Archive for January, 2011

Alien Pool Party! Strange Cases Of Vanishing Water Blamed On Spacemen

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

One day you’re floating in your backyard above ground pool. Sipping on a Costco purchased pre-made margarita listening to C&C Music Factory. Life is good.

You head to sleep with dreams of another day of aquatic lounging splashing around in your head.

Wake up the next morning, slap on your trunks only to find an empty husk of pool sadly standing as a monument to disappointment in your backyard. All the water is gone, with no sign of a crack or a seam and all the surrounding grass dry as a whistle.

The solution for many who have had this problem? Aliens.

The phenomenon is explained in depth (no pun intended) on the Inexplicata blog. Interesting stuff.


Hoax Of The Day: 1960 Batavia River Monster

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Imagine a tale of suburban terror in the Upstate New York town of Batavia in the Mad Men-era year of 1960.

Several youths report banshee-like screaming while crossing a town bridge. Days later the kids investigate and later tell authorities that they saw a gigantic hairy beast which left distinctive footprints. Although cops find the prints, there is no sign of the River Monster.

A few days later, the kids were busted as hoaxers. How did their plan fall apart? According to local paper The Daily News Online the kids got a little greedy.

City Hall officials found similar footprints made of white paint leading up to their front door on August 2nd. No one knows if they kids were looking to expose themselves as pranksters or genuinely thought they could convince the once-hookewinked authorities that the River Monster genuinely had business with the local government.

The footprints and impression left by the monster were also later debunked by a wildlife official after he realized the indentations were too deep to be created by an creature of reasonable size.

The lesson to future hoaxsters? Don’t push your luck, specifically if part of your plan is to insinuate a creature who lives amongst local marsh was trying to apply for a building permit.

Australian Birds Use Fear To Attract Mates

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Male splendid fairy-wrens flirt using fear and sing a special song each time they hear the call of one of their predators, the butcherbirds. Although this behaviour exposes their position and puts them in danger, it has been determined that this “vocal hitchhiking” on the predator calls is extremely useful for grabbing the attention of the ladies.

“We have shown that females do, in fact, become especially attentive after hearing butcherbird calls,” said Emma Greig, PhD, first author of the study and currently a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. “So, it seems that male fairy-wrens may be singing when they know they will have an attentive audience, and, based on the response of females, this strategy may actually work!”


Scientists crackle the code

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I don’t know how this got by us in 2006, but apparently scientists have finally figured out what makes Rice Krispies snap, crackle and pop. It turns out that the fact that they’re made by frightening little Lebensborn demon elves has nothing to do with it and the crackling sound is *not* the burning cinders of hellfire like we were told by our older brother when we were 8.

There’s a scientific explanation involving science and possibly chemistry. You can read more here and explain it to us in the comments: What Makes Your Cereal Go Snap, Crackle and Pop

Does surviving swine flu super-charge your immunity?

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Researchers studying nine patients who survived swine flu during the H1N1 pandemic have noticed that they produced a wide range of antibodies that could be used to fight off other strains.

Currently they’re looking to see if they can use this to make a universal vaccine that could fight off any type of influenza – even the ones we’re most concerned about here on Weird Things:

  • Rage virus
  • Slow moving zombie virus
  • Fast moving zombie virus
  • Emo vampire virus
  • Glittery vampire virus
  • We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope it doesn’t give us an immunity to the bad-ass day walker virus.

    BBC News

    Woolly Mammoths By 2015?

    Sunday, January 16th, 2011

    One man is on a mission to bring woolly mammoths back from the dead. A technique for successfully recovering frozen cells to use in creating clones was pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology.  Now Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, plans to use the results in a quest to bring the woolly mammoth back to life.

    “Now the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

    Professor Iritani estimates about 2 years to successfully implant an embryo into an elephant, followed by a 600-day gestation period.  He will be travelling to Siberia this summer in search of specimens.

    [The Telegraph]

    Sun Rises Two Days Early In Greenland

    Sunday, January 16th, 2011

    No one knows exactly why the sun rose roughly 48 hours ahead of schedule in the remote Greenland town of Ilulissat which like many arctic circle towns spends prolonged periods in total darkness.

    Some say global warming has melted the ice caps that surround the town so far that the sun snuck over quicker.

    However some have suggested a mischievous astronomical shift is to blame.

    We are going to pin the blame on someone incorrectly programming the town’s only clock.

    [Daily Mail]

    The Legend of Old Hitler

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    Along the west coast of Florida, fisherman have been swapping stories for years about a monster hammerhead shark that goes by the name of “Old Hitler”. He is said to be between 20 and 25 feet long and lurks in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico between the Boca Grande Pass and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge near the entrance to Tampa Bay. However, there are reports of Old Hitler showing up from Homosassa to the Florida Keys. Running into Old Hitler is likely to end with cracked hulls, mangled propellers, and the loss of the 200 lb game fish you had on your line.

    A standard great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds and their average life span is 20 to 30 years, but scientists have found some to live beyond age 50. The world record for the great hammerhead caught with rod and reel is 1280 lbs and 14 ½ feet, although there are other reports of larger sharks being pulled out of these Florida waters.

    “The largest hammerhead ever pulled from these waters was a 17-foot, 1-inch, 1,386-pound monster that was caught using a chain, rope and an inflatable intertube off the Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island by Frank Cavendish and Ralph French in 1973. The shark, dubbed “Spiro,” was caught using a 14-pound manta ray as bait.”

    Boca Grande Pass is located at the south end of Gasparilla Island and it is the deepest natural inlet on the Gulf of Mexico, reaching depths to approximately 80 feet. Aside from already being the deepest inlet on the Gulf, the Pass has some interesting geography including the Lighthouse Hole and the Coast Guard Hole. There are also supposed to be numerous ledges that undercut the rock and provide shelter and hiding spots.

    The hammerheads pour into the Pass starting in April chasing their favorite meal and fishing’s favorite prize, the Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). Tens of thousands of tarpon congregate in the area from April through August, feeding day and night, as they prepare to spawn offshore. Boca Grande Pass attracts the tarpon due to the abundance of food and available cover, and they crowd into the deep holes in the pass by the hundreds. The giant schools of tarpon then attract an even bigger predator, hammerhead sharks.  As anybody fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass will attest, hammerheads love to steal tarpon from the anglers.

    More Old Hitler after the jump!

    Real Life Superhero Gets Nose Broken, Narrowly Avoids Death

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    The question of how the law should hand real life super heroes is a very interesting one. On one hand, they are mostly well-intentioned citizens who deter crime in a neighborhood. After all, if you were going to mug someone would you want to do it near the dude in a suit of molded rubber, or move a few blocks down the road. Then maybe while walking down the road you see a Little Caesars and totally agree to split a pizza. Then you forget about the mugging stuff whilst stuffing your face and laughing about the last episode of the Jersey Shore.

    But on the other hand, tacitly approving vigilante justice can lead to situations like Phoenix Jones, who had his nose broken while being held at gunpoint last week.

    A few of the Weird Things staff members (most notably Andrew Mayne whose production company produced the series) created an episode of G4 Underground about his very topic. You can check it out on iTunes.

    [Boing Boing]

    And Now: A Terrifying Picture Of A Baby Cephalopod…

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    From PZ Meyer’s Pharyngula blog. Click through to see the full picture. This could, without alteration, be the cover of a metal album.


    Pull over, that black hole is too fat

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    Weighing in at over 6 billion times the mass of our solar system, astronomers have found the most massive black hole yet at the center of galaxy M87. Three times large than Pluto’s orbit, it’s very, very big.

    Not to be outdone, chubby loving astronomers have their eyes on one that may even be even bigger than that one at 19 billion times the mass of our solar system. Woop woop.

    Astronomers calculate mass of largest black hole yet

    Who Wants To Hear About Leading Edge Bigfoot Research? Come To The Sasquatch Summit!

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    The greatest minds in Sasquatch research will gather in British Columbia this April to best asses where we are in the long hunt for the crypto creature and to honor those who have done significant work in the field to track down and identify the elusive beast.

    The event will be a gathering of Bigfoot researchers, authors and enthusiasts brought together to celebrate the life and contributions of John Green. Friday, April 8th will start with registration opening at 4 pm, and continue into the evening with light snacks and a no-host bar at an informal ‘Meet & Greet’ reception. Later there will be Round Table Discussions with well-known authors and investigators, a chance to catch up with friends, and time to browse amongst the vendors tables.

    Tickets are running at $80 for the conference at Harrison Hot Springs, BC.

    We very much wonder what kind of information can be gathered when so many who have searched so long of Sasquatch are put in the same room. At the very least there has to be some awesome stories about creative living in the forrest during stake outs. And possibly a great recipe for baked beans cooked over a campfire.

    What would you hope to get out of the Sasquatch Summit?


    Minecraft, Tron and the Singularity

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    Over at CrunchGear they have a nice overview of why Minecraft matters. For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a fun sandbox game that lets you build things out of virtual blocks. The blocks have different properties and can be made into materials like glass. Think of it as the Matrix meets Legos. The game is hugely popular and shows how much we like to build and create. Some folks have gone as far as making deck by deck replicas of the starship Enterprise and actual working mechanical computers. Think about that one for a second.

    One of the fascinating premises of movies like Tron and the Matrix is the idea of a computer powerful enough to simulate life itself. Although some process (like protein functions) are way beyond our current capabilities, replicating them virtually is an engineering problem and not an insurmountable scientific one. Sooner or later we’re going to see a research paper about a virtual bacteria that behaves precisely like its real world counterpart. From there it’s all a matter of scale before we’re creating virtual Olivia Wilde’s that have cellular chemistry every bit as complex as our own.

    Aside from creating super intelligent AI, imagine if you took the 100 smartest people in the world and made virtual versions of them – and then you overclocked the computer. You’d be able to compress 100 years of scientific discovery into minutes. This is why concepts like the singularity give people the willies. It means that all those things we think of as being 1,000 years off in the future could be really just weeks away once you reach a certain level of computational ability.

    Games like Minecraft and Sim City are the starting point to a very interesting journey. I hope we’re part of it.

    A brief explanation of why Minecraft matters
    Building mega objects in Minecraft

    We’ll make great pets: Why we shouldn’t fear our new alien overlords

    Thursday, January 13th, 2011

    So a new research paper has come out and told us what Hollywood has been telling us for years; if we meet aliens they’re most likely going to act like 16th century conquistadors and take our resources and annihilate us in the process. Similar to Stephen Hawking’s dire warning it says contact would spell doom for us all.

    The rational is that since that’s what we did in the past to other other civilizations, that’s what an advanced civilization will do to us.

    There are some very serious flaws with this argument. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

    1. Our galaxy is a really, really big place
    The argument claims that aliens would come to earth and take our minerals and such. Why? Current estimates put the total number of planets in our galaxy in the hundreds of billions – maybe even the trillions if you count planetoids. Even if we assume an absurdly highly number of them have intelligent life, that leaves millions of planets to exploit for minerals and other resources.

    The galaxy is not a bigger version of the earth. In the 15th century humans lived on every habitable continent. There was no place you could go for resources except Antarctica that didn’t have people living on it. Trying to exploit any place for resources meant that you were likely to come up against indigenous populations.

    In a really big galaxy, there’s no reason to upset the locals unless that’s what you want to do.

    2. Energy
    Space is big. The distance between solar systems is huge. If you have some kind of technology that can easily bridge this gap or lesson the amount of energy you need to travel between stars, earth’s resources are going to look pathetic in comparison. Seriously, are we worried they’re coming here to steal our coal to fuel their space ships?

    3. Comparative Advantage
    Any sufficiently advanced species should have a grasp of economics. Like us, they may not always heed what they’ve learned, but if they’re flying about space they probably have a better grasp on prosperity than we do. If they’re profit motivated it would be the best possible news for us.

    One of the most important principles of economics is comparative advantage. It basically means this; If you have two parties unevenly matched in skill and productivity, it’s always advantageous for both for the more skilled and productive party to let the lessor skilled party focus on production of whatever the first party is least efficient at – even if it’s more efficient than the second party.

    An example would be Apple. By focusing all of its energies on designing iPhones and allowing a less-skilled party to make the iPhone, Apple increases its productivity and profit. The less-skilled party benefits by making the product. Both gain. If Apple focused all its resources on designing and making the iPhone they’d make less overall because it’s unable to maximize what it’s most efficient at.

    In our alien contact scenario we’re the unskilled, inefficient party. Despite this, we still have value we can bring to a superior civilization. That value may be in providing services, cheap labor or producing reality television. Whatever it may be, the most valuable thing we can offer isn’t our resources, but 7 billion individuals with varying degrees of creativity and ingenuity. Comparative Advantage

    If they’re a bunch of religious zealots who abandoned everything they learned that gave them prosperity or secular zealots with no regard for the concept of individuality, we’re screwed.

    Subway Surprise

    Thursday, January 13th, 2011

    Rise and shine!

    [Animal Planet]

    Random Mass Bird Death Caused By New Fault Line?

    Thursday, January 13th, 2011