Friday, November 30, 2012

Science fiction film biology

A site at the University of Chicago speculates on the "what-if"s of sci-fi B movies, from King Kong to tiny shrinking people:
"When the Incredible Shrinking Man stops shrinking, he is about an inch tall, down by a factor of about 70 in linear dimensions. Thus, the surface area of his body, through which he loses heat, has decreased by a factor of 70 x 70 or about 5,000 times, but the mass of his body, which generates the heat, has decreased by 70 x 70 x 70 or 350,000 times. He's clearly going to have a hard time maintaining his body temperature (even though his clothes are now conveniently shrinking with him) unless his metabolic rate increases drastically.

Luckily, his lung area has only decreased by 5,000-fold, so he can get the relatively larger supply of oxygen he needs, but he's going to have to supply his body with much more fuel; like a shrew, he'll probably have to eat his own weight daily just to stay alive. He'll also have to give up sleeping and eat 24 hours a day or risk starving before he wakes up in the morning (unless he can learn the trick used by hummingbirds of lowering their body temperatures while they sleep).

Because of these relatively larger surface areas, he'll be losing water at a proportionally larger rate, so he'll have to drink a lot, too. We see him drink once in the movie--he dips his hand into a puddle and sips from his cupped palm. The image is unremarkable and natural, but unfortunately wrong for his dimensions: at his size surface tension becomes a force comparable to gravity. More likely, he'd immerse his hand in the pool and withdraw it coated with a drop of water the size of his head. When he put his lips to the drop, the surface tension would force the drop down his throat whether or not he chooses to swallow."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Karni Mata, the Hindu Rat Temple

There's a lot more videos on YouTube where that comes from. The temple of Karni Mata comes complete with silver gates, marble carvings, hundreds of hidey-holes, and that stylish checkered flooring (pity the poor sap that has to clean it!).

Supper time for the well-tended-to rats:

Hindus and animal-housing temples just seem to go together. There's also the Ubud Monkey Forest and temple in Bali, where they have so many temples it's all you can do to find a non-holy place to pee (unless they have a special pee temple too?).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stiletto surgery - lopping off a toe to fit into your shoes

Well, anything for vanity, right?

There's been a number of stories about women getting extreme cosmetic foot surgery over the past decade. Daily Mail posts this one, and check the article further down for an infographic of various procedures. ABC News ran this story in 2012, and then there's this NYT article from 2003, which also quotes a survey about women getting foot surgery for a better shoe fit as far back as 1993.

Looks like the trend isn't going away! So consider, Prince Charming, the next time you fit that glass slipper on Cinderella, she just might have cheated to be sure she fits.

The thing is, some 90% of women wear shoes that are too narrow. And the pointy stiletto makes the matter worse, forcing the pressure all down on those tiny, vulnerable toes. But really, is it all to attract a man? Except for foot fetishists (who, even then, might prefer the whole, unaltered female foot, seeing as how they admire it so), most guys could care less how a woman's feet look. It is more of a competition between women that seems to be the driving force.

The fascination with women having tiny, impractical feet has deep cultural roots. You've probably heard of the Chinese practice of footbinding, a cruel practice in which a girl's feet are bound daily so as she grows, the bones of her feet gradually break and distort into an unnatural shape. Such outrage did it cause that a "foot emancipation society" formed in the Qing Dynasty, and formed one of the cornerstones of Chinese women's lib.

Yet here we are, a century later, practicing a similar custom and there's hardly a murmur of protest. One could definitely see where complications can arise in later years; the human foot puts on a lot of miles carrying a lot of weight in one lifetime, and missing a toe (as those who have had accidents can attest) makes walking harder. Nevertheless, women are already to risk malnutrition through eating disorders and the various complications of silicon breast implants, so what's one more toe?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Remembering Larry Hagman, a mind--blowing character

RIP Larry Hagman, the TV actor memorable for his iconic roles as "J.R. Ewing" in Dallas and "Tony Nelson" in I Dream of Jeannie, plus dozens of other shows. But did you know what his final wishes were?
"You wrote in your memoir, “Hello Darlin’,” that when you die, you want to be ground up in a wood chipper like Steve Buscemi’s character in the movie “Fargo.” Is this actually set down in your will?

Well, it’s hard to set down chipping. I don’t think that’s allowed. But I did want to be spread over a field and have marijuana and wheat planted and harvest it in a couple of years and then have a big marijuana cake, enough for 200 to 300 people. People would eat a little of Larry."
The above is an excerpt from this interview with the New York Times, just one of many outrageously goofy things the man said over the years. Hagman wasn't just a great actor, in person he was more fun than any of his roles. He enjoyed being a celebrity and being as mind--blowing as he wanted to be, all for a guffaw. We miss the hell out of you, Larry!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Radioactive Christmas trees

For this festive holiday season which we just kicked off today, we celebrate a time when radioactive Christmas trees were an actual headline - another side effect of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. This story from 2002...

"Officials seized the fir trees at local markets in the southern town of Rovno, where they were being sold for the upcoming Orthodox Christmas, Itar-Tass agency reported.

"The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl was the world's worst
After the region was covered by a radioactive cloud, a complete ban on the felling of trees in the contaminated forests surrounding Chernobyl was imposed.

"Police said the local businessmen knew the trees from the Zhytomyr region were contaminated, and used forged documents to sell them. "

The fallout from Chernobyl was felt in many ways that were unexpected. The incident and area today provide an outstanding living experiment in just what happens to the environment after a nuclear meltdown. But along with this has come a tragic toll of death and weird tragedy - (warning, that page contains an image of a mutated puppy).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ever wondered what a solar eclipse looks like from space?

Well, that's just the kind of curiosity we strive to satisfy here at Mind--Blown. And here is your answer:

The crew of the ISS (International Space Station) gets to snap these whenever there's a good eclipse opportunity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chastity belts with teeth

"A powerful 500 volt electrical shock is delivered to anyone foolish enough to come into contact with the two carefully insulated electrodes.  The electrodes run the full length of this device giving protection from different angles of attack."

The idea here is to make an artistic anti-rape statement... however, in the more troubled areas of the world where a woman is simply not safe to walk the streets, period, the idea of an anti-rape device is taken more seriously and with a whole lot more practicality. Such is the case with the "Rape-Axe" device invented in (where else?) South Africa and unveiled in 2005.

What kind of animal is man?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Diver cavorts with giant jellyfish

From Discovery.

The Echizen jellyfish, AKA Nomura's jellyfish, can reach a diameter as long as a human's height. It's native to the coasts of Japan and China, but has been thriving lately due to overfishing in the area removing its competition. And this diver's ballsy getting close enough to it to tag it with a sensor!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Vincent - An animated short that was Tim Burton's first professional work

Tim Burton himself idolized Vincent Price as a child, so this wonderful short animation is the realization of his own dream. Having the real-life Vincent Price do the voice-work was just that extra thrill.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Intellipedia - A US government intelligence Wiki that mere mortals aren't allowed to view.

So I was browsing Wikipedia looking for creepy United States government intelligence agencies. Hey, they're a dime a dozen! Such as the "Information Awareness Office" (established at the height of the paranoid Bush years), which seems to be going out of its way to say "government spooks' world-wide conspiracy" with just their logo alone:

But then I linked along and discovered "Intellipedia", a collaborative database for sharing information between the various (multi-hydra-headed) intelligence communities. "Cool beans!" I exclaimed dorkily, because I've heard all about this open government thing and what better way for all of us US citizens to participate in our national security than to collaborate with US intelligence, right? And we cyber-denizens and open-source proponents know that "obscurity != security", right? Besides, if it's just intelligence about outside threats to the US, what could they possibly have to hide? If there's a terrorist plot afoot to bomb something, don't we all have a right - perhaps even a patriotic duty - to be informed?

Well, no, turns out that you need US security clearance just to view the damn thing! The link at Intellipedia stops you dead, demanding some kind of electronic passport called an "Intelink" to go any further. Ironic, considering that it's supplied by Google. Wait, who played that scare chord?

Well, there you go, you've heard of the "dark web" before? What could be darker?

Oh, and the FBI has its own "Bureaupedia" - and it's closed to public viewing as well. Fine then, catch your own criminals!

And more classified US websites. The thing that is impressive is just how large this is. The US basically has its own "shadow Internet". Now, pause and consider this point: Citizens frequently complain about how the US government seems out of touch with its people. Picture your own internal office intranet at work, if you have one. Naturally, if there's an artificial wall between public and private, you tend to stay on one side of it, right? So it just could be that government officials act as if they're ignorant of what the rest of us are thinking because they use their own Internet.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oxford professor states that we have a moral obligation to genetically engineer our babies

Young readers, I have news for you: There are genetically engineered humans in your future. There may even be cloned humans, and extensive stem-cell medicine. In fact, genetic engineering will change life as we know it in the 21st century to the same degree that computers changed the game forever in the 20th.

"The expert in practical ethics said that we should actively give parents the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children as it meant they were then less likely to harm themselves and others."

Now, engineering deliberately for pacifism could arguably be a bad idea. What happens, for instance, if a problem occurs in humanity later, like invasion by a hostile life form, that calls for it to defend itself? Dr. Inmaculada De Melo-Martin responds:

"Savulescu has neglected several important issues such as access to selection technologies, disproportionate burdens on women, difficulties in determining what is best, problems with aggregate effects of individual choices, and questions about social justice. Taking these matters into account would call such a moral requirement into serious question."

Nevertheless, no such issues could be held against breeding humans to be healthier, smarter, stronger, or longer-lived. A word we'll all be bandying about pretty soon is "biopolitics", the ethical and political issues relating to engineered humans.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The quack medicine that turns you into a Smurf

What, did you think we were joking?

Boom! There, real-life Papa Smurf all up in yo' shizzle! And here's Smurfette:
...and in fact there's dozens of photos online of this condition. Most recently, Baby Boomer Randroid politician Stan Jones fell victim to the condition.

What you're seeing here is the effects of a condition known as "Argyria", which is caused by the ingesting of colloidal silver. That's right, drinking silver potions turns you blue. Colloidal silver is frequently prescribed by quacks as treatments for various illnesses - it's been a staple of alternative medicine for some time. As for Stan Jones, he actually made his own silver potions and drank them at home for reasons related to Y2K paranoia back before the turn of the century. And he still swears by it!

For those stuck with this condition, guess what? There's no cure! OK, technically there's laser surgery, so if you call having all of your skin being burned off and waiting for it to grow back a "cure" then yes, that's a cure.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The case of the ketchup counterfeiters

You might have seen the story about the Canadian maple syrup thieves earlier, and thought "that's the weirdest crime story I'll see all year!" And how wrong you'd be! From Yahoo:

"Officials discovered the fake ketchup factory after tenants complained about flies and rotten odors coming from another part of the 7,000-square-foot warehouse in Dover, N.J. They found thousands of plastic bottles labeled Heinz ketchup, many of which had exploded after being abandoned in the hot building.

"Heinz representatives say that they think someone bought large containers of regular Heinz Ketchup and poured it into bottles labeled 'Simply Heinz,' a higher-priced product made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Late Friday, they reached out to reassure consumers, saying that it was unlikely the counterfeit condiment ended up on store shelves."

Wait... so this makes money? That's your master criminal plan? You'd think even a villain on Batman would have come up with a slightly grander scheme. But in fact, counterfeit foods are a common enough crime scheme to warrant the involvement of organized crime. From this Daily Finance article:

"Most of those counterfeiters are small-scale operators. However, there have been reports of a few large operations that include bottling equipment and printing machines, and which produce their own raw, poor-quality alcohol, which is placed in replicated bottles of premium brands. These businesses, which sometimes span international borders, are almost always linked to organized crime."

Now, high-end scotch where it goes for $80 a bottle or so, you could see. There's at least a profit margin there. What's the gain on ketchup, ten cents a bottle?

Friday, November 9, 2012

How English sounds when you don't speak English

These two actors do an excellent job of having a conversation in pseudo-English, just to show how it sounds to a foreign ear. Bizarrely, you keep thinking that you could make sense of what they're saying if only you listened one more time...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Titanium Cat

It's like this cat doesn't even feel the impact and casually strolls off. Imagine explaining this one to the insurance company...