Category Archives: Fun

Lightning Hands (video)

Guy in a Faraday Suite getting hit by 500,000 volts … lightning shooting out of his fingertips.

Via Frank Swain and Johannes Wiebus

A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything (video)

Quality of YouTube comments (video)

Photosynthesis Rap (video)

Jeff Polish’s students at Cary Academy.

Fossil Jewelry

These are totally cool!
trilobite jewelry.jpg
See the Stephaniegeology etsy store for more. What she did is get some actual fossils from Doug Grove (husband of Tatjana Jovanovic-Grove), make molds out of these fossils and then make jewelry from those molds. Fascinating!

How government fights against medical quackery

Remember that ‘vampire’ is one the few words that Serbian language gave to the world. Garlic is THE remedy against everything there…..

Memory may get a little muddled after 1000 years, but TV documentaries will still not know how to fact-check (video)


The Most Useless Machine EVER! (video)


Elephants can’t jump (video)

Hard to believe that the animation this good is six years old!

Dangerous Wands (video)

This movie should be made, with Emma Watson starring:

Chinese Food On Christmas (video)

How to Peel A Banana Like A Monkey (video)

I always opened it this way. My Mom taught me this decades ago. What are you saying? We are descended from monkeys?!@#$%^&*! No way!

Give A Squirrel A Helping Hand (video)

Interesting how the parent is steering the youngster towards the bag, trying to get it to use it as a prop!

The Science of Santa Claus

Please join us on NC State’s Centennial Campus on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. for two special speakers.
Our “seasonal” speaker is Dr. Larry Silverberg (aka Dr. Silverbell), NC State professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and world-renowned expert on the “Science of Santa.” Dr. Silverbell will present his latest research on the advanced material properties of Santa’s sleigh and review previous research on toy delivery and time travel.
Continuing with the theme that science and engineering can be fun and educational, Dr. Laura Bottomley, electrical engineer and director of NC State’s K-20 educational outreach program, The Engineering Place, will discuss her nationally recognized work in engineering education. Dr. Bottomley is the founder of the NC State Women in Engineering program and the K-12 Outreach program, both of which were honored with the 2000 institutional President’s Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Dr. Bottomley received the individual PAESMEM earlier this year. Collaborators with The Engineering Place include the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering, and the program is also a testing ground for the Boston Museum of Science’s “Engineering is Elementary” program.
Family members are invited to attend. Dinner will be a sumptuous Mediterranean feast accompanied by beer, wine and various nonalcoholic beverages.
The meeting will be held in the Progress Energy Conference Center, Room 3002, in Engineering Building II on Oval Drive just off Centennial Boulevard. Map and directions are included below. Parking is available on Oval Drive in front of the building and in the parking deck on Partners Way.
Please RSVP to Jenny Weston,, 919.349.9764, by Monday, December 14.

What is Internet? (video)

Immanuel Kant Song (video)

Cat says NOM NOM NOM while eating sour cream (video)

Visualization of maritime empires’ decline

Explained here. Critiques in the comments are (mostly) valid, but for a first effort at using this kind of visualization technique, I’d say it’s pretty impressive.

Pets Teach Science: 16 golden retrievers explain atoms (video)

Halloween in Southern Village

The neighbors in Southern Village (here in Chapel Hill) are wild about Halloween, many making elaborate decorations of their houses for it (often more elaborate than for Christmas). The business on The Green also get into the spirit and put fun and scary dolls or scarecrows or other objects in front of their stores. These are often quite well designed as well. This year, we really liked this sign-post, showing the way to other businesses (e.g., Lumina Theater, Weaver Street Market, Harrington Bank, etc.) – click on buttons to see large:


The Piano Stairway (video)

An awesome experiment in Stockholm, Sweden where students changed stairs in a subway station into a piano:

And? More people started using the stairs than the escalator! It’s just more fun!

Jennifer Ouelette about science in the movies at TAM7 (video)

Fix Science – Open Access (music mashup video)

Talkin’ Trash

I know everyone in the sci-blogosphere is swooning over Carl Sagan. But as a kid I never cared much about him – I usually fell asleep halfway through each episode of ‘Cosmos’. But I would not miss for anything an episode of ‘The Underwater Odyssey of Commander Cousteau’ with Jacques-Yves Cousteau. That was breathtaking. And what he and the crew of Calypso did was truly ground-breaking, both in terms of scientific discoveries and in terms of under-water filming. And those discoveries and breakthroughs were shared with us, the audience, in an intimate and immediate manner.
That was a long time ago. The techniques of under-water filming pioneered by the crew are now probably considered to be ‘nothing special’. And I bet half the crew of Calypso were cameramen and sound engineers and lighting engineers and video mixers and other TV and movie professionals.
Can’t do that any more. Or rarely, with a huge cost, only on a very limited number of voyages on very large ships.
But what one can do, even on vessels much smaller than Calypso, is to have an embedded reporter. Not an old-timey one, but a modern reporter: someone who can search the Web for information, who can write, and blog, and tweet, and take and post photographs, and record and post audio podcasts, and record and post videos, all without help from any professional engineers, using small portable digital equipment and, most importantly, doing it in nearly Real Time, not after the ship docks after the voyage.
One of those new-style embedded reporters on a research ship is Lindsey Hoshaw. I was alerted to her by a tweet by Jay Rosen on Saturday. How did she get to do that?
She is a Stanford graduate in environmental journalism who was interested in the Pacific Garbage Patch and she put her proposal on and asked people to help her raise the necessary funds:

I’ve been offered a space aboard the ship as the only journalist to chronicle this voyage. My enthusiasm for this project is only surpassed by the amazing opportunity I’ve been offered by The New York Times to publish an article and accompanying photos of my journey.
The Times has never written extensively about the Garbage Patch and my multimedia slideshow and article will be the first of its kind for the newspaper’s website.
As a recent graduate of Stanford University’s communications program, I have a background in environmental journalism. I have produced podcasts, audio slideshows and videos about environmental issues in the Bay Area and I have been studying the Garbage Patch for the past three years.

From their side the New York Times did not promise they’ll carry the story, but appear quite inclined to do so if the quality of her work is good:

LINDSEY HOSHAW, a freelance journalist in Palo Alto, Calif., hopes to sell a multimedia slide show and maybe an article to The Times about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of floating plastic trash caught in swirling currents in a stretch of ocean twice the size of Texas.
But first, she has to get there. To help finance a $10,000 reporting trip aboard a research vessel, Hoshaw has turned to Spot.Us, a Web site where reporters appeal for donations to pay for their projects. If she can raise $6,000 before the September departure date — so far, only about $1,600 has come in — she will take out a loan for the rest, she said.
The Times has told Hoshaw that it might pay about $700 for the pictures, more if it also buys a story.
To some, this is exploitation — the mighty New York Times forcing a struggling journalist to beg with a virtual tin cup. But Hoshaw does not think so. To her, it is an opportunity she cannot pass up — a story she has long dreamed of, and a chance for a byline in The Times. To David Cohn, the founder of the nonprofit Spot.Us, it is a way for the public to commission journalism that it wants. For The Times, it is another step into a new world unthinkable even a few years ago.

She got on the ship today! You can follow Lindsey Hoshaw’s trip on Twitter (which she wisely separated from her personal account) and on her brand new blog.
You can follow her voyage on the Facebook page as well, where she also wrote:

What does this all mean both for Spot.Us and for the potential future of journalism? We would never claim to have answers, but we do have theories.
Every pitch on Spot.Us is defacto a collaboration. At the very least it is between the reporter and the community of supporters.
But often news organizations get involved. Sometimes we get TWO news organizations involved. In the future – I hope we can get THREE news organizations to collaborate around a single pitch.
We are producing a custom CMS that is based around the idea that “collaboration is queen.” It is the acknowledgment that no single news organization can do everything and that it is okay to “link to the rest.” It requires a new level of transparency and honesty in our reporting.

On Rebooting the News #24 this morning (I am assuming that all my readers listen to the show religiously every Monday), Jay and Dave talked about her as well:

On September 8, Lindsey Hoshaw set sail for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge pool of debris out in the middle of the Pacific that’s been known about for a while but rarely reported on or photographed. Her trip has been funded by users who think it’s an important venture. That happened at, the crowd-funding site for investigative journalism created by David Cohn, who used to work with Jay on NewAssignment.Net. (Background: See Lindsey’s original pitch in July 2009 and Jay’s original post for NewAssignment.Net back in 2006.) The New York Times has agreed to run her account and photos if they are up to Times standards. Meanwhile you can follow along on Twitter by adding thegarbagegirl.
That’s the re-booted system of news at work, already at work!
Dave: we’ve had reporters there before. Anyone who sailed by the Garbage Patch could have been our correspondent on the scene. We just have to teach them to do it.
Jay: it’s unlikely we’d be able to fund a reporter and a photographer and a videographer, which is why it’s important for journalists to be able to do multiple things.

Now you may say “Hmmm, that sounds familiar….didn’t I hear something about this before?” And yes, you did.
Another research vessel just returned from the Pacific Gyre where the crew studied the Garbage Patch. That was the Seaplex expedition, led by Miriam Goldstein, a well-known ocean blogger from the Oyster’s Garter blog. Miriam too, separated her personal Twitter account from the expedition account (I don’t actually know who from the crew tweeted from the official account). And she also blogged about it on the official Seaplex blog. So that crew also had an ’embedded reporter’ of sorts – Miriam herself.

But take another look at the crew. Notice something? Miriam was not the only experienced blogger there. Or even the most experienced as a reporter. There were three other people there whose main purpose was to record and report from the trip – the Project Kaisei people, who also used their own Twitter account. One of them is Annie Crawley, founder of DiveImagination who also tweeted from the voyage.

So it seems all these trips have young journalists embedded as reporters, or as parts of the scientific crew, using all the modern communication technologies to report from the voyages in real time as well as to prepare more robust reports afterwards.
Oh, did I say that’s all? No, Lindsey Hoshaw is not the only person with reporting and blogging experience on that ship. There is also Bonnie Monteleone on board. Bonnie is a blogger on The Plastic Ocean (associated with the organization of the same name (hat-tip to North Carolina Sierra Club Blog):

UNCW’s Bonnie Monteleone and Jennifer O’Keefe, Director of Keep America Beautiful- New Hanover County, will represent North Carolina’s passion for the ocean by going out into the Atlantic Gyre, followed by Monteleone joining Algalita Marine Research Foundation into the North Pacific Gyre. They will be taking samples to quantify pelagic plastics found on the oceans surface, collecting surface feeding fish to necropsy for ingested plastics and bringing national awareness to the issues of man made debris entering our oceans. Most of this research is personally funded and why they need your help.

So Bonnie, who is both a student at UNC-Wilmington and staff in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry there, will be able to do a direct comparison between the Atlantic and Pacific Garbage Patches. And write and post videos from both expeditions.
Ah, what a tangled web! And the distinctions are getting blurry – who is a scientist, who is crew, who is journalist? Everyone is a little bit of everything these days. The journalists are surrounded by scientists – a constant source of information – and scientists are surrounded by journalists – a constant source of questions. They both also help with the daily ship routines (there is no space on small ships for freeloaders – hoist the sails!). And they all report from the voyage, each in his or her own way, some focusing more on the science, others more on the human connection, both at least some on the personal experience.
Now, if you’ve ever been to one of the ScienceOnline conferences (e.g., last year, or the year before….), you know that Ocean Bloggers are a jolly bunch – they come to the conference and what do they do for three days non-stop? They sing Sea Shanties! But they also do the best, most creative and most informative sessions! They are totally at the cutting edge of the new online technologies and many of them are awesome writers.
Karen, Craig, Kevin, Miriam, Mark, Jennifer, Rick, Allie, Christie, James, Jason, Sheril, Andrew and David and many others are all amazing bloggers! And very active on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and elsewhere online (it is entirely possible that Karen tweets more times per day than I do!).
And I know that most of them are planning to come to ScienceOnline2010. I have learned that the best thing to do with the Ocean Bloggers is to give them an one-hour time slot and let them loose. They don’t need no guidance from me – they are much more creative than I am and ‘get’ the spirit of the Unconference better than most. They’ll plot something in secret and surprise us all right there and then.
Also, what I did as soon as I saw Jay’s original tweet was start following Lindsey Hoshaw on Twitter. She followed me back so we could exchange Direct Messages….and, she’ll also try to come to ScienceOnline2010. Now I just need to catch Bonnie (she is in Wilmington, an hour’s drive from here – perhaps she can carpool with Anne-Marie) and Annie Crawley and all the ’embedded reporters’ and bloggers from all of this summer’s Garbage Patch voyages will be there. So perhaps they can all get together and tell us all about it – compare notes. Each one of them came to this with a different background, with different skills and experiences, with different goals. What did they learn about modern journalism out at sea?
Or perhaps they can put all of their stuff together – all the tweets, blog posts, photographs, podcasts, videos and polished articles (or at least links to polished articles if they are published in corporate media, e.g., New York Times) can, perhaps, be placed in a single online spot which we can then all link to and boost the Google rank so people who search for the ‘Garbage Patch’ find it up high in their searches. Perhaps they can plot how to do it at their session. Or, knowing them, they can do it quicker and use the conference to unveil the site to the world.
Remember what Lindsey Hoshaw wrote (above):

What does this all mean both for Spot.Us and for the potential future of journalism? We would never claim to have answers, but we do have theories. Every pitch on Spot.Us is defacto a collaboration. At the very least it is between the reporter and the community of supporters. But often news organizations get involved. Sometimes we get TWO news organizations involved. In the future – I hope we can get THREE news organizations to collaborate around a single pitch. We are producing a custom CMS that is based around the idea that “collaboration is queen.” It is the acknowledgment that no single news organization can do everything and that it is okay to “link to the rest.” It requires a new level of transparency and honesty in our reporting.

Today, we are all Jacques-Yves Cousteau. And all of the filming crew.
Last year some of the ocean bloggers were involved in the session with the title “Hey! You Can’t Say That!”. Perhaps next year they can call the session “Oh, You Bet I Can Talk Trash!” or “Blogging Garbage” or, like this post, “Talking Trash”….
Whatever they decide to do, I am looking forward to the result, and to their session. And the Sea Shanties the evening after it.

Afternoon Tea With Richard Wiseman (video)

The first in a series by @RichardWiseman:

During the Edinburgh Festival I will invite some of my favourite magicians, skeptics, psychologists and comedians to join me for afternoon tea. Over a plentiful supply of cakes, pastries and sandwiches we will chat about this and that, and occasionally the other. I hope that you will feel moved to put on the kettle, relax and join us.

Five podcasts are already up….

In vitro veritas

My new t-shirt arrived:
From Zazzle.

Microsoft’s New Smart Phone (video)

Does your iPhone have a tape measure? Eh? How can you beat that?
Hat-tip: Science Lush

Bring Bing Home

Bing Haubrich has made new friends in Japan, but they want to keep him there. In fact, they have threatened to hold him for ransom unless his American friends and family do two things:
1. Answer questions about Japan/Nippon culture and cuisine.
2. Donate money to help his mother pay the plane fare for his trip.

It’s tempting for a young man to stay in Japan, because so far he has found the food to be awesome and the shopping (even in vending machines) to be, let’s say, “unique.” In fact, the Japanese students think that if he stays long enough he could use his ninja powers to be Emperor someday. I don’t think that this would be a good thing for world peace, as Bing has not worked out his “Megalomania” issues and bad things could happen.

So, test your knowledge and help bring this young man home….

Kseniya Simonova – Sand Animation (video)

The winner of Ukraine’s Got Talent.

And I’ll Huff, And I’ll Puff…

…and I’ll blow the straw house down. And the sticks house down. And, wow, the brick house down as well! Yummy little pigs!

I Am A Scientist (video)

via Arikia

If I…. (video)

Intriguing, thought-provoking:

If i… from Tim Brown on Vimeo.

We report, you decide

He is the BBC’s latest star – the cab driver who a leading presenter believed was a world expert on the internet music business.
The man stepped unwittingly into the national spotlight when he was interviewed by mistake on the corporation’s News 24 channel.
With the seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles’ record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was Guy Kewney, editor of, a specialist internet publication.
Actually, he was a minicab driver who had been waiting to drive Mr Kewney home.
Despite knowing nothing about the case – a judge ruled that the computer company could continue to use the Apple symbol for its iTunes download service – the man gamely attempted to bluff his way through and, speaking in a strong French accent, sustained a (somewhat illogical) form of conversation. Meanwhile, the real Mr Kewney watched indignantly on a monitor in reception.

BBC, just like Bentham publishers, easy to fool.
Follow up here. And there is a
Wikipedia page about the whole incident.

Hello, this is a journalist from the ’80s speaking….

Sorry, could not resist posting this:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
End Times
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Newt Gingrich Unedited Interview

Made me laugh…

ROTFL licence plate.jpg
I guess that is it’s purpose. The very first pic I took with the new iPhone. Around the corner here in Chapel Hill.

Mad Avenue Blues – brilliant video

If research papers had a comment section….

It appears that Jorge Cham has been reading some of these posts or associated FriendFeed threads, because today’s PhDcomics strip is this one:
phdcomic comments.gif
I am wondering how many of ‘weissberg’s’ comments have been removed by the moderators over the years.
Also, if duplicate comments are posted 14 years apart, is it because MoveableType stalled that long? Do they even count as duplicates any more?
And why did the reviewer take so long to post the review? And how does one get scooped by a 14-year old paper? Just the lack of habit of reading historical literature?
Task: identify the paper this is attached to (I see Miguel Nikolelis in the References, so it will be some kind of multi-electrode brain monitoring, most likely)?

Creative reuse of OA materials

Last week also demonstrated another benefit of Open Access. Not just that everyone could re-use the images from the Ida paper without wondering “is this too much for Fair Use principles?” (yes, I have seen people re-post every single image from the paper into their articles/posts, plus lengthy excerpts of text), but people could do fun stuff to them as well, and even use it for commercial endeavors.
And I am not talking just about the Google logo last Wednesday!
First to make a creative reuse of an article image was Ed Yong in his brilliant and hilariously funny post Darwinius changes everything in which Ida appears on toast:
Richard Carter was next, depicting Ida playing saxophone:
But then, there is also a way to use the hype to counteract hype…and make some money in the process. The first store I saw that is selling t-shirts and other merchandise with Ida on it was this one. You can get This Mug Which is Not Missing:
Darwinius mug.jpg
Or you can choose one of the t-shirts for which the proceeds go to a good cause, the Beagle Project, with a good message “There is no such thing as a missing link”:
Darwinius nomissinglink shirt.jpg
And you can find other t-shirt designs in this shop and this shop and this shop – perhaps walking around wearing one of these will be a conversation starter, or will get a kid to want to become a palaeontologist when s/he grows up, who knows.
Now, if I were a palaeontologist and got my hands on such a spectacular, one-in-a-lifetime fossil, I’d milk it for all it’s worth, too. I’d certainly not put all of the analysis in one paper – then what, retire? I’d also publish the description first, with a lot of fanfare if I could get it. Then I would spread all sorts of other analyses over several more papers – as it appears they are planning to do – including the cladistic analysis for those who think science without numbers is not scientific enough (forgetting the GIGO law and that every single thing input into the cladistic analysis programs is an assumption – I was astonished when I took a dinosaur class with Dale Russell some 10 years ago how the palaeontologists’ assumptions about traits – which are hard to evolve, thus likely to show up only once, and which are easy to evolve, thus could re-appear in independent lineages over and over again – differed dramatically from my thinking of developmental switches; who knows who was right about any trait – we both had our assumptions).
Now, I really hope they choose Open Access venues (perhaps PLoS ONE again) for the subsequent papers so the entrepreneurs in the future can print t-shirts with cladograms – imagine the street-fights inevitably breaking out between t-shirt wearing palaeontologists arguing the correctness of the depicted tree! Can’t do that if the journal holds the copyright to the images!

Brown Anole Portrait (video)

Carel P. Brest van Kempen (yes, the artist who did the banner of this blog) submitted this video for a contest. I am not sure how the voting goes, but perhaps lots of visits to this YouTube video are the thing they are looking for:

Kinetic Works (video)

Art by Deb Todd Wheeler

Open Access. What Open Access? (video)

The Evolution of Peeps

It is really sad when an independent book store closes. It is even sadder when that book store was not just a shop but also a center of local community, a place where people gathered to have coffee, talk, interact with boook authors, take art or yoga classes, participate in theater or children’s activities. But the economic downturn is affecting everyone and Market Street Books in Southern Village was forced to close by May 1st.
I went there a couple of times last week, to commiserate with the employees and volunteers who were packing, wondering what the future will bring for them and picked up a couple of free books they were giving away. I also took with me a souvenir – one of the poems written last Easter, during their annual PeepFest. It so happened that the poem I picked, just a piece of typed paper attached to the window with Scotch tape, was written by one of the people who was in the store at the time, helping to pack. I asked her for permission to reproduce the poem online and she said Yes. So here it is, ‘The Evolution of Peeps’ by Katie Hayes:
Which came first, the egg or the peep?
It’s quite a tough question, the answer is deep.
But the end all of answers, between me and you
Is the thing that came first was the pile of goo.
For Peeps evolved on a marshmallow isle
Selected for eons for their daring and guile
And the earliest peeps looked different back then
Like the sabertoothed Peep–which slept in the den!
Or the proud peepadactyls which travaled in flocks
Unlike today’s peeps, who travel in box.
They lost their prehensile ears and their beaks
Their penchant for flying, and fondness to screech.
Then they all died away and no one knows why
Some blame an asteroid that fell from the sky.
Or possibly lava, or sulfuric rain
I blame globalized tooth decay!
Bue there are no fossils of ancient peep brethren
Instead there are mountains of hard sugar resin
So we’re never allowed to teach it in school
Except as a theory – and not as a rule.

A Very Hungry Cephalopod!

Brian made me do this:

There are several others in this series, featuring warthogs, pterodactyls, mammoths and moas….all found on YouTube

My guilty pleasures of late…

…are three blogs written by the same person – Ross Horsley, a librarian with interesting creative juices.
Her first blog is My First Dictionary in which she uses pictures from an old 1950s kids’ Dictionary and replaces the text with something….usually ominous!
Her second blog is Musty Moments with old clippings and ads, sometimes with her own text added:
And the third is Anchorwoman In Peril! where she reviews slash-pics:
Read the interview with Horsley at NO JUAN HERE

Time Lapse Painting ‘Lanjak Dawn’

Carel Brest van Kempen just posted a new one – even more ambitious than all the previous cases:

I’ve given the time-lapse treatment to a new painting. Feeling more confident with the process, I tackled a major painting this time: A pair of courting Crowned Flying Lizards (Draco cornutus) in the foreground compete for our attention with a big old male Orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus) calling from his sleeping nest in the background.

Happy birthday Samuel Morse

Thanks to Google, we know that today is the birthday of the first Twitterer:

Saving Newspapers: The Musical (funny video)

Bio-Rad GgggggTtttttttCccccccccAaaaaaaaa – gotta love this video!

[It’s all over the interwebs, but I first saw it posted by Dr.Isis and SciCurious]

On open-mindedness

I know everyone and their grandmother has already posted this. But, if there is going to be a virally spread internet meme, this one is much better than most:

20 Things To Do With Matzah (video)

[from Mom, via Bride Of Coturnix on Facebook]