible without well-tuned algorithms. So for 5 years, lead author and ecologist Jukka Miettinen and his colleagues at the National University of Singapore studied maps and developed methods to codify the images. They also incorporated infrared images to gauge the effect of human-set fires in the region..."



Obama's Silence on Boeing Is Unacceptable

3:01:14 PM, Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"The president's appointees have moved to block the company from building planes in my state. He owes us an explanation.

In October 2009, Boeing, long one of the best corporations in America, made an announcement that changed the economic outlook of South Carolina forever: The company's second line of 787 Dreamliners would be produced in North Charleston.

In choosing to manufacture in my state, Boeing was exercising its right as a free enterprise in a free nation to conduct business wherever it believed would best serve both the bottom line and the employees of its company. This is not a novel or complicated idea. It's called capitalism.

Boeing has since poured billions of dollars into a new, state-of-the art facility in South Carolina's picturesque Low Country along the Atlantic coast. It has created thousands of good jobs and joined the long tradition of distinguished and employee-friendly corporations that have found a home, and a partner, in the Palmetto State.

This a win-win for South Carolina, for Boeing, and for the global clients who will see Dreamliners rolling off the North Charleston line at the rate of 10 a month, starting with the first one next year. But, as is often the case, a win for people and businesses is a loss for the labor unions, which rely on coercion, bullying and undue political influence to stay afloat.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state, and we're proud that within our borders workers cannot be required to join a labor union as a condition of employment. We don't need unions playing middlemen between our companies and our employees. We don't want them forcefully inserted into our promising business climate. And we will not stand for them intimidating South Carolinians.

That is apparently too much for President Obama and his union-beholden appointees at the National Labor Relations Board, who have asked the courts to intervene and force Boeing to stop production in South Carolina. The NLRB wants Boeing to produce the planes only in Washington state, where its workers must belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers..."



Forget Straws: Hummingbirds Sip With Forks

12:36:13 PM, Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Jersey Shore Gone Oscar Wilde

12:04:34 AM, Tuesday, May 03, 2011

YES!!! I don't watch Jersey Shore, but this is amazing. Santino Fontana and David Furr, two actors on Broadway’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” star in these short videos from and re-enact lines and scenes from MTV’s Jersey Shore. [via]



If Schrödinger Cats All Die, Do The Alive Ones Go To Hell?

11:31:35 PM, Monday, May 02, 2011

"Schrödinger’s cat is in a quantum superposition of two states, namely |Dead> and |Alive>. If we open the box and find the cat dead, where is the living one? You all know the answer: In the ‘parallel universe’ where I pull the cat out alive. Let me add a twist that only a true cat hater can come up with.

In short, I will use quantum interaction to let the probability of observing a dead cat go to 100% without destroying the alive state. I pull only dead cats out and the alive ones have no parallel universes where I take them out of the box, thus they have nowhere to go when the box automatically opens, except for jumping straight into hell. Muahahahaha!!! Well, actually they won’t, but I will ask you to provide the correct answer for where they go: A new didactic challenge! (BTW: Has anybody ever suggested this scenario before? If so, please let me know.)

A mechanism inside of my box will kill everything inside of the box with a 10% probability at the one minute mark. After three minutes, the box automatically opens. Hence, after three minutes, in nine out of ten cases, I could see a healthy cat jumping out of the box. But cats are dirty and stink, as is widely acknowledged in the research literature, so at the two minute point, I do something a little different..."

-- "When I hear about Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my gun." — Stephen Hawking in a conversation with Timothy Ferris (4 April 1983)



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