Friday, 4 January 2013

Where do you start counting the days of Christmas? I make today 11th

Ready to Roll: 1943
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Ready to Roll: 1943
March 1943. Barstow, California
“Head brakeman J.C. Shannon (left) and swing brakeman B.E. Wilson waiting for their train to pull out of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe yard”
Nitrate negative by Jack Delano
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Pi on the door, pentagonal sinks in the bathrooms, square-wheeled tricycle on the track: Must be the Museum of Mathematics... more

Do jellyfish hold the secret to immortality, and a cure for cancer?
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin

Takashi Murai, via New York Times 
Nathaniel Rich on the so-called immortal jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii.
“It seems able to survive, and proliferate, in every ocean in the world. It is possible to imagine a distant future in which most other species of life are extinct but the ocean will consist overwhelmingly of immortal jellyfish, a great gelatin consciousness everlasting.”
By studying microRNAs, “tiny strands of genetic material that regulate gene expression” in the jellyfish, could scientists unlock a new approach to treating cancer?
“There’s a shocking amount of genetic similarity between jellyfish and human beings," molecular paleobiologist Kevin J. Peterson says in Rich’s the New York Times Magazine feature.
“If I studied cancer, the last thing I would study is cancer, if you take my point. I would not be studying thyroid tumours in mice. I’d be working on hydra.”
Read the full piece. (thanks, @rddmrdr)

Is Facebook Making You Psychotic?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Three case studies done at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine have linked psychotic episodes to computer mediated communication. Dr. Uri Nitzan, who led the studies, said that in each case there was “gradual development and exacerbation of psychotic symptoms, including delusions, anxiety, confusion, and intensified use of computer communications”.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Hunter-gatherers, esoteric cults, revolutionary brigades: We’ve always had a capacity for in-group imitation. And we are as ritualistic today as we’ve ever been... more

Hickory Dickory Duck?
via Boing Boing by Jason Weisberger

The Howard the Duck theme in a form I’d never seen before. Oh! Lea Thompson’s hair!

Videos of people playing bass flutes
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Back when I was a junior-high flute player, I once heard somebody mention the existence of bass flutes. I was instantly intrigued. But, in the days before readily available Internet access, I wasn’t able to track down examples of what they looked or sounded like. Today, YouTube is filled with examples of deep-voiced, husky flutes – ranging from the simply extra-long alto flute to the gigantic subcontrabass flute, which is basically a percussion instrument with some woodwind features. It’s fascinating stuff, and a handy reminder that flutes can do really interesting things ... like improvisational jazz, and beatboxing.
I’ve put together a small playlist of videos. Enjoy!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Beethoven’s Fifth is synonymous with artistic genius. Those severe, brooding, portentous first four notes are a master-stroke of misdirection... more

Tardigrade is plump, loveable
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Who’s a chubby little water bear?
Yes you are.
Ooh, yes you are.
This moment of straight-up cuteness is brought to you by Bob Goldstein, who researches tardigrades at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Tardigrades are, of course, microscopic animals that live in moss and the muddy sand on beaches. They can survive high temperatures, freezing, and crushing pressures by drying themselves up into a little hard ball, called a tun. Stick a tun in water and – no matter what horrible conditions it’s dealt with – it will rehydrate and regenerate back into a tardigrade. Beyond that, though, we know shockingly little about these animals. Even their place on the evolutionary tree of life is up for debate. Among other work, Goldstein and his team are in the process of sequencing the tardigrade genome. It may well be the most adorable genome on Earth.
Dr. Goldstein’s quick introduction to the tardigrade.
Thanks to Xeni for finding this in the BoingBoing Flickr pool!

Virtual Child Porn and Paedophilia
via Big Think by Tauriq Moosa
Distinctions matter in debate. When we conflate and equate, for example, controversial groups of people that are not the same, it means we are not reacting accurately. For example, just because someone was a prisoner doesn’t mean he’s automatically (1) bad, (2) guilty, or (3) committed an act that should even be a crime (like blasphemy or prostitution).
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