For years science has been keeping a horrifying secret from us... okay, so maybe they haven't kept it a secret from you, but I didn't know anything about it until now! Anyway, that secret is DEEP SEA SQUIDS. They live deep underwater—the video below was shot at 7,500 feet—but I see no reason for them not to swim up to the top and wrap their insanely long tentacles around me now that they know I'm up here!!! From Deep Sea News (which I will never work for because GAHHHHHH!!):
They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.
Drain the oceans of their water, or by all that's holy, these bastards will strangle you in your sleeeeeeeeep!!!
If you are not too squeamish about taxidermy, I do hope you've paid a visit to Paxton Gate, the natural sciences store up on N Mississippi, because it's fascinating. In addition to some stuffed specimens that go far beyond hunting lodge/PNW dining decor variety, they have a huge selection of mounted insects, an excellent books section, unusual jewelry (and jewelry supplies if you are pissed they don't have rattlesnake teeth at your favorite bead store or whatever), and a lovely gardening section, too. Last time my niece and nephew were in town I think we spent an hour in there.
Anyhow, they're having an event next Saturday (Nov 9) that sounds like an excellent date: Having an insect expert giving guided tours (safaris, if you will) of their bug selection along with beer and wine (and "something non-alcoholic")—it's all free, and sounds totally fascinating and fun. More about the guide, Don Ehlen:
Ehlen has been interested in and studying insects since the age of five. He spent his childhood in Minnesota collecting specimens and reading every book about bugs that he could find. He took up serious collecting as a young adult while attending the University of Minnesota in 1981. After relocating to New Mexico in 1982 his collection grew dramatically. After studying entomology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque he traveled around the Southwest searching for new and interesting specimens. He relocated to Washington State in 1989 and soon after began voluntarily showing his collection to school children. Don started Insect Safari in 1994 as a response to the encouragement of teachers that such a program was much needed in order to support insect study in elementary curriculums.
Stop in from 2-5 to get bugged out, with or without a date.
It's a fun, engaging collection of video and audio work, all aimed at a general audience and vetted by the Science Studio's judges, ranging from Neil DeGrase Tyon's tribute to Neil Armstrong to an animated tour of the Large Hadron Collider to this:
This time it’s about killer buildings—constructed with unreinforced masonry—and attempts by Steve Novick and emergency planners to address the problem by requiring these structures get seismic retrofits.
It’s all part of a larger effort by the city to prepare Portlanders for the magnitude 9.0 or greater earthquake scientists warn is coming. (And it comes, coincidentally, in time for a worldwide earthquake drill today called “The Great Shake Out.” Click here for more details if you're interested.) Yesterday, that effort was on display at City Hall, at an earthquake preparedness fair organized by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM). I went to answer a simple question: When the Big One hits, where will I shit?
Okay, “fair” is, perhaps, a misnomer; attendance was weak and the atmosphere, given the subject matter, was less than festive. It was just a sprinkling of people standing around tables covered in pamphlets spreading the good word about emergency preparedness. I'd come to talk to folks from the volunteer group Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, or PHLUSH, hoping they'd have the answer. They did. And it maybe involves the green roll carts where you put your compost and yard debris.
PHLUSH—as the name and acronym imply—wants to educate people about that razor-thin line that separates us from the animals. Namely, the small critters that will flourish when the plumbing stops working and people can't flush their toilets and can’t easily wash their hands. They're worried about what will happen when shit—and the bacteria that live in it—gets fucking everywhere.
“Our biggest concern,” Mathew Lippincott of PHLUSH told me, “is how do we contain the rapid spread of disease.”
Google's promotional video for its new quantum computer is a little twee, but the possibilities they're talking about here are mind-boggling.
Surely, the entreaties went, we can all agree on our shared passion for dental health, for the health of our children (always the children), that both sides had the best interests of their city at heart.
"There are good people who believe perfectly the opposite of what we did," volunteer KC Hanson said to some fanfare at the Clean Water Portland party. "As a community, as Portland, we need to come together. I know you guys will."
Today, Portland City Club has announced it's taking the first step toward turning those salving sentiments into some kind of direct action.
Backers of the well-funded fluoridation push will work with the opposition movement's biggest local funder, Daniel Deutsch (a notable qualifier, given the out-of-state money that fueled the campaign) on a task force devoted to finding other solutions to our kids' lackluster dental health.
From City Club's statement:
“What excited us most about the campaign was the enthusiasm on all sides of the issue for a solution to Portland’s dental health problems,” said Nichole Maher, President Northwest Health Foundation. “After the election it was clear there were many areas in which the anti-side was actually an ally. It just made sense to reach out and combine forces.”
The task force will study the most workable solutions for improving dental health outcomes for children in Multnomah County. It will examine proven community-based strategies that have improved dental health in other cities. Following the findings of the report, the task force will develop a set of recommendations.
"I truly appreciate the willingness to come together, and find a common purpose, in spite of our being on opposite sides of the debate,” said Deutsch. “In the end, we are working toward the same goal, a healthier Portland. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be part of this collaboration."
Fluoridation foes made much of data, released late in the campaign, that showed modest improvement in Multnomah County cavity rates in the past few years—improvements that came without fluoridation. But all the same, cavity rates here are worse than the national average and also worse among lower-income children and people of color.
City Club has information on its task force here, and is accepting applications from interested potential members until next Wednesday, October 16.
In a post at Popular Science titled "Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments," Suzanne LaBarre writes:
Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at PopularScience.com, we're shutting them off...That is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters. Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters.
But even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests.
There are no comments on the story.
In other news, YouTube is trying to make their comments less of a cesspool. Gizmodo explains how.
What do I look like, a scientist? Don't ask me. But these guys seem pretty excited. "It's almost too amazing to believe," one says.
(Don't miss the final and maybe most important sentence: "Despite these fantastical claims, the Journal of Cosmology has had its reputation called into question more than once by other members of the scientific community.")
In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, Dr. Delroy L. Paulhus explains the results of experiments designed to identify people predisposed to revel in others’ suffering—like those who cheer at sports games when people get injured. People he calls "everyday sadists." The experiments involve crushing bugs and white noise:
In the study’s first experiment, to learn if everyday sadism correlated with the questionnaire, researchers recruited 71 psychology students, ostensibly to understand “personality and tolerance for challenging jobs.”
The students chose among tasks that stood for jobs: killing bugs (exterminator); helping the exterminator (exterminator’s assistant); cleaning toilets (sanitation worker); or enduring pain from ice water (a worker in cold environments). Among the participants, nearly 53 percent chose to be bug assassins or assistants, 34 percent chose toilet-cleaning and 13 percent pain tolerance. Gender was evenly distributed among those choosing various tasks.
Students who chose to be bug-killers were presented with three cups, each holding a live pill bug. To anthropomorphize the bugs, each was given a name: Muffin, Ike, or Tootsie. Bug-killers had to drop a bug into a modified coffee grinder, force the top down, and grind the bug up.
... During the execution of the assignment, some bug-killers quit after one or two. But some asked for more bugs.
In other news, every five-year-old I know is an everyday sadist.
So of all the so-called "celebrities" on this season's Dancing with the Stars, we know there's really only one: Bill Nye the Science Guy. Here he is in last night's season premiere, dancing the cha-cha-cha to Oingo Boingo's "Weird Science" (of course). He's charming in practice (1:00 mark), clumsy on the dance floor (2:44), and brave as the judges absolutely eviscerate him (4:30).
Check it out, and let's all move on with our lives.
First the cows are all like, "MOOOOO!! MOOOO!! MOOOO!!" (Translated: "I'm am so fucking OUT of here!!") And then they're all like "MOOOOO!! Moooo?? MOOOOO???" (Translated: "AHHH! AHHH! Wait... what is that rocket doing. Is that rocket doing what I think it's doing? HOLY SHIT! THAT'S AN AWESOME ROCKET!!")
Find out more about the experimental reusable Grasshopper rocket from private spaceflight company SpaceX here.
One scientist is convinced that the crucial element that got life started here came from up there...
Evidence is mounting that life on Earth may have started on Mars. A leading scientist has claimed that one particular element believed to be crucial to the origin of life would only have been available on the surface of the red planet.
Professor Steven Benner, a geochemist, has argued that the "seeds" of life probably arrived on Earth in meteorites blasted off Mars by impacts or volcanic eruptions. As evidence, he points to the oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum, thought to be a catalyst that helped organic molecules develop into the first living structures.
If this is true, then life must be very rare in the universe. It seems you need too many accidents to make it happen: the accident of some planet falling in the habitable zone from the right star, the accident of that planet having enough water (some scientists even think that we got a lot of our water from the accident of a comet or asteroid collision), and now we are speaking of the accident of interplanetary exchange of the principal chemical ingredients. Beyond all that, you also need, as the UW paleontologist Peter Ward once pointed out, some big planet like Jupiter to protect a core planet or planets in the habitable zone from repeated, surface-sterilizing asteroid and comet hits. Life appears to be a trick of the impossible.
There've been rumblings about big changes for OMSI's Omnimax theater for a few months—I never heard anything quite solid enough to report, but they usually went along the lines of either (A) OMSI replacing their dome IMAX theater with a smaller, flat screen, or (B) OMSI going all-out and bringing an actual IMAX theater to Portland—unlike the expensive, IMAX-branded, and underwhelming "Liemax" screens at places like Lloyd Cinemas and Bridgeport Village. Rumor was that OMSI's would be like the IMAX at Seattle's Pacific Science Center, with a screen six stories tall.
I was pulling for (B), because a real IMAX would be rad to have in town—for both OMSI-friendly documentaries and big blockbusters, an actual IMAX would provide the motivation to see stuff in a theater that places like Lloyd Cinemas aren't currently offering. I'm also, to be fair, not a huge fan of the current theater at OMSI, as it's... well, kind of terrible? Domes might be great for
plane-ariums planetariums, but when it comes to watching anything that contains, say, straight lines, or human faces, or normal day-to-day objects, there's pretty much no way for OMSI to project anything on a domed surface without a majority of the audience being subjected to a grossly distorted picture.
Following a post on Reddit Portland (and a subsequent online petition) about upcoming changes, OMSI spokesperson Amita Joshi sent out an email on Friday night confirming that... well, something is happening with the theater. Sounds like it won't be a real IMAX theater, though—those still require 70mm film, and whatever the Omnimax is turning into, it'll be digital, with 4K projection (the same that's used by chain multiplexes, including Regal) and Dolby Atmos sound. (As of now, the only theater near Portland offering Atmos is Cinetopia Vancouver Mall, which charges an extra $2.50 for the privilege.) OMSI will also be playing "more mainstream content during off-hours."
The full press release is below; once OMSI decides to talk more about what, exactly, their plan is with the Omnimax space, I'll post 'em. Here's hoping that in one way or another, it's something that isn't already offered by other theaters in town.
Case in point: Chicken McNuggets, which have always seemed prohibitively gross just from their outsides, and which reportedly bloom into the stuff of nightmares when placed under a microscope. As Mike Adams of Natural News reports (bolds mine):
Earlier today I purchased a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets from a McDonald's restaurant in Austin, Texas. Under carefully controlled conditions, I then examined the Chicken McNuggets under a high-powered digital microscope, expecting to see only processed chicken bits and a fried outer coating....We found dark black hair-like structures sticking out of the nugget mass, as well as light blue egg-shaped structures with attached tail-like hairs or fibers. These are shown in extreme detail in the photos below, taken on August 15, 2013 at the Natural News Forensic Food Lab. The actual Chicken McNugget samples used in these photos have been frozen for storage of forensic evidence. We also found odd red coloring splotches in several locations, as well as a spherical green object that resembles algae. We are not claiming or implying that these objects in any way make McDonald's Chicken McNuggets unsafe to consume. We do, however, believe that this visual evidence may warrant an FDA investigation into the ingredient composition of Chicken McNuggets. In particular, where are the hair-like structures coming from? This is especially important to answer, given that chickens do not have hair. Is there cross-species contamination in the processing of Chicken McNuggets? This question needs to be answered.
UPDATE: Apparently, the headline for this post should be "WACKO WEBSITE DOES A THING"—however, the thing this wacko website has done is photograph weird shit seen under a microscope in a Chicken McNugget. When the wacko website gets busted by the ridiculously litigious McDonalds for doctoring their photos or whatever, I'll blog that, too. But for now: LOOKIT THE GROSSNESS!
Alight upon the Mediterranean sea like some kind of lordly ocean god, some kind of whimsical sea sprite, some kind of immensely powerful merman, or some kind of—dare we say it? we do—savior, behold Leonardo DiCaprio, who is not bound by our pathetic physical laws. Leonardo DiCaprio does as he pleases, and he pleases to fly above the mighty sea; turn your eyes to the heavens and witness him above, gazing down at us with benevolence and an unholy power. Look upon him and love and despair. Leonardo DiCaprio has transcended; Leondardo DiCaprio has ascended. Leonardo DiCaprio knows the secrets of the cosmos; Leonardo DiCaprio also knows your secrets. Do not anger him, lest he unleash his rage; do not mock him, lest he remember his fury and return to our small, broken world to wreak his terrible vengeance. Leonardo DiCaprio shall be beheld—by you, by me, by all of us who are not Leonardo DiCaprio. Fly, you gorgeous bird; swim, you admirable fish. Leonardo DiCaprio, do as you will.
Usually, October is the month where movie studios start pouring horror flicks into the laps of gore-hungry audiences. But horror is more than just knives and ghosts and monsters and blood blood blood; just this last weekend, James Wan's The Conjuring scared the shit out of $40 million worth of people in its opening weekend. Plus, there's a fifth Paranormal Activity movie coming in 2014.
But for me - and this might have something to do with the fact I consider ALIEN to be the best horror movie ever made - outer-space is the scariest place. And this October, Alfonso Cuaron, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the sci-fi classic (yes, already) Children of Men will release Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.
Warner Bros. has been promoting this movie in an interesting way. No trailers, no commercials. Just 90 second scenes of Clooney and Bullock stranded in space, scared out of their mind, trying to figure out ways to be un-stranded in space that don't include "burning up in the Earth's Atmosphere" or "Getting hit by a passing satellite"
They've released two clips so far, and today saw the release of a third. I'll be posting them in order after the jump, so if you want to go into the film without a single frame of film lodged in your memory banks, you can just mosey along. But if you want to get just a little bit scared, please: Proceed. I promise you that even if you watch the following three clips, there's still a good 90+ minutes of Gravity you still won't have seen by the time October rolls around.
The best thing that television has yet produced aired on PBS in 1980. Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is, still, a remarkable thing to watch—ambitious, humane, and fascinating, it covers life, the universe, and everything with grand scope and impressive detail. Much of its appeal—massive at the time, and still enduring today—is due to the charm and intelligence of Sagan, who pilots each episode with an inquisitive, eager nature. I've known stoners who zone out for hours watching Cosmos; I also know science nerds who think of it as the closest thing that rational people have to a Bible. It's currently on Netflix Instant, and if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and start it tonight. It's one of those few, rare things that will actually make your life better and richer and cooler.
And now it's being remade. Or followed up. Or... done again? Sort of.
Amidst all the Electros and Ultrons and Lokis of Comic-Con (and 1,000 percent delightful Andrew Garfields), Fox showed off a pretty impressive trailer for their new Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, executive produced by Sagan's widow (and producer of the original series) Ann Druyan, along with Seth MacFarlane, which is a weird thing to type, and hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who everybody likes very, very much, because he's Neil deGrasse Tyson.
On one hand, I really like the look of all that stuff, and hell, even if it wasn't related to Cosmos, I'd watch it, because I'll watch any science-y type thing with Tyson in it. But the Cosmos connection is also what's giving me pause; the original is so remarkable, so groundbreaking, and so goddamn great that anything made in its shadow seems doomed to feel strange and small.
Then again: Every time I think something like the preceding sentence, I realize I'm basically complaining about someone bringing more science into the world, which is just stupid.
True, I'd feel better about it if it was airing on PBS, but the Fox thing is actually kind of neat, at least in theory: This new Cosmos is going to be shown on a network that will reach people who wouldn't otherwise be exposed to stuff like this. If Druyan and Tyson can still do everything they'd want to do otherwise—if Fox doesn't interfere—this could be pretty great.
So let's say I'm cautiously excited for this one. And that I'll be rewatching the original Cosmos, yet again, soon.
Last Saturday, I met Brandon Thornton and Justin Morris, two of the producers for the art show Mad Science PDX, opening tomorrow night at Gallery 135. I am no stranger to these two gentlemen; I know them as Wieden +Kennedy employees, tastemakers around town (they’ve both been featured on my blog), and art show producers (last year they put together Adventures In Milk at Union/Pine).
The only thing I knew about the show was what little information they gave up via teaser videos. (Ummm, it's about science? And they not only got a cute brunette to pretend she was a scientist, they also scored a DeLorean?) So here’s what I wanted to ask them.
Q&A after the cut!
I made the mistake of going to see Monsters University at Century Eastport last weekend. I say "mistake" not because of the particular film (as Denis pointed out, Monsters University is charming), but because UGH, CHILDREN. The half-formed creatures were everywhere, dribbling with snot and slick with feces, clumsily clambering all over everyone's seats like fat blind little spiders, loudly asking inane questions every two seconds ("WHAT'S HAPPENING, WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW, WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW, IS THAT A MONSTER, THEY ARE AT SCHOOL"), and generally serving as powerful reminders that the world's horrifying population crisis is a very real, very serious threat that should be dealt with as soon as possible, possibly with flame throwers.
But anyway: I am not a complete idiot; despite this particular film clearly being about the college experience, I knew I should expect some children in attendance. But the fetid, endless, screeching onslaught of them came as a surprise... until I realized that SE Portland's parents had all decided—perhaps using the same sort of soul-deadening hive mind that allows them to collectively block out the tympanum-piercing shrieks of their slack-jawed offspring—to take all of their horrid miniaturized versions of themselves and dump them in a movie theater because air conditioning. Thanks for nothing, Willis Carrier, creator of the 1902 invention "Apparatus for Treating Air"! Said device debuted in movie theaters in Times Square in 1925, with Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor in attendance, who I picture as looking like Mr. Peanut! (I am wrong.)
After a stalled start and much grumbling among the skeptical crowd, the world's first movie air conditioning system at last kicked in. Hand fans ceased to flutter as the heat and mugginess gradually vanished from the room. "Yes," Zukor later declared in the lobby [while tightening his monocle and spinning his cane. —Ed]. "The people are going to like it." And they did: Over the next five years, Carrier installed his technology in 300 movie theaters around the country, transforming the summer months—previously a box-office wasteland—into Hollywood's most profitable season. (Via.)
There's more info about how movie theaters became sanctuaries from the heat in the Hollywood Reporter's story "Forever 74 Degrees: How Movie Theaters Keep Cool During Summer's Scorching Months," and it's legit interesting! Also interesting: The number of results BarFly gives you when your only search criteria are "strippers" and "air conditioned."
I really like the Wachowskis, which I realize is not a super popular position given the amount of whining that still happens whenever the Matrix sequels come up, but hell: The Wachowskis are crazy ambitious, at this point pretty much all they do is take risks, and they push genre into all sorts of weird directions, and even if movies like Cloud Atlas and Speed Racer aren't 100 percent creatively successful (or even like two percent financially successful), I'm a lot more excited to see filmmakers earnestly trying new shit instead of doing the same old shit over and over. Which leads us to Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis' upcoming sci-fi flick with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum! Who is our beloved Chatum playing, you ask?
“I’m a splice, splices are essentially built in a test tube. I’m a hybrid wolf and human. And half albino, so I’m a little defective.” (Via.)
Those are the best three sentences I have read or will read all day. Good afternoon.
From my essay on the eerily similarities between the climate change deniers of 2013 and the AIDS deniers of 1983:
Now every time I read about fires in Colorado or rising seas or Canadian tar sands or Native villages already being washed away in Alaska or preparations for the next hurricane that slams into New York City, a slightly modified version of Buchanan's vicious line about AIDS plays in my head. We have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.
We have declared war on the water we drink and the air we breathe. We have declared war on the forests and the oceans. We have declared war on the honeybees.
From today's Columbian:
Thousands of dead and dying bees have been found in the parking lot of a shopping center in Wilsonville, Ore., southwest of Portland. Oregon officials say their preliminary investigation indicates blooming trees in the lot were recently sprayed with an insecticide known to be toxic to bees.... Most of the dead were gold-and-black bumble bees although honey bees and some ladybugs were found dead as well. A primary focus of the Agriculture Department's preliminary investigation is a pesticide called Safari that apparently was applied in the area last Saturday to control aphids, said Dale Mitchell, program manager in the Agriculture Department's pesticide compliance and enforcement section. Safari is part of a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids that are considered acutely toxic to pollinators.
Aphids we can live with. Bees we can't live without. Maybe we should err on the side of not pushing bees to extinction?
A top futurist at Google says it's going to be possible by the year 2045:
In just over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire minds to computers and become digitally immortal - an event called singularity - according to a futurist from Google.
Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, also claims that the biological parts of our body will be replaced with mechanical parts and this could happen as early as 2100.
Kurzweil made the claims during his conference speech at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York at the weekend.
The alleged upside to all this: you're online forever!
There was an interesting article in yesterday's NYT about Bill Nye (the science guy!) and how he's gone from science booster to science advocate—and what the difference is. (Though he's still very booster-y.) Here's an excerpt:
[Young people] have gone from watching him explain magnetism and electricity to defending the scientific evidence for climate change, the age of the earth and other issues they have seen polemicized for religious, political and even economic reasons.
He takes on those who would demand that the public schools teach alternative theories of evolution and the origins of the earth — most famously, in a video clip from the site BigThink.com that has been viewed some five million times. In it, he flatly tells adult viewers that “if you want to deny evolution and live in your world — in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe — that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it, because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”
Read the whole thing here—and let's be sure to ring him up the next time we have a debate on fluoride. He may be the only person we'd all listen to.
In the eternal battle of "Man vs. Science" (we beat the shit out of "nature" decades ago), robots are continually trying to best us in one way or another. Now they think they're better than us at "penis drawing." OH YEAH? WELL, LET'S SEE YOU DRAW A PENIS, MACHINE!
After the jump, my HUMAN depiction of a penis. (SPOILER ALERT: I fucking WIN.)
Starting at 6 tonight, outside city hall, the Kernel is throwing what he's calling a "Tin-Foil Hat Parade." I received an invite on Facebook, along with a few hundred other people. And as for what the "parade" entails? It's exactly that, with a fashion show and craft party thrown in.
Here's the Kernel's rough itinerary:
6-7 design and build
7-8 foil fashion show
8-9 parade and libations
bring ideas, supplies, sharables
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