Archive for March, 2011



Line O’ the Day:

Mike Brown loves drafting quarterbacks. He also loves gambling on them. That’s what this is, of course. A gamble.

“Mike Brown loves gambling on quarterbacks.” Fixed? Fixed. Name five grammatical constructs poorer than the one above. You can’t. Ross Tucker loves popcorn. He also loves eating it. That’s what you do with popcorn. You eat it.

– Big Daddy Drew, In Which Peter King Explains Precisely How He Boned Over Cam Newton [KSK]

Best of the Best:

Curveball: How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam [The Guardian]

As Curveball watched Powell make the US case to invade Iraq, he was hiding an admission that he has not made until now: that nearly every word he had told his interrogators from Germany’s secret service, the BND, was a lie.

Victor Shih on the Chinese Economy [Victor Shih via The Browser] [sic]

The biggest misperception about China is that it’s a dynamic market economy – it isn’t. It’s a fast-growing, state-dominated economy with some dynamic, private-market aspects. If you look at investment, a main driver of growth, much of it is going to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or shareholding companies dominated by state entities. Or it’s going directly to government investments carried out at a central or local level. The misperception has abated recently following Richard McGregor’s book on the Chinese Communist Party. People are realising that the party is still behind much of what happens in China.

Why would people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? [Iowa State University via io9]

Interrogation is frightening. Confessing to something so they can go free immediately may sound better than toughing it out – especially if the suspect believes that they will ultimately be exonerated in a trial. After all, how could they not be exonerated? They’re innocent.

Augmented nose sniffs out illegal smells [The New Scientist via io9]

A team led by Rafi Haddad at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, found that an e-nose correctly classified bad odours 90 per cent of the time – even when encountering them for the first time. This accuracy persisted when comparing the e-nose to the opinion of people from Israel and Ethiopia, suggesting that it is chemical structure and biological hard-wiring, not cultural preference, which sets the molecules people find offensive.

Could a pigeon be the next great art critic? [NCBI ROFL via io9]

If the birds pecked a key after viewing a “good” painting, they received a food reward (mmm, birdseed!), but they got no reward if they pecked the key after viewing a “bad” painting. The scientist then set the pigeons loose on the five previously unseen “good” and “bad” paintings. Lo and behold, the birds were able to correctly classify the new paintings, pecking after the new “good” pictures 35% of the time but after the “bad” ones only 15% of the time.

In Death Valley, the rocks move when no one’s looking [MSNBC via io9]

When walking through Racetrack Playa, a dried up lake bed in Death Valley, it’s not unusual to see these moving rocks, with their long tracks stretched out behind them. They’re never moved into any kind of structure, so it’s unlikely that humans are doing – although scientists have not ruled out some kind of prank. The occasional rains in southeastern California can flood the lake beds. Rains can create small rivers that go for miles, so parts of the desert can flood even when there isn’t a cloud in the sky. But rocks don’t float, so how do they manage to move themselves?

A campaign to replace the N-word in Huckleberry Finn with the word “robot” [Laughing Squid via io9]

To protest NewSouth’s revision, Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine started a satirical Kickstarter project devoted to publishing an edition of Huck Finn that substitutes the N-word with “robot.”

Cocaine changes the way your entire genome works [io9]

More than just a hell of a drug, cocaine can alter your genome — potentially for a very long time. It hits the part of your brain associated with reward, and changes the way genomes in this region behave. Essentially, it takes over gene regulation activity from another, naturally occurring protein in the brain.

Carbon dating shows the world’s most mysterious document may be older than previously thought. [Scientific American and Science Blog via io9]

Carbon dating has revealed the book, or at least the paper of the book, to be even earlier than imagined. University of Arizona scientists have announced that the Voynich Manuscript dates back to the early, not late 1400s. It could be a full century older than it appears. The manuscript itself has still not been deciphered, but now that it’s not a 1920s hoax, what is it? And if it was created in the early 1400s, but its bathing beauties sport hair popular in the late 1400s, why is it so prescient about women’s hairstyles?

Troy “Escalade” Jackson, Not Your Typical Streetballer, Dies At 35 [Emma Carmichael on Deadspin]

At 6’10” and 400 pounds, Jackson wasn’t quick and he didn’t really have leaping ability — two near requirements for streetball — but he was a beloved presence and something of a legend on the AND1 Mixtape Tour, which he joined in 2002.

“You Have To Accept My Pain”: An Interview With Dave Duerson Three Months Before His Suicide [Dave Duerson and Rob Trucks via Deadspin]

In the NFL, I was ostracized from Day One — not by my teammates but by my defensive coordinator. I was drafted by the Bears in 1983. My first day walking into Halas Hall, I met Buddy Ryan. He knew I’d gone to Notre Dame, and he asked me if I was one of those doctors or lawyers. I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Well, you won’t be here too long, because I don’t like smart niggers.”

Judge tosses suit against Obama health care plan [Associated Press]

A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit claiming that President Barack Obama’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance violates the religious freedom of those who rely on God to protect them.

In Census, Young Americans Increasingly Diverse [New York Times]

Instead, growth has come from minorities, particularly Hispanics, as more Latino women enter their childbearing years. Blacks, Asians and Hispanics accounted for about 79 percent of the national population growth between 2000 and 2009, Mr. Johnson said. The result has been a changed American landscape, with whites now a minority of the youth population in 10 states, including Arizona, where tensions over immigration have flared, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

Coca-Cola’s Secret Recipe Finally Revealed (Updated) [This American Life via Time via Gizmodo]

Truth be told though, it’s impossible to fully replicate Coke’s recipe because there’s one ingredient only Coca-Cola can get: fluid extract of coca (which is coca leaves stripped of cocaine). Only one factory can process those leaves and only Coca-Cola has a special deal with the DEA that allows them to use it. So even if the secret is out, we’re still missing the Coke in our Cola.

What ESPN Won’t Let Player X Say: Prenups, Popping Asses, And Watching Your Wife Get Pounded [Player X via Deadspin]

But we have the original draft Player X composed, before the editing process sanitized it completely. The draft sheds a lot of light on what athletes are really going through, and how unpublishable the experience is.

Special Report: U.S. cables detail Saudi royal welfare program [Reuters]

Grandchildren received around $27,000 a month, “according to one contact familiar with the stipends” system, the cable says. Great-grandchildren received about $13,000 and great-great- grandchildren $8,000 a month. “Bonus payments are available for marriage and palace building,” according to the cable, which estimates that the system cost the country, which had an annual budget of $40 billion at the time, some $2 billion a year. “The stipends also provide a substantial incentive for royals to procreate since the stipends begin at birth.”

Qaddafi YouTube Spoof by Israeli Gets Arab Fans [New York Times]

Mr. Alooshe, who at first did not identify himself on the clip as an Israeli, started receiving enthusiastic messages from all around the Arab world. Web surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful. But the reactions have largely been positive, including a message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be from the Libyan opposition saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime fell, “We will dance to ‘Zenga-Zenga’ in the square.”

It Must Be March If The Cubs Are Fighting Each Other In The Dugout [Chicago Breaking News via Deadspin]

After giving up a six-run inning courtesy of a handful of errors, Carlos Silva returned to the dugout and got into a fight. It was broken up, he was removed from the game, and kept away from reporters afterward because he was “not in the right frame of mind to talk.” Cubs Spring Training, people!

New evidence that life on Earth came from space [PNAS via io9]

Meteors may have seeded the planet with life-giving ammonia. New research adds more weight to the claim that the lifeless Earth may have been helped in the right direction by a stray asteroid. Carbon-containing meteorites found in the Antarctic have nitrogen locked away inside them. And when these meteorites are treated with heat, pressure and water, they emit ammonium — which the researchers argue was the precursor to complex biomolecules that formed the first single-celled creatures. The exciting part? The nitrogen found in the meteorites is measurably different from any found on the Earth. If this hunk of rock isn’t our ancient parent, it shows that one like it could very well have been.

How drugs go from healing mice in the lab, to sitting on your pharmacy shelves [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

The news is full of headlines about some drug that has cured mice of everything from baldness to paralysis. Although these advances are real, their useful medical application for humans seems out of reach. What does it take for drugs to make the jump from animals to human testing? And when does a drug being tested on people finally make it into your pharmacy.

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators [Michael Hastings on Rolling Stone]

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

Can Al Qaeda Survive the Revolts? [Bruce Riedel via The Daily Beast]

The revolutions in Arab states this winter have demonstrated that the epicenter of al Qaeda’s global jihad has long moved away from the Arabs to Pakistan and south Asia. Aside from its branches in Iraq and Yemen it has been marginalized in the Arab world. Even in Iraq the Muslim Brotherhood has attacked it, and even in Gaza, Hamas has attacked it. It has sympathizers and may yet stage a comeback but for now it is on the margin. Thus these democratic changes have tremendous opportunity to weaken al Qaeda further and deal it death blows in countries where new open societies emerge with responsible democratic processes.  In Pakistan by contrast, al Qaeda has a host of allies and fellow travelers. It works very closely with the Pakistani Taliban and with Lashkar e Tayyiba. It has long standing ties to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. Its leaders still find sanctuary in Pakistan and it helps to murder Pakistani leaders like Benazir Bhutto who fight it. You can’t argue with al Qaeda’s priorities. Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world so it makes sense to put your main effort there.

Whimsical Remains:





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