Archive for February, 2011

Creepiest Thing You’ll See Today: Dead Furry Alien Found In Indonesia?

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Everybody’s working for the hideous possible furry alien found in Indonesia weekend.

Thanks to Weird Things reader Lawrence for the tip.

Abominable Snowman Joins Tea Party

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Florida Man Finds Live Rocket, Carries It To Police Station

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

A man driving around Lake City discovered a military rocket on the side of the road and decided to bring it in to the local police station.

“Officers determined it was indeed a live, high-explosive military device. Explosives experts from Alachua County responded and identified the device as an M247 rocket with 2.3 pounds of composition B for the explosive.”

“Police also remind everyone not to approach any suspicious devices, and to call police immediately.”

Clearly, I am spending too much time indoors and need to get out and drive around this fine state more.


Scientists Test Electric “Thinking Cap”

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Australian researchers claim that initial results of a “thinking cap” that promotes creativity by passing low levels of electricity through the brain has shown promising results. The thinking cap consists of two conductors fastened to the head by a rubber strap, and in tests it significantly boosted results in a simple arithmetic test. The researchers claim that three times as many people who wore the thinking cap were able to complete the test, compared to those who did not.

“The dream is that one day we may be able to stimulate the brain in a particular way to give you, just momentarily, an unfiltered view of the world,” Snyder said.


Ghostly Horseman Spotted At Egyptian Protests

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The lesser known 5th horseman of the apocalypse is called Lens Flare and he rides a glowing horse.


And Now… A Man In A Bender Costume Tries To Stop A Russian Street Fight

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Thanks to Weird Things reader Mark Sissions for the link.

“Super Pack” of 400 Wolves Terrorizes Russia Town

Monday, February 7th, 2011

A “super pack” of wolves, said to be 400 hundred strong, has been terrifying the Russian town of Verkhoyansk and has left more than 30 horses dead in just four days. The authorities have put together twenty four teams of hunters to try and get rid of the wolves using traps, snowmobiles, and helicopters.

“The massive group is believed to be made from hundreds of packs and has left animal experts baffled. Dr Valerius Geist, a wildlife behaviour expert, said the harsh Siberian winter – where temperatures plummet to minus 49C – had killed off the animal’s usual prey.

He said: ‘It is unusual for wolves to gather in such numbers of hunt large animal like horses. ‘However, the population of their usual prey, rabbits, has decreased this year due to lack of food, so wolves have had to change their habits.”

[Daily Mail]

Get Ready For The Water-Powered Jetpack

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Q: What qualifications do I need to fly?

A: You must be a good swimmer, and should not feel uncomfortable having your face in the water from time to time. You should not have a fear of heights. You should be in good health and physical condition. You should have no history of any heart conditions and flying is not advised for women who are pregnant. You must also have good vision and be able to understand the instructor.

Anybody got a spare $136,000?

[Jetlev Flyer via CNN]

The Corrupted Blood Incident

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
On September 13th, 2005, an update to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft online game introducing the Zul’Gurub dungeon helped unleash a series of events that led to a catastrophic plague that spread out of control. In a fascinating example of cascading failures in a complex system, all hell broke loose. For an entire week the Blizzard team fought to end the plague and restore order.  As one witness to the event stated:

“There are three things you can do: infect people, die, and watch other people do the first two. There’s no way to rush for a cure; there’s no way to stop the plagued idiots from coming in, there’s no quest, no change, no nothing.”

The case has been made that games like World of Warcraft are complex systems because they share the following attributes:  “they consist of a large number of interacting agents, they exhibit emergence; that is, a self organizing collective difficult to anticipate from the knowledge of the agents behavior, and their emergent behavior does not result from the existence of a central controller.” Such complex systems require careful testing and strong controls.  An independent security consultant who played World of Warcraft at the time noted:

“Giving it the ability to propagate at all beyond a limited environment definitely reminds us that self-propagating code is likely to bite us in the ass without careful consideration and planning.”

As the plague spread from the dungeon across the world on as many as three different servers, the players panicked and the game became unplayable in its normal fashion. Cities became death traps and eventually abandoned as players either stopped playing or hid in the wilderness. In an interesting parallel to real world plagues the Corrupted Blood plague exhibited the following traits:

“it originated in a remote, uninhabited region and was carried by travelers to urban centers; hosts were both human and animal, such as with avian flu; it was spread by close spatial contact; and there were asymptomatic individuals – in this case, invulnerable NPCs.”

Here is a video taken during the height of the plague.

Cascading Failures: What Happened?

The end boss of Zul’Gurub was Hakkar the Soulflayer, Blood God of the Gurubashi trolls, and if he was attacked the players received a gift called Corrupted Blood, which is basically a curse that steals health and is highly transmittable from one player to another. It was originally designed to only affect the players while they were still within the dungeon, but a combination of bugs introduced into the system and player actions combined to set the plague loose into the world. The damage done by Corrupted Blood was so massive that it killed most lower level characters instantly, but allowed more powerful characters enough time to keep moving and spread the disease even further. Corrupted Blood was designed as a short-term annoyance for very high level players and was never meant or imagined to exist outside the specific dungeon for which it was created. A series of small failures combined and cascaded to become a world event.

  1. Players had at least two ways of transferring Corrupted Blood beyond the walls of Zul’Gurub. The first way was to simply teleport from the dungeon back to a populated area. Secondly, it was possible for in-game pets to get the disease as well, but they would not lose it when they left the dungeon.
  2. Corrupted Blood also exhibited asymptomatic characteristics as the game controlled characters were not affected by the plague, but they could be carriers of it. All of the non player characters (NPC) essentially acted very much like a World of Warcraft Typhoid Mary.
  3. Players, much like humans in real life, ignored the authorities. A voluntary quarantine was issued by Blizzard, but it was ignored by many players or simply not take seriously.
  4. The final factor that played heavily into the plague was the fact that many players willfully and intentionally operated to spread Corrupted Blood throughout the lands. These players have been called the terrorists of World of Warcraft by Robert Lemos of Security Focus.

    “For a week, the efforts of malicious players left behind massive casualties, made cities nearly uninhabitable, and became a reminder of the uncontrollability of self-propagating code.”

These four basic issues combined together to create a scenario that quickly became an out of control plague. In the end, Blizzard forced a hard reset of the servers and rolled a new version of code out that addressed issues 1 and 2 listed above. Unfortunately, issues 3 and 4 are outside the ability to be repaired and will probably show up again in the future.  In more recent years, the incident has been used several times in epidemiological studies and it has even been used as a model for exploring how terrorist cells form and operate.

[Wikipedia // Corrupted Blood incident]
[WOWWiki // Corrupted Blood]
[Security Focus]
[Complex Systems Theory, Virtual Worlds & MMORPG’s: Complexities Embodied]

Robots Continue To Steal Jobs

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

While robots continue to take jobs from hard working humans, they still show a surprising lack of judgement in choosing which jobs to steal.  Sign Dancer Pro is an outfit specializing in mechanical advertising, replacing those colorful human billboards on the side of the road.  I, for one, am going to miss the dancing Mario Brother on the corner.

[Singularity Hub]

The Octopus And The Beer Bottle

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

So many questions…