One Argument for Why Eagles Should Be Killed

from AFP via Yahoo! News

Giant yellow duck explodes in Taiwan…again

Giant yellow duck explodes in Taiwan...again

Taipei (AFP) – A giant yellow duck on display in a northern Taiwan port exploded Tuesday, just hours before it was expected to attract a big crowd to count down the new year.

The 18-metre-tall (59-feet) duck on show at Keelung burst around noon and deflated into a floating yellow disc, only 11 days after it went on display.

It was the second time that a giant inflatable duck — a bath toy replica created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman — had burst while on show in Taiwan.

“We want to apologise to the fans of the yellow rubber duck…. the weather is fine today and we haven’t found the cause of the problem. We will carefully examine the duck to determine the cause,” organiser Huang Jing-tai told reporters.

The Central News Agency cited an eyewitness as saying the rubber bird might have fallen victim to eagles which scratched it with their claws.

[ click to read full article at Yahoo! News ]

Books Really Do Make Your Brain Grow

from The Independent

Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’


Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition – for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

[ click to continue reading at The Independent ]

F†ck you, Captain Tom

from Adrian Belew’s ‘elephant blog’

Anecdote #646 part 1

Uneasy Meetings with Gods part one. 

place: a Frank Zappa concert in Cologne, Germany 2/14/1978 – my first tour of europe ever and as a member the frank zappa band. although I wasn’t aware, this night brian eno is in the audience. next day eno calls david bowie knowing david is looking for a new guitarist.

Berlin, Germany 2/15/1978 the following night david comes to the show ostensibly to see me play. there is a break in the show where I normally leave the stage while frank plays an extended guitar solo. as I’m leaving I glance over to the monitor board. I’m shocked to see david bowie and iggy pop! I walk over, shaking david’s hand I say, “I’ve always loved your music”. “great”, he says, “how’d you like to join my band?!” “well, I’m playing with this guy right now…” I stammer, pointing to frank. “yes, I know, but your tour ends in two weeks and mine begins two weeks later.” we agree to meet back at the hotel after the show.

what followed was like something out of a spy film. david and his assistant coco tried to rendezvous with me without letting anyone in on our little “secret”. I suppose the idea was to avoid letting frank know I was being wooed away from his band. I was too dumb to notice. at one point, david, coco, and I stepped into the hotel elevator when no one was around. whispering, coco said, “we have a car out front. we’ll meet you there in ten minutes.”

david wanted to take me to one of his favorite restaurants to discuss my future. he had lived in berlin for several years. so his driver set off with the three of us in the back madly chatting about songs we’d play and places we’d go. we pulled up to a nice looking restaurant and walked in.

at the table right in front of us sat frank and some of the band!
the jig was up as they say.
can you imagine? how many restaurants are there in berlin?
so we invited ourselves to join them at their table.
feeling slightly uncomfortable david tried to engage frank in friendly discourse.
david said, “really enjoyed the show”.
frank shot back, “fuck you captain tom”.
“c’mon frank, we can be adults about this, can’t we?” david replied.
“fuck you captain tom.”

[ click to continue reading at elephant blog ]

Go You Dirty Dogs!

from The Washington Post

Having a dog — even a dirty one — may help fend off allergies in young children

By Nathan Seppa and ScienceNews

Dogs that bring outdoor dust into the house might actually be doing a favor for babies in the home. Research suggests that exposure to doggy dust imparts immune protection to infants. A study of mice shows that the benefits derive from microbes in the dust that enter the intestines and improve the microbial mix, steering the immune system toward fighting disease and away from initiating allergic reactions.

The findings present a microbial twist in the hygiene hypothesis, which argues that a less-than-sanitary early life may prime a child’s immune system against overreacting to grass, dust mites and other ordinary substances. Past studies suggested that babies exposed to multiple siblings, day care, pets or farm living grow up to have less risk of asthma or allergy.

In the new study, researchers found that dust from a house with a dog contained more-diverse microbes than dust from a home with no pets. Since human infants ingest at least some dust, the scientists fed one kind of dust or the other to mice that were six to eight weeks old. Although unappetizing, it had the desired effect: Exposure to the dog-house dust greatly toned down reactions in the mice that were exposed to a common trigger, cockroach allergen.

Mice getting the no-dog dust had inflammation in airways. They also had evidence of excess mucus and immune proteins that are common in allergic reactions. But these reactions were virtually absent in mice that had been primed with the dog dust, the scientists reported last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[ continue reading at WaPo ]

Merry Christmas, Mr. Turing

from CNN

Alan Turing, code-breaker castrated for homosexuality, receives royal pardon

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
Watch this video

Castrated code-breaker receives pardon

(CNN) — Alan Turing, a British code-breaker during World War II who was later subjected to chemical castration for homosexual activity, has received a royal pardon nearly 60 years after he committed suicide.

Turing was best known for developing the Bombe, a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by German machines. His work is considered by many to have saved thousands of lives and helped change the course of the war.

“Dr. Turing deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science,” British Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement Tuesday. “A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

Turing’s castration in 1952 — after he was convicted of homosexual activity, which was illegal at the time — is “a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” Grayling said.

Two years after the castration, which Turing chose to avoid a custodial sentence, he ended his life at the age of 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

[ click to continue reading at CNN ]

Becoming That Second Kind of Christmas

from Letters Of Note

America is like that second kind of Christmas

In November of 1959, as a shocked American public were hit with the news that a number of their favourite quiz shows had in fact been rigged for some time, author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to his friend, politician Adlai Stevenson, and spoke of his concern at such a morally bankrupt turn of events occurring in his increasingly gluttonous country.

(Source: America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction; Image: John Steinbeck, via.)

New York
Guy Fawkes Day

Dear Adlai,

Back from Camelot, and, reading the papers, not at all sure it was wise. Two first impressions. First, a creeping, all pervading nerve-gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop before it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental. Two, a nervous restlessness, a hunger, a thirst, a yearning for something unknown—perhaps morality. Then there’s the violence, cruelty and hypocrisy symptomatic of a people which has too much, and last, the surly ill-temper which only shows up in human when they are frightened.

Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, “Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?”

[ click to continue reading at Letters Of Note ]

Rutlemania Redux

from The New York Times

The Rutles Parody the Beatles


The Rutles in the film “All You Need Is Cash”: from left, Eric Idle, Ricky Fataar, John Halsey and Neil Innes.

There’s long been debate over who can truly claim the title “the Fifth Beatle.” The disc jockey Murray Kaufman pursued it. Later, arguments were made for the keyboardist Billy Preston or Yoko Ono. A new graphic novel bestows the honorific on the band’s manager Brian Epstein. However, the Beatles’ most essential partners may be their fictional counterparts: the Rutles, stars of the mockumentary “All You Need Is Cash.”

The Rutles were a hapless but well-meaning band created as both tribute and goof by Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) when he was appearing on the BBC sketch show “Rutland Weekend Television” in the mid-’70s. The group was given musical voice by Neil Innes (a Python collaborator and member of the comedy rock group Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band). The Rutles were conceived and still exist as inhabitants of a kind of meta-universe where there were no Beatles, no era-defining hits like “Penny Lane,” but rather a carefully created near-sound-alike titled “Doubleback Alley,” and no real revolution.

Each time there’s a swell of Beatlemania and a flood of product, the “Prefab Four” have been there to keep the Fab Four’s myth in check. In the mid-’90s, the multipart Beatles documentary and album “Anthology” inspired new Rutles music, “Archaeology.” In the early 2000s, the real group’s hit album “1” spawned the Rutles’ charming but less sharp mockumentary “Can’t Buy Me Lunch.”

[ click to continue reading at The NY Times ]

Fantasy Dumbasses

from CBS Detroit

Crazed Fantasy Football Fans Threaten Violence, ‘Four Bullets For Each Of You Bit****’

By Ashley Dunkak / @AshleyDunkak

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions drops a pass during the first quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Ever get death threats over a bad day at the office? Thanks to Twitter, it happens to NFL players on a regular basis.

But it’s not just their play on the field that makes fans fly over the edge — overwhelmingly, the nastiest comments come from how that play affects fans’ fantasy football leagues.

Some tweets go beyond wishing harm on players to actually threatening violence. The following tweet targeted superstar Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford.

I lost my fantasy playoff game by four damn points. That’s four bullets for each of you bitches @Bigplaycj @Staff_9—
Joséf Ronaldo (@RoiJosef) December 17, 2013

Back in October, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs received several menacing messages on Twitter, and the content concerned him enough to contact NFL security.

Jacobs exposed the fan for terrible remarks that included, “ON LIFE BRANDON IF YOU DON’T RUSH FOR 50 YARDS AND TWO TOUCHDOWNS TONIGHT ITS OVER FOR YOU AND YO FAMILY N—–.”


[ click to continue reading at CBS Detroit ]

Lynching For Art’s Sake

from The College Fix




An African-American student at Sacramento State University is under fire for her recent work of art – which consisted of “lynching” two white men from a tree on the northern California campus.

The men were reportedly actors and were in no real danger during the project, which took place during the day in early December while students were on campus. The men were hung from a tree with a thick rope.

The senior responsible for the performance art, Christina Edwards, defended her project to Fox 40 News.

[ click to continue reading at The College Fix ]

Al Goldstein Not Gone

from The New York Observer

Al Goldstein Is Not Dead

By Matthew Kassel
Al Goldstein and Penn Jillette. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for ThinkFilm)Contrary to what you may have heard, Al Goldstein, founder and former publisher of Screw magazine, did not die yesterday.

Although the website Real Porn Wiki Leaks reported that Mr. Goldstein had died, the news was retracted when Bleeding Cool wrote earlier today that the death could not be independently confirmed.

Author Larry “Ratso” Sloman, who has notably worked with Howard Stern, told Bleeding Cool that Mr. Goldstein, 77, is alive and stable; he is, however, in a hospital in the city.

Though Real Porn reported the wrong information, the website could not be blamed for making up Mr. Goldstein’s death out of thin air.

Last night, magician Penn Jillette, a friend of Goldstein’s, tweeted, “I’m in NYC. Today I visited my hero and friend Al Goldstein as he dies in the hospital, and tomorrow night I celebrate Lou Reed’s Life. NYC.”

A misinterpretation of the present tense, perhaps. Earlier today, Mr. Jillette clarified his message on Twitter: ”My buddy and hero, Al Goldstein is NOT dead,” he wrote. “He is unresponsive and not doing well, but he is alive. Try to stop the rumors. Thanks.”

[ click to continue reading at The Observer ]

Peter O’Toole Gone


Peter O’Toole Dies; ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
Star Was 81

 / Assistant Managing Editor, Features

Peter O'Toole DeadRobert Mora/Getty Images

Irish-born stage and screen actor Peter O’Toole, who became an international star in the title role of David Lean’s Oscar-winning epic “Lawrence of Arabia,” died on Saturday at age 81.

He was undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of his generation. And yet with the 2006 film “Venus,” O’Toole surpassed Welshman Richard Burton and assumed the dubious distinction of being the most nominated actor never to win a competitive Oscar. When it was first announced that O’Toole would receive an Honorary Oscar in 2002, O’Toole astonished the Academy by turning it down, announcing in a letter to the organization that he was “still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright, would the Academy please defer the honour until I am 80.’”

But he did indeed show up at the ceremony the following year, accepting the award from Meryl Streep. “Always a bridemaid never a bride,” he said with typical theatrical flair to an adoring crowd, “my very own Oscar now to be with me till death do us part.”

He racked up eight Oscar-nominated performances — including the beloved schoolmaster in “Goodbye Mr. Chips” (1969); two portrayals of King Henry II (“Becket,” 1964, “Lion in Winter,” 1968); an insane aristocrat who thinks he’s Jesus Christ in “The Ruling Class” (1972); the larger-than-life film director in “The Stunt Man” (1980); and the swashbuckling actor in “My Favorite Year” — but his “Lawrence” always loomed largest.

[ click to continue reading at ]

Very tall, improbably slender, ostentatiously opulent

from USA Today

Sky’s the limit: New towers for the rich soar in New York

Rick Hampson, USA TODAY

image from

The very tall, very skinny residential buildings popping up in Manhattan are being built for the world’s richest people

NEW YORK — Here’s how a 1932 guide to Manhattan describes the view of Central Park from the 43-story Essex House: “an unbroken vista — unequaled anywhere in the city. … Few apartment buildings in the world are more ideally located.”

Today, here’s how visitors typically describe the park view from One57, an apartment building a block south of the Essex House and more than twice its height: “Wow!”

The same can be said of the building itself. One57 exemplifies a new type of skyscraper — very tall, improbably slender, ostentatiously opulent — that is reshaping a famous skyline composed mostly of bulky office buildings.

One such apartment tower under construction, 432 Park Avenue, will have a top floor higher than the Empire State Building’s observation deck. Another will have a top floor higher than any in One World Trade Center, which is officially (by virtue of its spire) the nation’s tallest building.

The 432 Park penthouse has sold for $95 million; two duplex apartments at One57, now nearing completion, also are under contract, each for more than $90 million. Even a studio apartment on a lower floor at 432 Park (designed for staff — a maid or butler) costs $1.59 million.

[ click to continue reading at ]

It’s All Just A Bunch Of Bullshit

from nature

Simulations back up theory that Universe is a hologram

A ten-dimensional theory of gravity makes the same predictions as standard quantum physics in fewer dimensions.

by Ron Cowen

At a black hole, Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity apparently clashes with quantum physics, but that conflict could be solved if the Universe were a holographic projection. ARTIST’S IMPRESSION BY MARKUS GANN/ SHUTTERSTOCK

A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.

In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed1 that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.

Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena’s ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive.

In two papers posted on the arXiv repository, Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan and his colleagues now provide, if not an actual proof, at least compelling evidence that Maldacena’s conjecture is true.

[ click to continue reading at ]