December 31, 2014
Great science pix for 2014
This is 1 of 50 of The Most Amazing Science Images Of 2014 at io9.
Some serious dedication
3rd Grade Teacher Wins $150,000, Then Donates It All to Her School
A third-grade teacher in Boston who won $150,000 in an online contest donated her entire winnings to her school.
Nicole "Nikki" Bollerman, 26, was honored this week by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh after she donated her grand prize of $150,000 from a Capital One #WishForOthers contest that also funded three books per student.
"I really made the wish for my students and I was blessed, lucky and thankful that Capital One gave me the opportunity," Bollerman told ABC News today. "Since I made the wish for my students I thought I would do something to make their lives better rather than spend it on myself."
Bollerman teaches general third-grade education at UP Academy Dorchester, a public charter school that's a year old.
December 30, 2014
It's the Big One (2)
This is called a girandola. Here's another one going off at night, which makes a better show in some ways.
Serial road rage
California road rage driver pleads not guilty while steering imaginary wheel, requests $100 bail in wacky court appearance
Deirdre Orozco pleaded not guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving and other charges Tuesday while fidgeting, grinning and flashing an 'I love you' hand sign. The 50-year-old allegedly ran two cars off highways in separate, terrifying incidents less than a week apart.
From belligerent to bizarre.
The alleged serial road rager accused of running two cars off northern California highways pleaded not guilty during a zany courtroom appearance Tuesday.
Deirdre Orozco pantomimed driving, flashed an "I love you" sign language gesture, proudly nodded and widely grinned as the charges against her were read.
Then she asked that her $250,000 bail be dropped to $100.
The 50-year-old attacked two drivers in a week, police said.
Here's video from one of the incidents.
Keeping Zaandam weird
The Inntel hotel in Zaandam, near Amsterdam
December 29, 2014
Those were the days (2)
Street art in Portland (Oregon, I assume).
Husband, 18, and wife, 42, 'stole $2,000 worth of Christmas ornaments from neighbors to decorate their own yard'
Police say 18-year-old Jeremy Lewallen and his 42-year-old wife, Carrie Carley, from Colorado Springs, have swiped $2,000 worth of holiday decorations from dozens of families in their neighborhood.
According to investigators, the pair of Grinches then used the pilfered Christmas displays to deck their own front yard, which ultimately has proven to be their undoing.
Police were tipped off about the sticky-fingered couple by a neighbor who had his display stolen and then spotted a very similar one on the suspects' property in Colorado Springs.
When questioned by police, Lewallen and his spouse more than 20 years his senior admitted to the thefts.
Still more "People are awesome"
December 26, 2014
The World Is Not Falling Apart
Never mind the headlines. We've never lived in such peaceful times.
It's a good time to be a pessimist. ISIS, Crimea, Donetsk, Gaza, Burma, Ebola, school shootings, campus rapes, wife-beating athletes, lethal cops—who can avoid the feeling that things fall apart, the center cannot hold? Last year Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before a Senate committee that the world is "more dangerous than it has ever been." This past fall, Michael Ignatieff wrote of "the tectonic plates of a world order that are being pushed apart by the volcanic upward pressure of violence and hatred." Two months ago, the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen lamented, "Many people I talk to, and not only over dinner, have never previously felt so uneasy about the state of the world. … The search is on for someone to dispel foreboding and embody, again, the hope of the world."
As troubling as the recent headlines have been, these lamentations need a second look. It's hard to believe we are in greater danger today than we were during the two world wars, or during other perils such as the periodic nuclear confrontations during the Cold War, the numerous conflicts in Africa and Asia that each claimed millions of lives, or the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq that threatened to choke the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and cripple the world's economy.
How can we get a less hyperbolic assessment of the state of the world? Certainly not from daily journalism. News is about things that happen, not things that don't happen. We never see a reporter saying to the camera, "Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out"—or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up. As long as violence has not vanished from the world, there will always be enough incidents to fill the evening news. And since the human mind estimates probability by the ease with which it can recall examples, newsreaders will always perceive that they live in dangerous times. All the more so when billions of smartphones turn a fifth of the world's population into crime reporters and war correspondents
Sunset on Mt. Ranier
December 25, 2014
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
At The Atlantic's In Focus blog.
Thousands of runners in Father Christmas suits pose for a group photo after completing an annual Santa fun run from Darling Harbour to the Sydney Opera House on December 7, 2014. The annual event is held each year as a fundraiser to assist disadvantaged children with equipment and programs to help them live a fuller life. (Reuters/Jason Reed)
Only in Japan (7)
Japan's Travel Agency For Stuffed Animals Is So Heartwarming
Stuffed animals are cooped up! They want to ditch your bed and bookshelves. They want to see the world. They want to travel. And, in Japan, they can.
Enter Unagi Travel. It dubs itself as a "travel agency for stuffed animals." For the past three years, Sonoe Azuma, 38, has been taking stuffed animals on holidays and day trips. This allows the owners of the stuffed animals, some of which are physically impaired, to live vicariously through the plush toys.
Travelogues are uploaded to Facebook, where the owners can follow what activities their stuffed animals are up to.
How it's done (9)
Some nice slo-mo work and this looks like fun. But each round of ammo costs about the same as each bottle of champagne.
December 24, 2014
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime
Video from 2006
To save us all from Thetans' power
The Scientology Christmas Catalog Is Totally Insane
Finding the right gift for everyone in your family can be a real bitch. Your mom just wants a phone call. Your dad wants you to find a job. These are not easy people to shop for. But what about your second cousin who moved to L.A., got introduced to Scientology by an actor friend, joined the church to make connections, and found himself amassing a fortune in credit-card debt while digging out a new infinity pool for David Miscavige? I would argue that he's the hardest relative to shop for. After all, what do get for you the man who has nothing?
Thankfully, the Church of Scientology has compiled this handy catalog of L. Ron-approved holiday merchandise. Please note the ORDER NOW—PRICES INCREASE ON JANUARY 1ST banner across the cover of this thing. Normally, prices go down after peak shopping season. Ah, but in the Church of Scientology, the holiday means a generous discount on being blatantly defrauded. SO ACT NOW BEFORE THAT E-METER TRIPLES IN PRICE!
Nice decorating job
December 23, 2014
This is just one of many amusing correction notices that appeared in print.
The year in media errors and corrections 2014
The Economist:In a leader last month (Of bongs and bureaucrats, January 11th) we said that The Economist first proposed legalising drugs in 1993. In fact we argued for it in a cover story in 1988. Who says drug use doesn't damage long-term memory?
December 22, 2014
Let's hope it wasn't Donner or Blitzen or Cupid or Dasher or...
Taking 'Bah, humbug!' up a notch
How One Man Is Terrorizing Neighbors With a Hostile Holiday Decoration Display
Homeowners on Fairley Road in Ross Township, Pennsylvania, say their neighbor Bill Ansell is terrorizing them year round with his hostile anti-Christmas spirit.
"Any opportunity he has to make our life a hardship, he does," resident Chris Hebda told ABC News' "20/20."
"He's an angry person that's very unstable," resident Pamela Heck told "20/20."
Ansell, an electrician, has a display on his yard that features a beheaded choir, a hanging Mickey Mouse and even a urinating Santa Claus that lights up at night.
Neighbors Chris and Joanne Hebda said they have had to stare at the unpleasant decorations for the past six years. Fairley Road is a unique cul-de-sac; a circular street with Ansell's house right in the middle, surrounded by six other homes. That makes it hard to avoid his handiwork.
"There was a Virgin Mary here, and he placed a knife through her head, right there on the edge of our driveway," Joanne Hebda told "20/20." "I thought it was a terroristic threat."
More of the year in pictures
Here's an image from CNN's 2014: The year in pictures
March 9: The Northern Lights appear over snow-covered mountains in Iceland.
December 21, 2014
Photo from a gallery of images of Lake Powell on the Arizona/Utah border by Mike Reyfman.
Somebody set up us the bomb
Sony Hack: Activists to Drop 'Interview' DVDs Over North Korea Via Balloon
Whether or not North Korea is behind the Sony hack, Kim Jong Un better brace himself because The Interview is headed to his country. Human rights activists are planning to airlift DVDs of the Seth Rogen comedy into the country via hydrogen balloons.
Fighters for a Free North Korea, run by Park Sang Hak, a former government propagandist who escaped to South Korea, has for years used balloons to get transistor radios, DVDs and other items into North Korea — not to entertain the deprived masses, but to introduce them to the outside world.
In the past two years, the Human Rights Foundation in New York, created by Thor Halvorssen, has been helping bankroll the balloon drops, with the next one set for January. The Interview likely won't be out on DVD then, but Halvorssen says he'll add copies as soon as possible.
At the Seattle airport
I assume that means Sea-Tac
December 19, 2014
Animated optical illusions (3)
"Hey, let's steal a car we can't drive!" What maroons...
Stick shift defeats carjackers in downtown Ocala
Police say two carjackers almost got away with a vehicle near Ocala's downtown skating rink Wednesday night — but they didn't know how to drive a stick shift.
Ocala Police Department officers spoke with the owner of a 2014 Toyota Corolla near the city's ice skating rink. The man told them he was sitting in his car talking on his cellphone when a man with a gun tapped on the driver's side window. Another man stood by the passenger's side window. [...]
The victim handed over the keys and quickly walked away from the car and headed west toward Southeast First Avenue. He said he saw the robbers trying to drive away, but they had trouble making the car move.
The victim, meanwhile, stopped another motorist and asked the person to call police. Before officers arrived, the robbers ran from the car, which still had the keys in the ignition.
Still more of the year in pictures
Winners of the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest at The Atlantic's InFocus blog.
Honorable Mention, Nature. "Stag Deer Bellowing" Stag Deer Bellowing in Richmond Park, London. (© Prashant Meswani/National Geographic Photo Contest)
December 18, 2014
A crosswalk in Kyrgyzstan
The happiest mile you'll ever run
The Beer Mile: Chug Four, Run One
After church one Sunday morning, 44-year old Chris Kimbrough rolls by the Bailey Middle School track in Austin, Texas, craning her neck to see if anyone is occupying the oval. She takes note of a man sauntering slowly down the backstretch at the otherwise vacant facility. Satisfied, she sinks her foot into the accelerator of her Toyota Sienna and races home.
"The track is empty, let's go!" she says to her husband as she throws on her running clothes and blue New Balance training shoes. She grabs four cans of a local craft brew and a stopwatch as they rush out the door. [...]
On her husband's mark, the 5-foot-3-inch, 108-pound Kimbrough cracks open a can of the ale and throws her head back, letting it drain down her throat like a fraternity pledge. Ten seconds later, the can is empty. She tosses it to the grassy infield and takes off on her first lap, barreling around the worn, rust-colored rubber track.
Best of YouTube 2014
According to Zapatou and these 233 video segments.
December 17, 2014
Just doesn't sound the same, does it?
Mobile mistletoe mishap
Drone strike! Our photographer injured by TGI Friday's mistletoe copter
Turns out a moment of awkwardness wasn't the worst that could happen when a popular family restaurant chain unleashed indoor aircraft with the mission of prompting diners to kiss on camera.
TGI Friday's much-hyped "Mobile Mistletoe" drones drew first blood in their New York City debut on Dec. 4 at the chain's beloved Sheepshead Bay location when one of them hit our intrepid photographer right in the face.
The two remote-controlled helicopters dangling sprigs of mistletoe were intended to spread holiday romance, but one of them flew out of control and clipped Courier photographer Georgine Benvenuto in the nose with one of its spinning, uncovered blades.
"It literally chipped off a tip of my nose," said Benvenuto, using tissues to stanch the blood. "It took off part of my nose and cut me here, right under my chin."
Benvenuto said she's just thankful she wasn't blinded in the name of love.
And a one...
Parking at the Estonian State Opera
December 16, 2014
Reuters' Best photos of the year 2014. This one is of a controlled burn of a house at Lake Whitney, Texas that was falling into the lake.
I'll bet you could have lots of fun with this
Though perhaps not in the way it's intended.
Wakie, The Social Alarm Clock That Lets You Wake Up Strangers, Finally Arrives On iOS
"Hey there, I'm just calling to wake you up," I said a little awkwardly.
"Thanks. Where are you from?" replied a female voice with a thick Irish accent.
"The UK. You're from Ireland, right?"
"How could you tell?" she said wryly.
"The flag at the top of the screen."
It took 9 months to be approved, but, Wakie — the 'social alarm clock' that lets you wake up (and be woken up by) strangers — has finally arrived on iOS. [...]
"Most people hate alarm clocks, billions of people feel unhappy every day with these classic ringers and ding-congers," Wakie co-founder and CEO Hrachik Adjamian tells me. "We make people happy with the voice of friendly strangers from all over the world who try to make you smile in the morning. A lot of people who use our service say that they started to love mornings. The better you start your day the better you feel yourself for the rest of the day."
I think he's right
December 15, 2014
All about that space
Nicely done. Looks like people at NASA are ridin' that Orion buzz.
The Male Idiot Theory
From the British Medical Journal, no less. (Tip o the hat to Jeff G.)
The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviourAbstract
Sex differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. However, little is known about sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. This paper reviews the data on winners of the Darwin Award over a 20 year period (1995-2014). Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive. This paper reports a marked sex difference in Darwin Award winners: males are significantly more likely to receive the award than females (P<0.0001). We discuss some of the reasons for this difference.
However, there is a class of risk—the "idiotic" risk—that is qualitatively different from those associated with, say, contact sports or adventure pursuits such as parachuting. Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final.
According to "male idiot theory" (MIT) many of the differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.16 There are anecdotal data supporting MIT, but to date there has been no systematic analysis of sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. In this paper we present evidence in support of this hypothesis using data on idiotic behaviours demonstrated by winners of the Darwin Award.17 18 19 20 21
Winners of the Darwin Award must die in such an idiotic manner that "their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive."20 The Darwin Awards Committee attempts to make a clear distinction between idiotic deaths and accidental deaths. For instance, Darwin Awards are unlikely to be awarded to individuals who shoot themselves in the head while demonstrating that a gun is unloaded. This occurs too often and is classed as an accident. In contrast, candidates shooting themselves in the head to demonstrate that a gun is loaded may be eligible for a Darwin Award—such as the man who shot himself in the head with a "spy pen" weapon to show his friend that it was real.18
To qualify, nominees must improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race using astonishingly stupid methods. Northcutt cites a number of worthy candidates.17 18 19 20 21 These include the thief attempting to purloin a steel hawser from a lift shaft, who unbolted the hawser while standing in the lift, which then plummeted to the ground, killing its occupant; the man stealing a ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train, only to be dragged two miles to his death before the train was able to stop; and the terrorist who posted a letter bomb with insufficient postage stamps and who, on its return, unthinkingly opened his own letter.
A nice shot of the Gateway Arch (here in St. Louis)
December 12, 2014
Cheap paint job
The $383 Paint Job: the cost of 38,300 pennies. (I hate to think how much labor went into this, though.)
What could possibly go wrong?
This startup wants to pay you to fly with strangers' stuff in your luggage
Fast-growing startups Uber and Airbnb have turned idle drivers and apartment owners into on-demand chauffeurs and hoteliers. Now a new company wants to apply the peer-to-peer "sharing economy" formula to the age-old courier industry.
Indianapolis-based Carry, which launched yesterday, is a new take on long-distance package shipping. Instead of using FedEx, UPS, or the postal service, the marketplace matches people who need something delivered with travelers who are taking the same route. Current listings are seeking someone to take an iPhone to Mexico from Los Angeles for $350, and bring medication from London to New York for $44.
As with Airbnb, Carry is trying to take advantage of an under-utilized resource—in this case, the unused space in your suitcase. If you're already going on a trip, it's a potential way to defray vacation costs. And Carry is pitching itself as a cheaper alternative to express shipping.
What a Christmas card
I'm sure they're not cheap but I'd buy some.
December 11, 2014
Yee haw! (2)
It's on the house
So much for the old adage, "Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel."
From Dallas's top kitchens, reviewer Leslie Brenner is feeling the heat
DALLAS — Leslie Brenner's money is no good at Proof + Pantry. Or at Lark on the Park, Spoon, Meddlesome Moth and a number of other restaurants here. These free meals are not intended as bribes to influence the Dallas Morning News restaurant critic into writing a positive review.
No, they're intended to prevent a review altogether.
In early November, after a town-hall-style meeting, at least 10 Dallas-area restaurants agreed to adopt a practice first employed in October at Proof + Pantry, where the owners refused to present Brenner with a bill, setting off a widely publicized standoff over who would eventually pocket the $500 that the critic left in cash to cover the check. (Short answer: charity.) The policy is designed to generate either an ethical conflict for the critic, who cannot accept freebies, or an embarrassing public scene, which would cast doubt on the critic's ability to write a fair review.
2014 in pictures
Homemade rockets streak through the sky above Vrontados, Greece, on April 19, 2014. Two rival parishes of Vrontados village fire thousands of rockets every Easter Saturday aiming at the opposing church's bell tower in a centuries-old tradition. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)
December 10, 2014
Snowman done right
What we used to call Progress we now call Disruption. Curious, eh?
Number 38 on their list is
Modem 1959 AT&T releases the Bell 101 modem for commercial use after a year of military testing.
This may bring back some memories (though I doubt that the Bell 101 sounded like this):
And not too badly rendered.
December 09, 2014
Getting a handle on chores
Is that a rocket in your pocket?
Booker Winner Ben Okri Nabs Bad Sex Prize
The Literary Review sent an unmistakable message to authors at a ceremony in London on Wednesday: If you're going to write a sex scene, it's probably best not to mention rockets — symbolic or otherwise. The magazine awarded its 22nd annual Bad Sex in Fiction prize to Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri, a man who did just that in his latest novel, The Age of Magic.
Okri's past accolades — he, after all, did win the Booker Prize in 1991 — didn't spare him from the dubious honor, which recognizes "poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction." Nor did their plaudits spare Haruki Murakami, Richard Flanagan (who won this year's Booker) or Michael Cunningham, all of whom shared the Bad Sex shortlist with Okri.
Presumably, though, it was the rocket that launched Okri to his win."She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body," Okri wrote, in one safe-for-work section of the offending sex scene, all of which can be read here. "The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off."
Danilo says, "Got a shark!!! Sunset in São Paulo downtown:"
December 08, 2014
By Jonty Hurwitz. This is one example of several.
The scale is these sculptures approximately equals the amount your fingernails grow every 5 or 6 hours.
Don't try this at home
I assume that 'Sony' actually means 'someone at Sony'.
Sony Hid Passwords in a Folder Called 'Password'
(Newser) – The latest document dump in the Sony hack has exposed thousands of the company's passwords for various accounts, reports BuzzFeed. The reason this came to light so quickly? The passwords were kept in a file directory called "Password." Among them are hundreds of usernames and passwords for movies' social accounts on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but also plenty of clearly labeled passwords for everything from Amazon to Fidelity financial services.
December 05, 2014
Who's a good boy? (2)
Secrets of the Magus
A long article in The New Yorker about Ricky Jay, an expert at sleight-of-hand, among other things.
Secrets of the Magus
Deborah Baron, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, where Jay lives, once invited him to a New Year's Eve dinner party at her home. About a dozen other people attended. Well past midnight, everyone gathered around a coffee table as Jay, at Baron's request, did closeup card magic. When he had performed several dazzling illusions and seemed ready to retire, a guest named Mort said, "Come on, Ricky. Why don't you do something truly amazing?"
Baron recalls that at that moment "the look in Ricky's eyes was, like, 'Mort—you have just fucked with the wrong person.' "
Jay told Mort to name a card, any card. Mort said, "The three of hearts." After shuffling, Jay gripped the deck in the palm of his right hand and sprung it, cascading all fifty-two cards so that they travelled the length of the table and pelted an open wine bottle.
"O.K., Mort, what was your card again?"
"The three of hearts."
"Look inside the bottle."
Mort discovered, curled inside the neck, the three of hearts. The party broke up immediately.
Two USAF pilots with a lot of confidence in one another.
Two U.S. Air Force Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcons execute a precision acrobat technique for a crowd March 23, 2014, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
December 04, 2014
What Aggies have been saying for years
The case of 100 missing brains at the University of Texas
The University of Texas reports that some of its brains are missing.
About 100 brain specimens are missing, to be more exact, possibly swiped by students over the years from a brain collection stored in formaldehyde.
The brains, used as a teaching tool, belonged to all sorts of people, according to the Austin-American Statesman, most of whom are unknown. One of the known brains, the paper reported, probably belonged to Charles Whitman, the sniper who climbed the 307-foot Texas clock tower in Austin in 1966 and unleashed a barrage of gunfire, taking the lives of 16 people and injuring many others.
Way to motivate, mister
December 03, 2014
There is no spoon
And I say it's about time
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One of the photos in the Smithsonian's 12th Annual Photo Contest.
Photography by Kaushik Majumder, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
December 02, 2014
Got wood? (4)
Man marries tree… again
A Peruvian actor and environmentalist got married to a tree in Bogota on Sunday as a way to raise awareness about environmental issues facing the planet.
People gathered in Bogota's national park on Sunday to watch Richard Torres tie the knothole with the tree, which he confirmed by planting a kiss on its trunk.
No doubt it was a sappy occasion.
It's actually the third time he's married a tree, after saying "I do" to a tree in Buenos Aires last November, and in Peru the previous June.
Sure, he says he cares so much about trees, but he seems perfectly happy to break their wooden hearts.
December 01, 2014
Demonstration of an optical technique that allows us to see small changes in the index of refraction in air. A point source of light is reflected from a concave mirror and focused onto the edge of a razor blade, which is mounted in front of the camera. Light refracted near the mirror and intercepted by the blade gives the illusion of a shadow.
Seen here are the heated gases from a candle flame and a hair dryer, helium gas, and sulfur hexafluoride gas.
For more information on our setup please see
I hope it wasn't humming a tune
Scientists study rare tapeworm living in man's brain
LONDON - Scientists in Britain are studying a rare tapeworm that lived in a man's brain for four years, researchers said on Friday.
It was the first time the tapeworm, Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, was reported in Britain. Only 300 cases have been reported since 1953
The parasite travelled five centimetres (two inches) from the right side of the brain to the left.
The tapeworm causes sparganosis, an inflammation of body tissues that can cause seizures, memory loss and headaches when it occurs in the brain.
Surgeons removed it and the patient is now "systemically well", the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said.
It was the first time the tapeworm, Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, was reported in Britain. Only 300 cases have been reported since 1953.
The tapeworm is thought to be caught by accidentally eating small infected crustaceans from lakes, eating raw amphibian or reptile meat, or by using a raw frog poultice which is a Chinese remedy for sore eyes.