Author Archive

Humans Have Better Sense of Smell than Neanderthals

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011


Studies of the similar sized, but differently shaped brains of humans and Neanderthals have revealed one key difference. Our sense of smell is more accurate and intense.

So was reality different for our genetic cousins? Before you dismiss smell as a trivial attribute to survival, consider this:

Olfactory information projects to brain regions directly responsible for processing of emotion, motivation, fear, memory, pleasure and also attraction. Neuroscientists have coined the term “higher olfactory functions” to describe those brain functions which combine cognition (memory, intuition, perception, judgment) and olfaction. The greater olfactory bulbs and relatively larger temporal lobes in H. sapiens compared to any other human species may point towards improved and different olfactory sense possibly related to the evolution of behavioural aspects and social functions.

Was this evolutionary advantage part of the reason why we survived and they didn’t? How much did this effect general behavior? Is that burning? Did I leave the iron on when I started typing this post?

…I’ll be right back.

[Science Daily]

Mormon Columnist: Bigfoot is Really Cain from the Bible

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
bigfoot cain.jpg

Is the crypto creature known as Bigfoot really a religious icon doomed to walk the Earth for his sins? What could possibly doom one man to such a hell?

What if I told you that man was Cain. He who killed Able. Son to Adam and Eve. Maybe you’ve heard of him?


This theory comes according to a 2008 paper by then-Mormon Mentality blogger Matt Bowman. He bases his theory on a 1835 letter describing a meeting between David Patten and Cain.

Patten described the encounter thusly:

“He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is further corroborated by a 1919 manuscript which included a reference to an attack by a hairy, talking humanoid described as Cain.

As far as Bigfoot lore goes, this theory provides an out for at least one major hole. Bigfoot would be an immortal creature and not a new species which would explain why he’s so elusive. It’s far more of a challenge to catch one man than a thriving, natural animal bloodline.

Thanks to Tijuana Taxi on Twitter for this tip.


Paul Allen, Burt Rutan Team to Launch Rockets from Gigantic 1.2 Million Lb. Plane

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

UPDATE: Two key points missed in the initial post. First, this will indeed the largest plane ever built. Second, the rockets launched into orbit will be built by Weird Things darlings SpaceX.

Paul Allen and Burt Rutan have teamed up once again to send a plane into low-Earth orbit. Although this time, it’s on a bit grander scale.

Stratolaunch Systems will revolve around massive 1.2 million lb. planes using six 747 engines requiring 12,000 foot runway to bring the bird up to low orbit. It would then be capable of launching a rocket and landing back on Earth, therefore maximizing cost effectiveness and launch flexibility.

It’s also freaking gigantic. Seriously. Look at this thing.


They hope to launch within five years.

“We have plenty and many challenges ahead of us,” said Allen at the press conference today. “But by the end of the decade…Stratolaunch will be putting spacecraft into orbit [and will] give tomorrow’s children something to search for in the night sky.”

It’s a good thing we stopped dreaming


World’s Smallest Frogs Found

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

If you were on the hunt for the world’s smallest frogs, you better get to New Guinea.

Field work by researcher Fred Kraus from Bishop Museum, Honolulu has found the world’s smallest frogs in southeastern New Guinea. This also makes them the world’s smallest tetrapods (non-fish vertebrates).

Some of them were only 8-9 mm in length. Researchers further described them as “aaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww how cute are you little Mr. Frog!”

[Science Daily]

Higgs Boson Explained Using Fat Man in a Pool Metaphor

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

The Higgs Boson is big news today.

We found it.

We are close to finding it.

We have surrounded it are are now waiting for a list of it’s demands.

But if you’re someone who has no idea what a hell a Higgs Boson is, how are you supposed to get excited? Don’t be the quiet one at the table during your next D&D campaign! Watch the above video.

Added bonus, a fat man terrorizes kids in a pool during the explanation.


As Private Space Exploration Dawns, NASA Launches Online Radio Station

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

NASA has officially launched Third Rock: America’s Space Station. It’s also happy to report that they’re only slightly over their $400,000 budget to play a Kings of Leon rock block in the three o’ clock hour.

The second part isn’t true.

But the first is.

Third Rock Radio.jpg

Third Rock is on the air, bringing you “a mission of New Rock discovery”. While listening we heard songs by Bloc Party, Arcade Fire and Codeine Velvet Club. So it’s obviously titled toward a hipster sensibility.

And it might not actually be the worst idea in the world. First, it’s ad supported, SpaceX, who is in the process of taking of the heavy lifting rocket-wise for NASA is among the first sponsors. Second, rock radio is dying, for example from where I am writing the last local rock station was killed last week.

The station will also pump information about NASA projects between the songs.

Is hipster love for NASA enough to tune into a pre-programmed radio station… with a DJ… that doesn’t allow you to skip songs? Even if it’s a horrifying failure it’ll cost way less than pretty much everything else that NASA has ever done.

[Third Rock]

You Will Believe a Fish Can Walk

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Fish _Walks_ Underwater | LiveScience.jpg

He’s no Muddy Mudskipper, but this African lungfish is shown walking on his fins in this video. You know what they say, you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you climb from the water and murder the land dwelling mammals above you.

Click link below for full video.

[Live Science]

I Know Kung-Fu: Super Fast, Unconscious Matrix-Style Learning Possible

Monday, December 12th, 2011

New research out of Boston University and the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan suggests that the kind of super-fast “information upload” style learning upgrades imagined in the Matrix films could be a reality.

…researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks…

The finding brings up an inevitable question. Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research?

“In theory, hypnosis or a type of automated learning is a potential outcome,” said Kawato. “However, in this study we confirmed the validity of our method only in visual perceptual learning. So we have to test if the method works in other types of learning in the future. At the same time, we have to be careful so that this method is not used in an unethical way.”

In fact, the results during experimentation were most prominent on those who did not know what skills they would be learning from their fMRI. In testing, they showed an improved aptitude at the tasks after the treatment.


Oscar the Octopus Defeats “Two-Ton” Tony

Monday, December 12th, 2011

We are roughly 66 years late reporting on this decision, but considering our recent fascination with octopi here at Weird Things, we figured you’d find it relevant. This photo, commemorating the day that Oscar the Octopus beat the burly bruiser “Two-Ton” Tony Galento was found by reader Adam Smith.

Google Founders Offer to Save Historic Hangar One if They Can Store Private Jets Fleet There

Monday, December 12th, 2011
Google founders offer _100 percent_ funding to save Hangar One, NASA considering offer - San Jose Mercury News.jpg

As of now NASA’s historic Hangar One will be destroyed. Victim of a budget cut. One of the largest free standing structures in the world and historic landmark in the aviation history of this country will be completely demolished and lost to the sands of times.

Unless Google’s Larry Paige, Sergy Brin and Eric Schmitt are allowed to foot the full bill for refurbishment, roughly $33 million. In exchange they ask for rights to house their private jet fleet, eight in total. The government will retain the ability to lease out the rest of Hangar One for whatever they please.

As of now, NASA’s response is: maybe.

Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman, said in an email Saturday that “it would be premature to discuss the merits of the proposal until we have had time to review the details.

“It has not yet been completely vetted,” he added. “We understand the interest and historic nature of the facility and we have to weigh that against the reality of constrained resources and use. We are giving all options thoughtful consideration as we prepare our funding proposal for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.”


Hangar One was built in 1933 and occupies roughly six football fields worth of land spanning eight acres. The Navy is currently in the process of removing contaminated skin from the structure, which means reapplication would have to take place in 2012.

Page, Brin and Schmidt first submitted their proposal in September.

Below, check out a more recent use of Hangar One. The Mythbusters attempt to fold a football field sized piece of paper more than seven times. SAVE OUR BASIC CABLE HISTORY!

[Mercury News]

Crocodile Population Booms In Canals Surrounding Nuclear Plant

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Crocodile population has exploded in the tranquil man made canals surrounding the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in Homestead, Florida. What could possibly go wrong?

That’s where Bob Bertelson and Mario Aldecoa come in. They work for FPL’s Land Utilization unit monitoring the ground water and wildlife on the sprawling property.

Bertelson says he’s seen a ten fold increase in the number of crocs in the last 20 years.

The American Crocodile was once on the endangered species list, so a population boom is very good news. But for the love of God, will someone please check and see if they shoot lasers out of their eyes?

[CBS 4]

SpaceX Sets Launch Date For First Private Spacecraft To Dock With ISS

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

We are unapologetic fanboys for SpaceX. In the tank. Drinking the Kool-Aid. In fact, don’t be surprised if publisher Andrew Mayne gets a tattoo of the SpaceX logo with “RAD” in the middle.

So there is a reason we’ve collectively marked February 7th, 2012 on our calendars. It will represent the first time a private spacecraft will be launched into orbit and dock with the International Space Station.

Here is what’s at stake:

NASA’s plan for the future. NASA has agreed pay SpaceX $1.6 billion for 12 cargo shipments to the ISS, or $133 million per flight. It represents a dramatic increase in value for the program considering each Space Shuttle launch came with a billion dollar tab per pop.

Private, commercial space travel’s plan for the future. Right now, the money needed to get companies like SpaceX off the ground is in government contracts. If this mission proves out, it continues the trend of creating a safe environment for more investment, which drives prices down, which makes it more affordable for other business entities, which means more ships go up creating infinite possiblities.

SpaceX’s plan for the future. It’s no secret that SX mastermind Elon Musk wants to die on Mars in a hot tub whilst high fiving Doctor Manhattan flanked by a half dozen tittering coeds from Mars University. Or something like that. Considering the breakneck pace that his company is on, this is not as insane as one might think PRESUMING massive milestone moments like this goes well. ISS dock begets manned missions begets long range missions begets warm up the tub!

[Fox News]

[Video] And Now… A Zebra Scream “Whoooooa!”

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

The person who uploaded this video swears up and down that the noise made when the zebra opens his mouth is that of the animal and not of he or his friend. I believe him. Because, why not.

Study: Sexually Transmitted Disease Makes Your Armpits Stink Worse

Friday, December 9th, 2011


Follow your nose! To a sexual partner not beset by disease!

A Russian study found that men dealing with gonorrhea has less attractive smelling armpit sweat than those without, therefore deterring potential mates.

In the study, armpit sweat was collected from 34 Russian men, ages 17 to 25. Thirteen of the men had gonorrhea, 16 were healthy, and five had had gonorrhea in the past, but recovered. The men wore T-shirts with cotton pads in the armpits for one hour, then the pads were placed in glass vials…

The women rated the infected men’s sweat as less than half as pleasant as the healthy men’s sweat. And the women said about 50 percent of men who had gonorrhea had sweat that smelled “putrid,” whereas only 32 percent of the healthy men were described as putrid. And while 26 percent of the healthy men smelled “floral,” just 10 percent of those with gonorrhea were described that way.

Researchers suggest that changes in the immune system could cause the alteration in sweat stink. I like to think of it as Mother Nature’s way of telling women, “Get away from him girl, he nasty.”

[Live Science]

Closely Guarded Chinese Secret, Huh? Names Of Chinese “Taikonauts” Accidentally Revealed In Commemorative Memorabilia

Friday, December 9th, 2011


After their selection 18 months ago, the names of the crew that will be sent into space by the People’s Republic of China has been kept under wraps. Until someone put their autographs on a commemorative postmarked envelope and accidentally let it get out.

Whoopsie doodle.

Among those names are two women, one of which might become the first Chinese woman in space. They would be part of a manned mission in 2012 which is all building to the launch of a Chinese controlled space station by 2020.

Below you can find a picture of the second crew to launch into space for the PRC in 2005.

[Collect Space via BoingBoing]


Exactly How Easy Would It Be To Clone A Wooly Mammoth?

Thursday, December 8th, 2011


How difficult is it to clone one of the most iconic extinct beasts in the history of the planet? Not as hard as you think.

Then again, that depends on how hard you think it is. If you think it’s impossible, it’s going to be quicker. If you think it’s like getting ready for a half marathon, you better recalibrate your patience.

If everything went perfectly according to plan, we could be chilling with Mammoth style within 20-50 years says Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary geneticist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. That is if we can get over a few ethical issues. Like, you know, bringing a long dead animal back from the dark expanse of oblivion in a vastly different climate from what it previously lived and died in.

“There is no good scientific reason to bring back an extinct species,” Poinar said. “Why would one bring them back? To put them in a theme park? Doesn’t seem like a good use of taxpayer dollars to me. Simply studying their evolution, which can be done from old fossil bones, seems far more satisfying to me — but that’s just me.”

“Someone is going to do this eventually, ethics or no,” Poinar said. “And it might be expensive to try and clone mammoths, but how many people would visit the zoo to see one?”

Who would go see a Wooly Mammoth?


[Live Science]