Tag Archives: science

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There’s some hypothesizing that one reason dolphins have such big brains is because they have to keep track of a large number of really complex relationships.  More complex than any animal other than humans.

Male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) form tight bonds with friends and allies that are as intricate and devious as those of humans. Researchers already know, for example, that males team up as duos or trios—known as first-level alliances—so that they can mate with a female without her swimming away… But rival males will often try to steal the female, causing the duo or trio to join forces with other duos and trios in what’s known as a second-level alliance.

Now Connor and colleagues have found an even higher level of alliance. In the biggest fights, the team found, the second-level alliance may receive help from another group of male dolphins, forming what the researchers call a “third-level” alliance. Even among chimpanzees, scientists have not witnessed such sophisticated partnerships, where one group of animals receives help from another group in a fight.

Brian over at Gamecrafter’s Guild has taken the legend of the tomte and adapted it for 4th edition D&D rules.  First rule to remember…don’t piss off the tomte.

Great story from Sweden:

Swedish porn mogul Berth Milton has come up with an unusual business proposition for his next project: five-star hotels where guests can stay for free in exchange for having their indiscretions filmed and broadcast over the internet.

But hey, Mr. Milton wants you to know that if he builds one of these in your neighborhood, you needn’t worry about your property values falling.

“It has to be a hotel for non-swingers as well — not super-explicit where everybody’s running around naked. That takes the style and class out of it,” he said.

Oh…as long as they keep the style and class.

The balance of this post is NSFW

Even better story from West Virginia.  Police reports tend to be pretty dry and boring affairs.  Still, when there’s a good story it can shine through even the most boring official lingo.  And anytime a police report includes a quote like this you know there’s a doozy of a story attached:

“Somebody is going to eat my pussy or I’m going to cut your fucking throat.”

Oh, and it gets even better.  This story has everything…a marriage on the rocks, a motor lodge, two half naked buddies, and a crazy lady with a knife.  (h/t Balko)

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Chinese sci-fi is growing in popularity but you probably won’t find much in the distopian genre.

Which is more shocking?  Squid can fly or that there exists “a LISTSERV dedicated to mollusks”?  Still, this is pretty cool:

…”gliding” is too passive a term to describe what squid do when they leave the ocean for the air: “flight” is more fitting…”One of our co-authors saw them actually flapping their fins. Some people have seen them jetting water while in flight.

Lunghu made a number of predictions earlier this year and now gives them a mid-year evaluation.

I always find it interesting how often our politicians (and fellow citizens) claim to support families and children but, when it comes right down to it, so rarely put their money (or anything else) where their mouth is.  Case in point:  family leave.  If you have a child, what can you expect?  A few weeks of unpaid leave, usually (if you can afford it).  After that, it’s get your ass back to work.  The Boston Globe has an article asking if we perhaps should do a bit more.  (h/t Phronesisaical).  Uh…and just for the record, the socialist hell-hole Sweden allows parents a total of 16 months of parental leave at 80% pay that can be taken up until the child turns 10 years old (Oh, please, why won’t Sean Hannity save those poor people?!)  Us?  Talk about raising the minimum wage a nickle an hour and you’ll hear howls about how we’re strangling the small business owner to death.

Britain is announcing it’ll be withdrawing its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015.  Can anyone really make predictions like that?  I’ll just note that the time between now and then is almost the same amount of time that the U.S. was involved in the Second World War.  A lot can happen in four years.

It’s like the right isn’t even trying anymore.  Remember when they could come up with kinda-sorta coherent delusions to get everyone scared?  Now we’re looking at terror babies?  The only question is how in the world can we be in a place where these knuckleheads might actually get back in power?

Sven has a very interesting interpretation of the evolution of the Greek phalanx.

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Great headline:  Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts. (h/t Boingboing)

IBM has created a web-based version of the CIA factbook.  There’s enough variables to filter, views to alter and colors to see that even the most jaded of you will start to drool. (h/t sources and methods)

Sitherine is coming out with a new game that looks fun.  Battlefield Academy is based on a free BBC game of the same name.  You can still play the BBC versions with allow you to fight the Battle of Trafalgar or the original games which takes you through Rome, the Middle Ages, Napoleon’s time and WWII.

Peter talks about the Soviet withdrawal from his country (Hungary).

FBI epic fail.  Wikimedia epic win!  Hopefully the FBI realizes they are in a hole and will stop digging.

Lung Hu has two great posts worthy of your attention both revolving around that Iranian scientist defector/abductee/whatever Sharram Amiri. If you like your international relations with a lot of alternate hypothesis you probably haven’t heard before, check it out.

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This article (I can’t remember where from now..mea culpa!) discusses some interesting and disturbing research if you’re looking for underlying causes why some countries ‘made it’ and others have struggled.  Don’t think colonialism or slavery…you have to go much further back.

1500 AD technology is a particularly powerful predictor of per capita income today. 78 percent of the difference in income today between sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe is explained by technology differences that already existed in 1500 AD – even BEFORE the slave trade and colonialism.

The state of technology in 1000 BC has a strong correlation with technology 2500 years later, in 1500 AD.

This dude has had his house hit by meteors six times!  Now, he might be the only guy in the world who can say this and not be dismissed as a kook out of hand:

“I am obviously being targeted by extraterrestrials,” he said.

Snapshot of economic attitudes in America: Mrs. TwShiloh was shopping and a man was behind her in line with one or two items.  Mrs. TwShiloh, having a fairly full cart and, more important, handfuls of coupons said:

“If you’d like you can go ahead of me.  I’ll probably take a while with all these coupons.”

To which he replied:  ‘No problem…I like to see capitalism get ripped off.’  I think it’s reasonable to assume that guy didn’t purchase a copy of ‘Going Rouge’.

H/T Balko for a link to this story about a mashup between NGOs and an Abbott and Costello routine:

The World Health Organization found itself Friday in the strange position of defending North Korea’s health care system from an Amnesty International report, three months after WHO’s director described medicine in the totalitarian state as the envy of the developing world.

Cynic is guest posting for TNC and he raises some interesting questions about the intersection of COIN and law enforcement.

Last year, our forces shot and killed 36 Afghan civilians, and wounded more than twice that number, as their vehicles approach convoys and checkpoints. And not once since McChrystal’s arrival have any of those we’ve shot proved to be a genuine threat. Imagine, if you will, that the NYPD had a record like that.

Look out Stephen Colbert.  Bears may be a big threat now but global warming may put giant marmots at the top of the threatdown.

Neo-Nazi clothing maker throws a hissy fit when some people decide to market their own line of clothing mocking them.  If you’re going to be a nazi, you probably shouldn’t be a whiner as well.

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Ta-Nehisi has a great post about the case of the D.C. detective pulling a gun on a bunch of people throwing snowballs.  The detective is claiming that he thought an angry mob of  anarchists were threatening him and he feared for his life and so pulled his gun.  Yeah…cause anarchists attack a whole lot of cops…and snowball them to death.  Maybe…maybe, he’d have a case if the G20 was meeting at the time and he was in the area of protests.  But no, Baylor was in civilian clothes and a civilian vehicle.  There was no way he’d have been identified as a police officer.  That means Baylor had to be under the assumption that these ‘anarchists’ were on some sort of racial attack.  Yeah…cause as widespread as anarchists attacking police officers is, it’s even more common for them to lynch random black people.

As Coates sums up:

…it’s good to know that Detective Baylor won’t be, like, fired or anything. Wouldn’t want a cop who feels endangered by snowballs to be bounced off the force. The rough streets of D.C. need men with that kind of mettle.

If you are the sort of person that worries about the carbon footprint of food, don’t feel guilty about bananas.

Bananas are a great food for anyone who cares about their carbon footprint. For just 80g of CO2e you get a whole lot of nutrition: 140 calories as well as stacks of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fibre. All in all, a fantastic component of a low-carbon diet.

• They are grown in natural sunlight, which means that no energy-intensive hot-housing is required.

• They keep well, so although they are often grown thousands of miles from the end consumer, they are transported by boats, which per kilo of freight transported emit only 1% as much CO2 as planes do.

• There is hardly any packaging, if any, because they provide their own. (You might sometimes see a bunch in a light plastic bag or wrapper, but this probably pays for itself carbon-wise by reducing the chance of customers ruining the fruit when they try to split a bunch.)

“You get to play with very large toys in the oil industry.”  A great explanation of the science behind the BP oil spill.  (h/t Phronesisaical)

I was never a big fan of Andrew Sullivan’s ‘View from your window’ (probably because he refused to publish my own, most excellent entry) but he’s now got a contest where you guess the location of the shot.  It’s quite amazing to read the logic people use to figure out where the picture was taken.  I only wish they published all the guesses.  Great critical thinking exercise.

Revel in the zombie nerdgasmic experience!

I’m about a week late on this one but Scienceblogs had a zombie themed day back on the first.  Some of the links to zombies are a bit tenuous but the spirit is there and if your interested in a wide range of science issues there will be at least one or two things that’ll interest you.  Some worthwhile posts

And finally, a PSA.  This may be basic stuff but it never hurts to review.

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Nice video about the war on drugs (h/t daily dish)

The reliability/credibility ratings most intelligence personnel use in the U.S. is bunk and information to that effect has been known since 1975.

I want one….now!  And please don’t burst my bubble by telling me how impractical it is.

I have no idea what this game will be but the promo video has a 1984 feel to it and I’m a sucker for distopian entertainment….

Yesterday the Swedes officially ended conscription and are now converting to an all volunteer force.

Machine teaches men what it feels like to menstruate.  And why would I want to know that?  I also don’t know what it feels like to have hemorrhagic fever, is some knucklehead going to make a simulator for that too?

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Scientists are examining the possibility that Polynesians, those most famous of sea travelers, made it all the way to South America.  They came to this conclusion, in part, by studying the DNA of sweet potatoes.  Sweet Potatoes on the Chilean coast are more closely related to those found in Polynesia than those descended from those brought to Europe by early explorers.

…many researchers now think it likely that Polynesians reached South America by about 1200 C.E., after the settlement of Easter Island, and several centuries before Europeans arrived around 1500 C.E.

As a side note, I picked up this story from the Science Podcast.

Never forget…the surge worked.

I just found out about Forced March Games which is developing what looks like a great little game about the 2nd Punic War.  It’s got a totally retro/board game look and feel about it and should be coming out soon.  I downloaded the demo and it’s pretty fun (although you can only play two turns on the ‘beginner’ level so you don’t get much of a feel for its long term playability).  You can, however, go through the whole tutorials so if it is something you’ll want you’ll know how to play it as soon as it comes out.

Everyone knows about the terrible destruction of habitat and animal life caused by the BP oil spill.  So, how are other states reacting?  Let’s look at New Jersey:

A three-year effort to reestablish oyster beds in the Hackensack River by a Rutgers University researcher has been derailed by a new ban on such projects by the state.

Despite pleas from researchers, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin last week issued the ban on research-related “gardening” of commercial shellfish in polluted waters to protect the state’s $790 million-a-year shellfish industry, which is centered in cleaner southern New Jersey waters.

Oysters are filter feeders and are really good at cleaning up polluted waterways (which New Jersey has in abundance) but, the nitwits in the NJ Department of Environmental Protection has decided that since Southern oyster beds are going to be devastated by BP the temptation for poachers to raid the test oyster beds (which will be contaminated and unfit for eating) will be irresistible and if someone got sick it might damage the reputation of the New Jersey shellfish industry.   So…the answer (of course) is destroy all the oyster fields.  Yeah…How about a word from some crazy, hippie do-gooders.

Our oysters are not fit for human consumption. Just like blue crabs, ribbed mussels, finfish and all manner of other crustaceans and shellfish in the harbor, our oysters live and grow in contaminated water and are the subject of consumption advisories. The DEP seems to fear that there are people out there who will find our reefs — though underwater at all times, — choose our oysters — though they are too small for human consumption, — remove them — though they are firmly affixed to immovable structures, — and then sell them to unwitting consumers. We think that danger is vanishingly unlikely.

More here.  It just makes you want to bang your head against a wall.

July 1st is going to be a great day.  Starbucks will begin offering free wi-fi at all their U.S. locations.  At that point there really is no need for me to physically go to that brick crap box where I work anymore.  Unfortunately, the man will not agree with that view and force me into my wage slavery at said crap box.

Holy moly…the German defense minister is 38 years old.  I guess I really am a slacker.  I’m 41 and still haven’t been named the head of a major national department yet.  It can’t be that hard of a job.  I mean, even I can do this well in an interview:

SPIEGEL: Minister Guttenberg, how will the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, look in 10 years?

Guttenberg: Different.

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Some sort of reenactment at the recent Victory Day celebrations in Russia.  Geez, those Russians love to put armor on everything.  These trains would be brilliant in the event of a zombie uprising.

The Swedes have made the world’s largest scale model of the solar system.  It’s big.  REALLY BIG.  Check it out here and here.

Lung Hu’s correct prediction of the Chilian earthquake was apparently a one off.  His predictions for another earthquake in the San Francisco area was a bust.   He still refuses to divulge his methodology which I find maddening.

Mark Twain’s autobiography is about to be published.  He apparently wanted to wait until he’d been dead for a century.  The first of three volumes is coming out this fall and I can’t wait.

International aid is a bit more complicated than one might first think. (H/T YT)

Organisations that want to remain competitive need to know all about integrated marketing strategies, cost-benefit analyses and competitive incentives.

Those that fail to put in an appearance at each new humanitarian disaster miss out on contracts for the implementation of aid projects financed by donor governments and institutions, and are bypassed by competing organisations that do show up.

Start-up costs in distant, crisis-hit countries are sky-high. Aid organisations have to recruit and hire staff, rent and furnish housing and office space, and bring in Land Cruisers, aid supplies, satellite dishes, computers, air-conditioners, office equipment and generators. Once at work in a “humanitarian territory”, NGOs have to ensure they can remain active there for at least as long as it takes to earn back their investments.

Afraid of being banned in Germany, the Hells Angels and Bandidos motorcycle gangs have agreed on a truce.  This should not make anyone in Germany feel comfortable.

We no longer want to be constantly portrayed as criminals,” Bandidos member Micha told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “It has to stop.”

It’s not that they want to stop being criminals.  They just want to stop being portrayed as them.  How to do that?  Well, I’d guess they quit with the stupid public attacks on each other and agree to a clear division of their criminal enterprises.  What would that sort of thing look like?

The truce — agreed to by the vice president of the Bandidos in Europe, Peter M. and Frank H., the president of the Hell’s Angels Charters in Hanover — will be sealed “by a handshake” on Wednesday in a lawyer’s office in Hanover.

Yeah, that sounds about like it…

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Now that I’m back to kind of a regular schedule I can enjoy keeping up with my blogroll.

Jason has a kick-ass post about cognition in snakes that involves putting them in a weightless environment.  I’m tired of these mother-flippin’ snakes on this mother-flippin’ Soyuz capsule.

Mike Bennett is starting part 2 of his vampire novel podcast Underwood and Flinch.  I’ve recommended it before so I’m sure you’ve all listened to it but in the off chance you’ve ignored my previous recommendations, it’s not too late to catch up with part 1.  Mike is a great audio performer and storyteller.  There’s none of that namby pamby Twilight sort of vampire in here.  Good stuff.

Brit Hume is an asshat.  My god.  Are lobotomies required to work at Fox news?

Sven talks about how small countries can think about defense.

Amazing video of that volcano in Iceland.

Oh…how I wish this was a real movie…

Unfortunately it was just an entry in a contest.  Still, a guy can dream. Go to the website and check out the close up shots to see all the B-movie awesomeness

And finally, I’m the motha-flippin’….