January 31, 2004

» What happens when you fake your way into a psych ward: Adapted from a book being serialized this week on Radio 4

Thirty years ago psychiatry was rocked by the revelation that nine sane volunteers had faked hearing voices and fooled thier way on to locked wards. Has diagnosis improved since? Psychologist Lauren Slater repeats the experiment

» Children vs. classic rock: Classic rock loses, but not as badly as classic computer games.

The Who: Substitute (1966)

What the grown-ups say: "Substitute is an ironic comment on the gulf between image and reality, set to one of Pete's trickiest little riffs, all driven along by a ringing open D string. A bona fide pop classic." (www.thewho.net)

What the kids say:
Holly It sounds like when your wee goes back up.

The Sex Pistols: Anarchy In The UK (1977)
What the grown-ups say: "They play with an energy and conviction that is positively transcendent in its madness and fever... It has an Ahab-versus-Moby-Dick power that can shake you like no other music today can." (Rolling Stone)

What the kids say:
Beth: Who's Annie Key?

» The dangers of molecular gastronomy

You know you're living in a late culture when a chef - in this case, three-Michelin-starred Catalan Chef Ferran Adrià - serves you shrimp broth in a pipette, foie gras that has been frozen and ground to a powder, and a mushroom appetizer spritzed with a custom-made woody fragrance. Historically speaking, such baroque food isn't the best indicator for a society's fate: Apicius wrote recipes for flamingo tongues and stuffed dormice shortly before Rome burned, and France's revolutionary deluge followed Louis XIV's marathon feasts by a mere few decades.

» "Sixth state" of matter could help search for room-temperature superconductors

"The strength of pairing in our fermionic condensate, adjusted for mass and density," Jin explains, "would correspond to a room temperature superconductor. This makes me optimistic that the fundamental physics we learn through fermionic condensates will eventually help others design more practical superconducting materials."

» Simon Hoggart on show trials in Britistan

I wondered how a western broadcaster, like the BBC, would have covered events in, say, the former Soviet bloc country of Britistan.

"Recently, following a show trial under a judge nominated by the president's best friend, the chairman and general manager of the state broadcasting organisation were summarily removed for the offences of 'creating public alarm, making false accusations against the president, and spreading incorrect thoughts.'

"The remaining governors were made to 'apologise unreservedly' for their errors ..."

» Enormous bunny saves owner - more giant rabbits here

A giant rabbit called Dory saved her owner's life by jumping on his chest when he fell into a diabetic coma.

The big bunny, who weighs nearly 10kg, tapped on Simon Steggall's chest and licked his face when he passed out at his home in Warboys, Cambridgeshire.

January 30, 2004

» Giant dinosaurs need giant continents

First, contrary to what many investigators have postulated, the beasts probably had to have been cold-blooded, because the costs of maintaining a constant body temperatureówhich is to say, being warm-bloodedóat that size would have necessitated unrealistic hunting success (up to 10 times that of a lion) and a means of cooling down to avoid overheating.

The second requirement derives from the observations that meat-eating species have more extensive geographic ranges and lower population densities than vegetarians do, and big carnivores range over bigger areas than small ones do. For gigantic theropod species to succeed, the researchers argue, they would have needed continent-size landmasses to sustain populations large enough to avoid extinction. Third, titans-in-the-making had to be released from the ecological pressure of competing with other large species for foodóthrough the extinction of rivals or the hunting of different prey, for example.

» Blimey, this is difficult: "You lasted 15.52 seconds"
» A (gasp!) interesting post about the relationship between journalism and blogging

This creates a classic free-rider problem. If the blogs eventually steal the mass media's audience (or at least, key parts of it) and the Internet as a whole continues to steal its revenues, there will come a time when those big, expensive news-gathering operations will become economically insupportable. Either the mass media will have to abandon its existing, adverstising-driven, business model, or it will have to scale back its news-gathering functions to a bare minimum. That pressure to do the latter is already extreme, as any journalist can tell you.

» Typos are expensive on eBay: an unusual form of market inefficiency

Mr. Green once bought a box of gers for $2. They were gears for pocket watches, which he cleaned up and put back on the auction block with the right spelling. They sold for $200.

» Caution, low flying aircraft
» In Tarian, not quoting your source is ungrammatical

In English I can tell my son: "Today I talked to Adrian", and he won't ask: "How do you know you talked to Adrian?" But in some languages, including Tariana, you always have to put a little suffix onto your verb saying how you know something - we call it "evidentiality". I would have to say: "I talked to Adrian, non-visual," if we had talked on the phone. And if my son told someone else, he would say: "She talked to Adrian, visual, reported." In that language, if you don't say how you know things, they think you are a liar.

» Islands in the clouds

As is apparent in this true-color image, the islands are tall enough to disrupt the cloud patterns forming and flowing around them.

January 29, 2004

» Whale explodes in Taiwan

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Whale explodes in Taiwanese city

An Internet legend is born anew, to delight another generation of surfers.

January 28, 2004

» Chavspotting


But few will have expected a wave of snobbery in these supposedly egalitarian times, played out explicitly in the callous language of celebrity magazine coverage and in "reality" television shows such as Wife Swap. "I hear a lot of people talk quite straight-facedly about 'trailer-park trash'," says Dr Ruth Cherrington, a cultural studies lecturer at the University of Warwick. "It could be a backlash against political correctness combined with a populist tendency in society."

Or a vent for society's toxins, if the forum in Chavscum.co.uk is anything to go by. This cult website was set up in December 2003 to chronicle the chavs, also known as neds, townies, kevs, charvers, steeks, spides, bazzas, yarcos, ratboys, kappa slappers, skangers, janners, stigs or scallies. "Whatever you know them as, this site is about them," it reads. "Britain's peasant underclass that is taking over our towns and cities!"

» A plant that detects landmines

Yahoo! News - Landmine-detecting plant developed by Danish researchers

Danish researchers said they have produced a plant that can help detect hidden landmines by changing its colour from green to red when its roots come in contact with explosives.

» Clinton only sent two emails while in office

Clinton's gift to Internet age: two e-mails. 27/01/2004. ABC News Online

One of them hardly qualifies for electronic communication because it was a test to see if the commander in chief knew how to push the button to send an e-mail.

January 27, 2004

» Rob Brydon's new show is about directors' commentaries


In a send-up of those languorous "director's commentaries" that now come as extras on DVDs, the fictitious De Lane talks us through episodes he has supposedly directed of old TV shows such as Bonanza, The Duchess of Duke Street, Secret Army, The Bounder and, er, Mr and Mrs. "Mr and Mrs [I chose] because I loved the ludicrous nature of a director's commentary on a something throwaway like a quiz show," he chuckles. This subversive talking over of old footage is something Brydon has been at for a very long time.

» Nuclear weapons stuck together with sticky tape - official

Yahoo! News - Nuke Workers Taped Explosive Components

Workers dismantling the pit in question found the explosive was cracked, which made it more unstable and easier to detonate, Conway wrote. Their solution was to tape together the cracked explosives and move them to another location.

» Searching for Vulcanoids

Elusive Vulcanoids: Search Reaches New Heights

Scientists have long theorized about a population of small, asteroid-like objects roaming around the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury. None has been found, but the search for these so-called Vulcanoids was elevated earlier this month from jet airplanes to a camera mounted on a sub-orbital rocket.

January 26, 2004

» Coke takes adverts off school vending machines. But the machines are staying.

Telegraph | News | Coca-Cola to drop advertising in schools

Coca-Cola Enterprises, the distribution arm of the company, said the decision recognised the the "conflict" between vending machines in schools and the status of classrooms as "commercial-free" areas.

» Wild boar back in Britain


In modern times Britain has never needed a wild boar policy, as the animals were hunted to extinction by the early 1600s. (Most, if not all, of the English records of boar may be of animals brought over from the continent by noblemen for hunting).

But after a series of escapes from boar farms, starting in the 1980s, the numbers of the animals living wild and breeding successfully in the Kent/Sussex border, Dorset and Herefordshire have now reached a point where the need for an official policy has become apparent.

» Digging for dinosaurs in Antarctica

Chicago Tribune | Breaking new dino ground

Bad weather in December hounded Hammer's team as it worked at 12,500 feet on the side of Mt. Kirkpatrick, 400 miles from the South Pole.

The expedition marked the return to the site where, in January 1991, a Hammer-led expedition found mainland Antarctica's first dinosaur, a 25-foot-long meat-eating theropod, Cryolophosaurus.

» Dragon found in garage


It was then sent to be destroyed. But it appears a porter intercepted the 2 1/2 ft-high jar and took it home. Now the dragon has surfaced in an Oxfordshire garage.

January 24, 2004

» Anorak paradise: The family tree of dance music

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

Select one of the base genres on the far left to expand its music tree and learn about all sorts of meticulously detailed genres that probably don't really exist.

» The "from memory" art of Emma Kay

Tate Modern | Collection Displays

The Story of Art is the most recent of several works which depend on Kay's own memory rather than source material. Whether re-writing the entire works of Shakespeare or the history of the world from memory, Kay's feats of recollection result in a visual representation of her personal memory, candidly exposing the gaps, as well as the extent of her knowledge. These works also offer viewers an insight into their own memories, raising questions about the subjective nature of both personal and collective knowledge.

» Branding, from memory

monochrom Brandmarker

monochrom's attempt to evaluate the actual power of brands by making Austrian people draw a total of twelve logos (nine international, three typically European) from memory, 25 people per brand. Salut, share of mind!

» How Osama could speak from the grave

The Voice of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden was killed at Tora Bora - or his dialysis machine was destroyed and he died shortly afterwards. The strongest evidence for this is the absence of new videos. Al Qaeda fears that news of his death will shock and discourage many of its supporters. There is no other leader who can hold together this diverse and contentious organization, so they believe that they need to keep the news secret. The initial tapes they released were old recordings of former speeches. But many supporters were concerned. They, like me, noticed the absence of videos, and of speeches with clear date indicators.

» Holidaying in hotelpods

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Pod plan for hotel of the future

But Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent told the programme: "Lots of people already have self-sustaining pods, they're called caravans and people tow them around, normally on the A30 in Cornwall in summer.

» Nintendo's giving away multiplayer Pacman

BBC NEWS | Technology | Pac-Man freebie revives memories

Pac-Man was originally called Puck-Man, until a shrewd Namco employee spotted the opportunity for kids to scrape at the logo, creating an altogether ruder-sounding game.

» Labradoodle or dorgi?

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

Move over chocolate lab, the labradoodle has arrived. Why walk a corgi when you can have a dorgi? Or coddle a poodle when you can cuddle a yorkipoo?

January 22, 2004

» "Supersolids" make their debut

nature physics portal - research highlights - Glimpse of a new type of matter

Researchers in the United States think they have found a new state of matter - a supersolid.

If their findings are correct, this state is deeply bizarre. Although it is a crystalline solid, it can 'flow' like the most slippery liquid imaginable - in fact, like a liquid with no viscosity.

» Music industry continues to dig own grave. Hopefully


The music industry has forced a leading internet retailer to stop importing bargain CDs from Asia to the UK in a deal that will add £2 to the cost of chart titles.

January 21, 2004

» In the streets of Londonistan

LRB | John Upton : In the Streets of Londonistan

The regulations set down by the Bill contain an awesomely wide range of activities which it would be in the state's power to control. By Clause 21, a government may 'provide for or enable' the requisition or destruction of property (with or without compensation); the prohibition or requirement of movement to or from a specified place; the prohibition of assemblies of specified kinds at specified places or at specified times; the prohibition of travel at specified times; and last but not least, the prohibition of 'other specified activities'.

In other words, under these regulations a government can, at a stroke, isolate whole cities, control media outlets, close down telecommunications and email and prevent travel. It could ban protest demonstrations and add at will to the list of activities to be prohibited. Failure to comply with any of the provisions or with a direction or order given under the regulations will be a criminal offence

» Robots may make scientists redundant. Well, grad students anyway

Economist.com | A robot scientist

The robot scientist developed by Ross King of the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, and his colleagues, does everything a flesh-and-blood scientist does - or, rather, it does what philosophers of science say that scientists ought to do. That is, it formulates hypotheses from observations, conducts experiments to test them, and then formulates new hypotheses from the results.

» The origin of cooties

Economist.com | The evolution of disgust

These last results confirmed Dr Curtis's suspicion that disgust is not, as many disgustologists believe, just a way of avoiding eating disease-bearing materials. Rather, it extends to threats that might be contagious - in other words might be, or carry, what children refer to as "cooties", as has been suggested by Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University.

January 20, 2004

» Diamonds in the ... er ... dirt

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Diamonds are a cow's best friend

The suspect cow was given a strict diet of dry fodder, and an all day vigil has been launched to see if the diamonds might appear from its' rear end.

It was not long before sparkling cow dung began to be seen.

» Atkins diet helps gout makes a comeback

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Galloping gout is blamed on fad diets

Dr Snaith added that the Atkins diet could precipitate gout, because, as a high-protein diet, it burns off fat and produces lactic acid. It then joins a queue of acids waiting to be expelled by the kidneys and uric acid levels remain high. Crystallisation follows.That is what happened to 40-year-old Richard Jaques.

» Hawking: fantasy

The Armchair Empire - Action Figure Reviews: Dr. Stephen Hawking (The Simpsons)

Dr. Hawking's chair is just like its cartoon counterpart, complete with boxing glove, jet attachments, and free-spinning helicopter blades.

» Hawking: "fact"


Hawking's three children, and nurses who have cared him, fear he may be the victim of controversial Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy in which sufferers harm others to draw attention to themselves.

» Neat!

Pepys' Diary: Monday 14 January 1660/61

At this time primarily (in this context) 'simple and elegant,' the OED's definition 7:

7 Characterized by elegance of form or arrangement, with freedom from all unnecessary additions or embellishments; of agreeable but simple appearance; nicely made or proportioned.In early use the handsomeness of the thing appears to be the more prominent idea.

» Cool timelapse movie of cometary flyby

APOD: 2004 January 19 - STARDUST Flyby of Comet Wild 2

Flying past a comet nucleus is dangerous. On January 2, the robot spacecraft STARDUST became one of the first to plow through the surrounding cloud of dust and grit to photograph the very heart of a comet. Pictured above is a short movie of the encounter showing unprecedented surface details of the icy center of Comet Wild 2. The STARDUST camera pivoted to remain pointed at the nucleus as the spacecraft passed. Heavily shielded from the onslaught of cometary debris, STARDUST survived the beating in excellent condition. Surprisingly, although the nucleus appeared to be solid, the the surrounding coma appeared to be highly fragmented into several distinct streams of particles. Souvenirs captured by the spacecraft will be ejected as the spacecraft passes the Earth in January 2006.

January 16, 2004

» Can Spielberg help Tintin break America?

Tintin Plans A Comeback On Celluloid

But here's the big fish: Hollywood biggie Steven Spielberg is making preparations to shoot the first full-length English film based on a Tintin adventure through his DreamWorks production house and producing partner Kathleen Kennedy. Shooting could begin shortly, and it is likely that for the Christmas season of 2004, Americans and the rest of the world will be treated to a mass epic of a film on one of the most pervasive, recognisable and iconic characters to ever come out of post-War Europe.

January 14, 2004

» ... which some of these people might do well to remember

Wired 8.03: It's Good to Be King

Until a more precise term comes along, one might as well call Talossa a micronation. Micronations, also known as counternations and ephemeral states, consist of one or more people united by the desire to form and/or inhabit an independent country of their own making. All micronations have governments, laws, and customs; the main distinguishing factor is whether their citizens want to establish a physical home country and seek international recognition, or whether, as is the case with Talossa, they're happy just to pretend.

» ... and the unfortunate reality

SUNDAY STAR TIMES - STORY : New Zealand's leading news and information website

Niue's status as a nation is under question after the cyclone that hit the tiny Pacific nation, causing more than $50 million damage.

In the aftermath of the storm, some island leaders are calling for a return to New Zealand governance, and expect the population to fall from about 1200 native Niueans to an unsustainable 500 people.

» The theoretical virtues of small countries

Economist.com | Economics focus

Its importance has grown in the past half-century, as old political empires have disintegrated: more than half the world's countries now have fewer people than the state of Massachusetts, which has about 6m.

» The IRC Bible


* Jehova has left #Eden
* Serpent has joined #Eden
Pssst! he said you can't eat the fruit?
Yeah, so?
lol, u wont die, eat a fruit!
* Eve munches
You eat too, Adam, or I won't go down on you
* Adam munches
I feel so drrrty
* Jehova has joined #Eden

» The mathematics of literature

Studying Literature by the Numbers

In some ways, Mr. Moretti's quantitative method is simply the latest in a long line of efforts to make literary criticism look more like science. From Russian formalism in the 1920's to New Criticism in the 1950's and structuralism and semiotics in the 1960's and 70's, the discipline's major movements share a desire to portray literature as a system governed by hidden laws and structures whose operations it is the critic's job to reveal. But in its formal renunciation of individual texts â?? and, more provocatively, of reading â?? Mr. Moretti's approach, at least as he sketches it in New Left Review, is conceivably more radical than anything his predecessors dreamed up.

January 13, 2004

» Alien alphabet generator

Art21 - The Alphabet Synthesis Machine (Introduction)

The Alphabet Synthesis Machine is an interactive online artwork which allows one to create and evolve the possible writing systems of one's own imaginary civilizations.

» Your handwriting as a font


Fontifier lets you use your own handwriting for the text you write on your computer.
It turns a scanned sample of your handwriting into a computer font that you can use
in your word processor or graphics program, just like regular fonts such as Helvetica.

» Pavement cinema for Calcutta's street kids

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Calcutta cart keeps film rolling

Using a 107-year-old Japanese projector and small, homemade loudspeakers perched on the curious coffin-shaped cart draped in black cloth, Salim hits the road with his unique, mobile pavement cinema.

» Neophiles may live longer

Fear and Loathing - A new study shows that being risk-averse may shorten your life. By Christine Kenneally

But the point of experimental psychology is not to help shy rats get along in the world or to increase rat longevity, it's to measure phenomena that may be applicable to humans. Is it possible that neophobia in humans can affect life span in the same way?

January 11, 2004

» How To Deconstruct Almost Anything

How To Deconstruct Almost Anything

The basic enterprise of contemporary literary criticism is actually quite simple. It is based on the observation that with a sufficient amount of clever handwaving and artful verbiage, you can interpret any piece of writing as a statement about anything at all.

» Good news

Goodle Good News

Peace Reigns in Iraq
Reuters - 3 hours ago
BAGHDAD, Peace has been declared in the country after both sides realised that violence never really solves anything and kissing is better.

» The decline of fashion photography

The Decline of Fashion Photography | An argument in pictures. | By Karen Lehrman

This image taken by one of today?s biggest celebrity photographers, David LaChapelle, recently went for $3,000. Why does that seem like a worse deal than $28,750 for the Penn? Critics say the problem is that today's fashion photographers see themselves as artists, while their Golden Age predecessors thought they were just working for a living.

January 10, 2004

» And for split personalities

Split personalities probed: Two personas trigger different brain networks.

One human brain can have two different personalities dwelling in it, according to a new imaging study - and each personality seems to use its own network of nerves to help recall or suppress memories.

» New evidence for repressed memories - both everyday and traumatic

Study shows power of mind over memory

The memory-blocking process extends beyond traumatic events to the management of common daily experiences, as well, Anderson said.

"For example, maybe you see a note that reminds you of an upcoming meeting with an unpleasant person," he said. "And you just say 'I don't want to think about that right now,' and focus on the work at hand. So you push it out of your mind and wind up forgetting about the meeting.

January 09, 2004

» The Arab contribution to civilisation

ARAB WORLD | The Arab contribution to civilisation

The Arab contribution to civilisation spans art and philosophy as well as the 'hard' sciences. It includes a certain number of specific, ground-breaking inventions and theories, but in addition to these strokes of genius it also has a more subtle dimension. For the golden age of Arab science and philosophy was one of contacts and exchanges between cultures, of spontaneous borrowings, and of two-way influences.

» The military-industrial complex: alive and well


Military-fuelled growth, or military Keynesianism as it is now known in academic circles, was first theorised by the Polish economist Michal Kalecki in 1943. Kalecki argued that capitalists and their political champions tended to bridle against classic Keynesianism; achieving full employment through public spending made them nervous because it risked over-empowering the working class and the unions.

The military was a much more desirable investment from their point of view, although justifying such a diversion of public funds required a certain degree of political repression, best achieved through appeals to patriotism and fear-mongering about an enemy threat - and, inexorably, an actual war.

» Tricky old game, archaeology

BBC NEWS | Scotland | 'Historic find' is old garden patio

"Over the course of the following months, we engaged in a series of excavations only to find out that what we were digging up was in fact a 1940s patio.

» Woman sheds skin, lives to tell

TheSanDiegoChannel.com - Health - Woman's Skin Falls Off, Miraculously Survives

Dr. Daniel Lozano, from the UCSD Regional Burn Center, said, "She lost skin in her entire body. It's rather dramatic to really see this coming off in sheets."

Even the membrane covering her internal organs -- her eyes, mouth, and throat -- began peeling away.

» Shark vs squid

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | New giant squid predator found

Sleeper sharks even appear to target the biggest species of large squid - the colossal squid, which is about double the size of the shark

January 08, 2004

» Kilroy intro generator

Robert Kilroy-Silk : Television For A Generation

Instead of telling the viewer what the subject of the show is, [Kilroy] lures them in by posing a few questions. Usually two questions, pasted together to create more questions inside your head. Often they bear no relevance to the show, but Robert doesn't seem to care. He carries on regardless.

» A big year for space probes

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Space, the busy frontier

But by next Christmas, the Beagle 2, Spirit and Stardust missions will seem to have been warm-up acts to a year of space spectaculars, devised by scientists and engineers who have invested decades of their lives to snatch a few hours, days or months of glory in the heavens.

» The apes are fighting back

Times Online - World

CHIMPANZEES struggling to survive amid the destruction of their forest habitat are snatching and killing human babies.

» Why opera is hard to understand

CNN.com - Why opera is hard to grasp, even in English - Jan. 7, 2004

New measurements show that a soprano distorts pronunciation when she opens her mouth wide and adjusts her vocal tract to hit the highest, loudest notes.

In doing so, she sacrifices the acoustical nuances that listeners require to understand the words.

"It's not our ears," said Australian physicist Joe Wolfe. "In some cases, the information simply is not there."

» Spirit lands in something mysterious

Most Detailed Image of Mars Shows Mysterious Substance (washingtonpost.com)

't understand it. I don't know anybody on my team who understands it. . . . It looks like mud, but it can't be mud."

» Civet cat. Yum.

What Does Civet Cat Taste Like? - Why you'll find it in soups, sweets, and cigarettes. By Brendan I. Koerner

By far the most celebrated and expensive use of civet, however, is in the elaborate Chinese soup known as Dragon, Tiger, and Phoenix. Civet flesh is used as the "Tiger" portion of the concoction, along with rat snake or cobra ("Dragon") and ordinary chicken ("Phoenix").

» AS Byatt on fairy tales

Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | AS Byatt on the lure of the fairy tale

Everything in the tales appears to happen entirely by chance - and this has the strange effect of making it appear that nothing happens by chance, that everything is fated.

Lüthi even points out that folk tales have certain colours - red, white, black and the metallic colours of gold and silver and steel. The fairy tale world is called up for me by the half-abstract patternings of Paul Klee, or the mosaic definition of Kandinsky's early, "Russian" paintings of horses and forests. Lüthi makes the point that green, the colour of nature, is almost never specifically mentioned in folk tales.

January 05, 2004

» Finding Mount Everest from space

Finding Mt. Everest From Space

Astronauts orbiting Earth have only seconds to follow landmarks and visually identify Mt. Everest before they have moved on (they are moving at 5 miles or 8 km per second!). This tutorial is designed for anyone who wants to find Everest as seen from orbit.