Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Food Fight!


Tourist Pictures presents ...

Food Fight

The history of warfare, told with food

Food Fight is an abridged history of American-centric war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict. Watch as traditional comestibles slug it out for world domination in this chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression.
Click through for more, it really is worth it.

[via Improbable Research]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beware of GoodReads

Beware of a site/service calling itself GoodReads (.com). This site advertising itself as an interesting sounds book sharing? (or something) service, but it asks for access to your address book then proceeds to SPAM everyone you every communicate with. In short:

"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads.com is EVIL SPAM"
"www.GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"

"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"

"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"


Take THAT search engines!

Here is someone Jackie Danicki's discussion of it, including a response from "Otis", founder of GoodReads.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wisconsin Wildlife

I got a surprise this morning when I stepped into the kitchen to make breakfast.
From DTA: Hawk1
With a bit a research this evening, I discovered this is most likely a juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk. [Update: I am informed this is more likely a Red-Tailed Hawk]

From DTA: Hawk1
This adds new meaning to "watching you like a hawk."

Then something really amazing happened. A curious squirrel came right up the the hawk to investigate it. We were astounded that a squirrel would be so bold, and of course just a moment before the camera battery ran out. I scrambled for the spare, but by the time I got back it was too late.

Then I got really lucky ...
From DTA: Hawk1
The squirrel came back! Hawk versus squirrel round two allowed me take some really cool pictures of these two interacting. See the full gallery here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Caffeine and Breast Shrinkage

[Tip of the hat to that LOONEY Michelle]
DRINKING just three cups of coffee a day can make women's breasts shrink, researchers say.

Nearly 300 women were surveyed about their bust measurements and how many cups of coffee they drank in an average day.

According to the Swedish researchers, three cups a day was enough to start making breasts shrink, with the effects increasing for every cup drunk.

They said there was a clear link between drinking coffee and smaller breasts, as about half of women possessed a gene shown to link breast size to coffee intake.

"Drinking coffee can have a major effect on breast size," said Helena Jernstroem, a lecturer in experimental oncology at Lund University in Sweden.

"Coffee-drinking women do not have to worry their breasts will shrink to nothing overnight. They will get smaller, but the breasts aren't just going to disappear.

"However, anyone who thinks they can tell which women are coffee drinkers just from their bra measurements will be disappointed. The problem is that there are two measures for a bra - the cup size and the girth - so you wouldn't be able to tell."

It was not all bad news for women, as the researchers also found that regular hits of caffeine could help to cut the risk of breast cancer.
The article in question (I think):

Mock Trial of Evolution versus Creationism

From Pharyngula: An account of the Northern Kentucky University mock trial of evolution/creationism.

Greg Lloyd attended the Northern Kentucky University mock trial of evolution/creation, and sent back a report. The scenario was that a teacher tried to advocate creationist theories in a public high school classroom, was fired for it, and is trying to sue for reinstatement. Here's Greg's account of the event.


Click through for the full account and comments.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Exposing Expelled

Ben Stein's movie Expelled has been released on DVD, so in case anyone didn't already know, the movie is creationist propaganda. If you missed hearing about it when it came out (and missed the 3 days or so it was shown in the local theater) you might be deceived by the advertising which completely fails to mention that the movie is actually about Intelligent Design. Were I paying for the ads, I suppose I wouldn't mention what the movie was about either, given the dazzling lack-of-interest at the box office. At least I might have done something more creative, like package it as Star Wars Episode 7 - Chewbacca Goes to Charm School. Now THAT would sell DVDs!

The National Center for Science Education created the Exelled Exposed website to help set the record straight, and you can find it here:



Scientific American also provides Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know... which is where I had participated in my first ID vs evolution discussion/argument/head-bang-on-table. Most of that discussion went away with the rest of the SciAm.com blogs and is now lost forever --- or at least until I pull it out of the zip file where I saved all that fun stuff.

Beware The Jihad!

The Unitarian Jihad, that is. I found this on The Unapologetic Mathematician Blath (Blog, whatever).

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary. Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism — 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression! People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to … you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion. We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes. Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues. We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons. We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone. Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he’s pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee. People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Right Turn Clyde!

Following a recommendation from Nate at FiveThirtyEight38.com, I read Matt Moon's commentary on Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. Smart stuff, and a sign that some conservatives are thinking. Good show Matt!. Of course, the comments go completely off track and lose the thread of Matt's insight. Alas.

In an effort to balance out my reading (politics-wise anyway) I have added The Next Right to my blog roll and Reader subscriptions.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh Crap

Form SciAm.com Techology news:

From Thrones to Robo-Commodes: The Pitfalls of Inventing a Better Toilet

Rose George's book The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters examines the ins and outs of sanitation; this excerpt explores the cutting edge of toilet technology

By Rose George

It's an interesting read ... honest!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Timmons aides Saddam Hussein?

Murray Wass of the Huffington Post writes:
William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.
and
Moreover, there was a major financial incentive at play for Timmons. The multi-million dollar oil deal that he was pursuing with the two other lobbyists would only be possible if their efforts to ease sanctions against Iraq were successful.

Vincent, an Iraqi-born American citizen with whom Timmons worked most closely, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in January 2005 that he had acted as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein's regime. Tongsun Park, the second lobbyist who Timmons worked closely with, was convicted by a federal jury in July 2006 on charges that he too violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

Click here for the full story.

Here's is my take, and my self-assessment of my own understanding of this story:
  1. Corruption is bad. Timmons at least appears to be subject to corrupting influence. I'll hold off judgment on whether or not Timmons is actually corrupt.
  2. Representing Iraq, or at least Iraqis as part of the Oil for Food program is legitimate work and needed to be done. It was likely an almost thankless task.
  3. I have no clue what it means to be in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or how this might apply to Timmons.
If McCain has tapped a corrupt official as the head his (not going to be) transitioning team, this seems like a bad decision he should repudiate. If Timmons is not corrupt then I find it difficult to fault him through association. That is - As long as he was doing his job properly and representing Iraqi interests appropriately. This last part is a bit tricky. What exactly does is mean to be an "Unregistered Foreign Agent"? I find it difficult to credit that Timmons, a long time political insider, was acting in a treasonous manner. Corrupt perhaps - selfish - but not intentionally against US interests.

So what is this story? An October surprise? Obama's campaign hardly needs such a tactic at this point because it's hard to see McCain's campaign being much worse off than it already is. Maybe this is a story of corruption, but the Oil-for-Food scandal has already run its course, and Timmons role in that has been investigated (and he is not in jail). What is left, political sniping? Perhaps. I really think this story won't be around too long. (Go ahead though, prove me wrong).

2 is 1

A discussion over at Good Math, Bad Math reminded me of this - My favorite math riddle:

Proof that 2 = 1

Start with: X = Y
multiply both sides by X: X*X = X*Y
subtract Y^2 from both sides: X^2 - Y^2 = X*Y - Y^2
do some factoring: (X+Y)*(X-Y) = Y*(X-Y)
divide both sides by (X-Y): (X+Y) = Y
substitute Y for X: (Y+Y) = Y
divide by Y and simplify: 2 = 1


There you have it, a mathematical proof that two is equal to one!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Campaign Tricks Alert Code is




Nate Silver of 538.com writes:
Something is a little bit funny when Matt Drudge is treating 1-2 point gains for McCain in the Rasmussen and Zogby tracking polls as "BREAKING" news. Naturally, Drudge ignores other results like the just-released ABC/WaPo poll that show Obama continuing to gain ground.
More!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Improbable Research TV: episode 108

The lastest installment of Improbable Research TV: episode 108 (”Cake, wrap, calculate”)

Who Knew? --- After Rapture Services

Last night my lovely wife tipped me to a web site offering "after the rapture services", which for a fee will store emails from you and send them out automatically. This morning we discover there is actually a competitive market. (A bit more searching reveals I might be the last one to hear about this.)



In addition to email delivery, there seem to be a related market for after-rapture pet care.

Do I detect Poe's Law at work?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

McCain and Palin visit Waukesha

John McCain and Sarah Palin are at the Center Court Sports Complex today at Noon. I wonder if they will play racquetball?

JSonline writes:
Waukesha: McCain and Palin will appear at the Center Court Sports Complex, 815 Northview Road. The event begins at noon. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., but all advance tickets have been distributed.
Is it just me, or do both the Presidential candidates look tired? This is not surprising given the requirements of the campaign, but it appears to be hitting McCain especially hard (also not surprising, given his age). While I don't intend to vote for McCain, I would like to see him to stay healthy and active in politics for a long time. McCain is a voice of reason in the Republican party - someone a lot of Democrats could vote for in other circumstances - and I think he still has much he can contribute.

A nice game of racquetball might be just the break he needs.

racketball McCain Palin Waukesha Wisconsin[Image: Big Time Attic or http://www.bigtimeattic.com/]

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Presenting: The 2008 Ig Noble Prize Winners

Ladies and Gentleman, Llamas of all ages ...

From Improbable.com:
The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October 2, at the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre. We will soon post video of the ceremony.

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
REFERENCE: "The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips," Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004, pp. 347-63.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
REFERENCE: "The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake"
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Urs Thurnherr, member of the committee.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: "The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach," Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert,, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
REFERENCE: "A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche, 1835)," M.C. Cadiergues, C. Joubert, and M. Franc, Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 92, no. 3, October 1, 2000, pp. 239-41.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University, USA, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.
REFERENCE: "Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy," Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dan Ariely

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
REFERENCE: "Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism," Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.
REFERENCE: "Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?" Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
REFERENCE: "Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String," Dorian M. Raymer and Douglas E. Smith, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 42, October 16, 2007, pp. 16432-7.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Dorian Raymer

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.
REFERENCE: "Effect of 'Coke' on Sperm Motility," Sharee A. Umpierre, Joseph A. Hill, and Deborah J. Anderson, New England Journal of Medicine, 1985, vol. 313, no. 21, p. 1351.
REFERENCE: "The Spermicidal Potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola," C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang, Human Toxicology, vol. 6, no. 5, September 1987, pp. 395-6. [NOTE: THE JOURNAL LATER CHANGED ITS NAME. NOW CALLED "Human & experimental toxicology"]
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Deborah Anderson, and C.Y. Hong's daughter Wan Hong

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."
REFERENCE: "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations," David Sims, Organization Studies, vol. 26, no. 11, 2005, pp. 1625-40.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: David Sims


See: http://improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2008 for more.
Video of the awards ceremony soon to be available here: http://improbable.com/ig/2008/webcast/