Monday, January 30, 2012

Quantum Levitation - Transportation will change in the future

Take a peek at what is being casually shown off at ASTC:

Now imagine a subway train using the same technology.

Quantum levitation utilizing superconductivity has been steadily developing. Find out more about it here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Months later, survivors of the March 2011 Japanese earthquake are seing ghosts

Predictably for a trauma of such massive proportions, the normally level-headed Japanese are experiencing visions of ghosts, as a result of all the death and destruction in the wake of one of history's deadliest earthquakes.

Do keep in mind that the toll racked up to over 15,000 dead and 3,380 missing. We may not all believe in ghosts, but the psychological shock from such an incident would trigger hallucinations in even the most skeptical among us.

The footage of this quake is still shocking to behold. In the second half of this video, houses are swept away like toys:

Here's a first-person view, a video takes by someone shopping in an electronics store when the quake hit:

In this Cambridge Journal article "Trauma, Metacognition And Predisposition To Hallucinations In Non-Patients", the link between auditory and visual hallucinations and post-trauma stress is explored:

"The study found an association between trauma-related measures (negative cognitions about the world and all dissociation variables) and predisposition to both auditory and visual hallucinations."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Surfer Woman Identifies As Mermaid, For No Apparent Reason

"Otherkin" is the name we have for people who identify with a fantastic or non-human identity. In this category, we have people who base their lives upon being Klingons, elves, fairies, werwolves, vampires, or "furries". Now, sometimes it's just for fun, and sometimes they take it seriously enough that they get offended if their role-playing alter ego is not treated respectfully.

But we have to admit, if you're a pro surfer, mermaid is the otherkin for you! Mischa Davis went far enough to make her own custom tail, which she claims also helps her swim underwater and helps her train to be a better surfer.

Here's an interview with her:

She's a Kiwi native, born in Auckland. She's been surfing since 1999, and so far her career highlight is winning the 2004 U16 Girls Rusty Gromfest.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dollars And Death At A Funeral Convention

Here's something you don't see every day: A funeral director's convention! Fun, fun post about the sights, sounds, and experiences of the death industry. Some highlights:

"Funeral directors are notoriously heavy drinkers. There will definitely be some hook-ups." Yeah, we totally should all go hang out with these party animals.

"The rate of cremation has skyrocketed as Americans back away from the idea that Jesus will be resurrecting them straight from the grave." You're kidding? That's why we've always buried our dead? Because you're literally expecting to get pulled right out of the ground whenever Harold Camping finally gets one right?

"Distressingly, higher rates of cancer have been found among embalmers who have to breathe in this stuff every day." Crud, working around dead people really does make you die sooner!

"We’re not here to beautify anyone. We’re here to identify them." Do these guys always have to be this grim?

"Makeup, meant for corpses, was being applied by airbrush to a (still-living) elderly woman." Ballsiest granny ever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Real-Life Mountains of Madness: The Dyatlov Pass Incident

After more than half a century, the Dyatlov Pass Incident looks to be the world's most uncrackable unsolved cold case. Nine mountain climbers died, leaving a strange and unsettling scene which has puzzled investigators. An unknown force pummeled three of them to death, while the other six died of hypothermia. While the speculation run from native uprisings to secret Soviet radiation experiments to UFO attack, the events probably have a more mundane explanation - we just don't know what the hell it is.

Monday, January 9, 2012

All Calico Cats Are Female

My parents owned a pet store, so I grew up in the animal business. And for some reason, the idea that "all calico cats are female" was the one thing that people would not, could not accept.

Every time somebody called in with a calico, we'd say "that must be female" and they'd go ballistic insisting NO IT'S NOT, IT'S MALE! Look, we've been over and over this, we'd say. NO, I SWEAR TO GOD, I HAVE A MALE CALICO, IT'S BUTCH, IT'S SPITTING TOBACCO JUICE RIGHT NOW!!! Alright, alright, bring it in! If it's a calico male, it'll be worth the time and trouble because we'd love to be on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow, to say nothing of the Guinness Book of World Records next year.

They bring it in.

We check.

Yep, female. Invariably, they'd all respond this way: "Doooooooh! I didn't know that! So that explains why he kept having litters of kittens!" ARGH!

The other case is where they have a male, but it's not calico. OK, in order for a cat to be considered "calico", it must have all three of the colors white, black, and orange, in a spotted pattern. This is a calico...

The only other variation allowed to be called "calico" is the "tortoiseshell" pattern, which has the black and orange but little or no white. This is a tortoiseshell...

 That's it - if your cat does not resemble either of these, it's not a calico. This is not a calico...

This is not a calico...

And this is not a calico...

And this is also not a calico...

And even this is not a calico...

People keep insisting that male calico cats can exist. No, they can't. Even though this fallacy has found its way into the literature, so that it reads like "99.9999% of calico cats are female, but you just might have a male calico so be sure to argue about it". Those reports of male calicos all come from people who (a) don't know how to tell a cat's sex, or (b) don't know what a calico cat looks like.

I blame Evangelical Christians. Their reasoning goes "I see a calico cat, so there must have been a breeding pair of calico cats on Noah's Ark, therefore male calicos must exist."

Calico and tortoiseshell cats are always female because there's a link between color pattern and the X chromosome. The gene for being white with orange spots is on the X chromosome. And the pattern for white and black spots is also on the X chromosome. There is no gene in cats for white with orange and black spots, total. So the only way to get both color patterns overlapping is for it to have two X chromosomes! It is possible for genetic freaks to be born with an XXY chromosome, regardless of color, but these are not true males - they're even sterile.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Robert A. Heinlein's 1952 Predictions For 2000 - A Report Card

I saw this list at io9, and figured, just for the exercise, to go through Heinlein's predictions one by one and see what The Dean got right and wrong...

1. Interplanetary travel is waiting at your front door — C.O.D. It's yours when you pay for it. Wrong! I'm just as disappointed as you, Rob.

2. Contraception and control of disease is revising relations between the sexes to an extent that will change our entire social and economic structure. Correct! The Sexual Revolution was practically on America's doorstep in 1952, so it wasn't hard to get this one right.

3. The most important military fact of this century is that there is no way to repel an attack from outer space. Mostly wrong! Attacks from outer space, no. But satellite surveillance to gather intelligence is an important military factor, and we do have our robot drone planes. But I'm pretty sure that Heinlein had in mind rocket ships with missiles raining down from the void. He's wrong, thank Cthulhu.

4. It is utterly impossible that the United States will start a "preventive war." We will fight when attacked, either directly or in a territory we have guaranteed to defend. Wrong! Ha ha ha ha ha, Rob, how naive you were about politics in the 1950s!

5. In fifteen years the housing shortage will be solved by a "breakthrough" into new technologies which will make every house now standing as obsolete as privies. Wrong! But it's hard to imagine what he had in mind. Housing technology has continued to improve, but the "housing shortage" was always a matter of economics - we have plenty of homes, but they're all sitting empty and rotting while banks own them all.

6. We'll all be getting a little hungry by and by. Wrong! Malthusian predictions about running out of food are always wrong. If anything, we have a problem with obesity. And don't tell me about third-world orphans starving - that, again, is politics - there's plenty of food, but also plenty of dictator idiots causing famines.

7. The cult of the phony in art will disappear. So-called "modern art" will be discussed only by psychiatrists. Wrong! Sorry you were so grumpy about art, old guy, but "modern art" wasn't even close to its peak yet at the time you wrote this.

8. Freud will be classed as a pre-scientific, intuitive pioneer and psychoanalysis will be replaced by a growing, changing "operational psychology" based on measurement and prediction. Wrong! Also, huh? Psychoanalysis has changed some since the 1950s, but what has largely replaced such treatments is pills, pills, pills, pills, pills.

9. Cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay will all be conquered; the revolutionary new problem in medical research will be to accomplish "regeneration," i.e., to enable a man to grow a new leg, rather than fit him with an artificial limb. Wrong! We're so, so sad to say so. But stem cell research is looking into that whole "regeneration" thing.

10. By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system, and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be a-building. Wrong! No human has yet set foot on anything but Earth and the moon.

11. Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag. Your house telephone will record messages, answer simple inquiries, and transmit vision. Mostly Correct! In fact, this one almost sounds too specific to have been in this list - did somebody add this one? Substitute "computer" for "telephone" for those last two.

12. Intelligent life will be found on Mars. Wrong! In fact, it's growing doubtful that we'll find anything alive on Mars, even fuzzy little microbes.

13. A thousand miles an hour at a cent a mile will be commonplace; short hauls will be made in evacuated subways at extreme speed. Wrong! Not even sure how he thought this would happen - had he never heard of G-forces? But so far the fastest land-speed record is 760 MPH with a turbofan at Black Rock Desert in 1997, and that's far from "commonplace" or cheap.

14. A major objective of applied physics will be to control gravity. Wrong! No, no, no.

15. We will not achieve a "World State" in the predictable future. Nevertheless, Communism will vanish from this planet. Wrong! Communism is alive and well, thank you. And as for "world state", the United States is just about as close to a world empire as we've gotten. McCarthy much?

16. Increasing mobility will disenfranchise a majority of the population. About 1990 a constitutional amendment will do away with state lines while retaining the semblance. Wrong! What a Libertarian. While we'd grant that transportation advances have killed off many industries, dozens of new industries have sprung up to take their place.

17. All aircraft will be controlled by a giant radar net run on a continent-wide basis by a multiple electronic "brain." Correct? We could consider computerized air-traffic control systems to be this. The Internet is certainly continent-wide. We even came up with much better tracking methods in the form of telemetry.

18. Fish and yeast will become our principal sources of proteins. Beef will be a luxury; lamb and mutton will disappear. Wrong! Our plates are still full of every kind of meat we can imagine. Australians are the only ones who even took to that yeast thing.

19. Mankind will not destroy itself, nor will "Civilization" be destroyed. Correct! Well, I guess if this weren't true, we wouldn't be here to say so.

Here are things we won't get soon, if ever: Travel through time, Travel faster than the speed of light, "Radio" transmission of matter, Manlike robots with manlike reactions, Laboratory creation of life, Real understanding of what "thought" is and how it is related to matter, Scientific proof of personal survival after death, Nor a permanent end to war.

Time travel, check, FTL, check, Life-after-death, check, No-end-to-war, check. Understanding-of-thought is too debatable to even decide on, but check. But we do have 3D printers which transmit the <em>data</em> to another machine which builds matter into whatever part was ordered, so half-point? We do indeed have "manlike" robots with the Honda ASIMO, but it has nowhere close to human reactions. Laboratories are at least doing fantastic things with DNA and stem cells - they haven't turned inorganic matter into living matter yet, but they're getting damned close.

In all, Heinlein seemed to suffer from the kind of short-sighted vision of continued scientific enthusiasm that affected every American in the 1950s; this was the age of zeerust, after all.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Want To Be A Jedi But Don't Know Where To Start?

Well, to start with, you should learn the ways of the Jedi religion. One wonders if they send a pair of missionaries to your door all "Have you found The Force yet?"

But when you decide to go all the way, you have many real-life choices. There's this Jedi Training Archive for all the literature, and then there's the Jedi Arts Training Site, to advance through the ranks. Gizmodo will also show you how to construct your own training sphere doohickey.

Oh, and if you live in a country with a census, don't forget to check your religion as 'Jedi'.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

People who come up when you type 'bigot' into Google image search

Glenn Beck

Donald Trump

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell

Newt Gingrich

Michele Bachmann

Herman Cain

Rick Perry

Rick Santorum

Ron Paul

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Ku Klux Klan Are Still Active In United States Government

Consider that Wrong Paul just took home nearly one-third of the vote in the 2012 Iowa Caucus. Now consider astounding and eye-opening news on Wrong Paul supporters. While this article may or may not have good research, there are solid connections between Paul and Ku Klux Klan affiliates.

Don Black is indeed the founder of Stormfront, is indeed a Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan and a member of the American Nazi Party, and did indeed originate the term "moneybomb" for Wrong Paul support. Black is affectionately called "the racist next door". The fact that you regularly see these "moneybombs", a term synonymous with Wrong Paul backing, being linked to and supported from websites such as,, and is blood-curdling. David Duke is also a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and also stumps for Wrong Paul.

Furthermore, you've heard of the John Birch Society? Anti-Civil-Rights group that fought against the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Here's Wrong Paul giving a speech there:

And another speech:

And another speech:

The thing is, every time somebody brings up the famous racist newsletters...

...all his fans and supporters play it down like it's this fluke, "oh, it's such ancient history, and he didn't write it all himself and even if he did he didn't mean it that way." Excuse me, but if his name's all over a page in a huge font that takes up 1/5th of the page, and the rest of it's filled with racist screeds, I think he might have had some sympathy with the point of view expressed. And MotherJones pulls up some whoppers for examples from these epistles, such as AIDS being spread by "malicious gays", advice to shoot "urban youths" with an illegally obtained handgun and then ditching it, and that the 1992 Los Angeles riots ended "when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks". This isn't just casual slips of the tongue.

No, this isn't just a casual brush with Nazis, cross-burners, black lynchers, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and right-wing militia. Wrong Paul lives it, breathes it, eats it, has had it in his blood and bone marrow since day one. Figuratively speaking, he has the KKK cross tattooed over his heart and sleeps under a Nazi flag.

The shocking part is how deep this goes into established American politics. David Duke was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from the 81st district, in office 1990–1992. Don Black's son Derek has been elected to a seat on the Palm Beach County, Fla., Republican committee in 2011. For those of you, especially outside America, who thought racism and ethnic cleansing were fuddy-duddy, outdated attitudes of the old United States of yore, it should come as quite a shock that it's current and thriving today - it's not just fringe - it's mainstream!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your Internet Date Has Arrived

Here's to the freaks, the weirdos, and the eccentrics, who want only to be happy in their own little world and trouble no one else.