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December 2004
A flurry of news stories last week announced the news that a famous atheist, 81-year-old Antony Flew, had changed his mind. Apparently he now believed that there was a God, of some sort. Except that it looks like the media jumped the gun a bit. In this article in Rationalist International Flew rebuts the rumors, reassuring everyone that "I'm Still an Atheist!" He then proceeds to explain how all the confusion happened, but unfortunately his explanation succeeded in confusing me even more. Something about positive vs. negative atheists (I'm not sure what he means by this).
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 14, 2004
Comments (9)
How much would you pay for a one-page pdf file discussing the delayed launch of Sony's PlayStation Portable in North America? What about $750. That's the price it's going for on Amazon. But maybe it's worth it, because it has received quite a few five-star reviews. For instance, D.C. McKinney says that it's "Definately a good read and well worth the price of admission! This gem of a find is a must for anyone with even the slightest bit of interest in delays in the world of Sony Electronics." (for some reason I suspect that some of the reviews are tongue-in-cheek). But if you do download the pamphlet and enjoy it, then you might want to check out its sequel, the one-page analysis of Sony's October 27 PlayStation Portable Japan launch announcement. This is selling for only $1500.
Categories: Business/Finance, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 14, 2004
Comments (10)
Is it true that infants have an innate sense of what food is good for them? That if left to their own devices they will naturally eat the food that their body needs? Well, in my admittedly limited experience young kids naturally gravitate towards a diet consisting exclusively of ice cream and cheerios. However, there apparently is an urban-legend-like tale floating around about a scientific experiment in which a doctor placed samples of food (of varying nutritional quality) in front of newly weaned babies. The babies were then allowed to pick whatever food they wanted from these samples without any adult intervention, and the babies chose to eat a well-balanced diet. Posters over at alt.folklore.urban tracked down the source of this tale and discovered that it does stem from a real experiment performed in 1928 by Dr. Clara Davis: 'Self Selection of Diet by Newly Weaned Infants'. However, as the article that the link goes to explains, Dr. Davis's experiment would hardly be considered 'good science' today. Doctors didn't even fully understand the importance of vitamins back in the 1920s. In fact, the entire 'babies know what's best for them' idea seems to me to be some kind of weird spin on Rousseau's concept that man in a state of nature is good, and that it's only the development of society and civilization that corrupts him (or her). So I think it's safe to say that babies should not be allowed to choose their own food. Make them eat their veggies.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 13, 2004
Comments (30)
Is it true that there's a relationship between the depth of a dimple in the bottom of a wine bottle, and the quality of the wine inside the bottle? Does a deeper dimple mean better wine? Australian wine expert Martin Field says that this is just a myth. But Itchy Squirrel (don't know his real name) decided to test the dimple-wine-quality theory for himself. Armed with a depth gauge he went to his local supermarket and recorded the price of a sample of wines as well as the depth of their dimples. He discovered that there was a rough correlation between dimple depth and price. Of course, his sample size isn't large enough to be definitive, but this is an experiment anyone can do on their own. I know that I'm now going to be keeping an eye out for dimple depth. I drink a lot of two-buck chuck, which is okay as an everyday table wine, but it has hardly any dimple at all. So it does fit the theory.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 13, 2004
Comments (20)
What is it about park benches that some people find so funny? True, their comedic potential doesn't rival that of garden gnomes. But still, there definitely is an odd tradition of park-bench prankery. For instance, there's the time that legendary prankster Hugh Troy "stole" a park bench from Central Park. And now we have 'Congratulations You have Won a Bench', in which two guys knock on the doors of random people and inform them that they've won a bench. Bewilderment ensues.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 12, 2004
Comments (5)
image Sure you can get a Bonsai Kitten in a glass jar... Or, you could be the envy of all your friends by getting your very own Bonsai Kitten Christmas Tree Ornament. "Notice the splendid use of the tail to form a hanger. Imagine how this will look gracing your yule tide tree. Kids love to watch em blink when they poke at them. And no mess to clean up! The ornament is its' own kitty litter box." If someone were to actually make these (you know, minus a real cat inside... just a picture of the cat on the outside), I bet they'd sell. The tail as hanger is a great touch.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 10, 2004
Comments (37)
Here's a picture that's doing the email rounds. The picture is real (no digital manipulation). The only fake part about it is that the perspective of the shot makes the two planes look like they're about to hit each other, while in reality they're 750 feet apart. The photo was taken at San Francisco Airport on August 15, 2004. The photo can be found on The photographer, Ben Wang, has added this note to it: "The two planes appear to be touching! The 757 is on final for 28L while the 747 is for 28R. The runways are 750 ft apart, so there is still plenty of room between them. Incidentally, Lufthansa 455 is seen here returning to SFO due to an oil leak and eventual shutdown of the number 2 engine. Note rudder is deflected to the right compensating for the failed engine on the left side." (via Liquito)
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 10, 2004
Comments (24)
image The Leg Shocker is an add-on device for PlayStation 2, specifically for the games EA Sport's FIFA 2002 and FIFA World Cup 2002. Using this device allows you to feel the game, so to speak. It's a modified shin guard with a built-in hammer that bangs your shin if your virtual player on the screen gets tackled, tackles someone else, etc. There's a movie of the Leg Shocker in action. It's not clear to me if this is an actual working device, or just an art-project concept.
Categories: Sports, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 10, 2004
Comments (8)
A lot of people lately seem to be finding the lost city of Atlantis. Back in June a researcher said he located it off the southern coast of Spain by studying satellite images. Then last month US researchers said they found the city off the coast of Cyprus by using sonar technology. But my favorite is the discovery of Atlantis announced yesterday by the Hawaiian Phonics tutor Dennis Brooks. He's studied the issue deeply and has concluded that Atlantis is, in fact, Tampa, Florida. He points out that the dimensions of Atlantis as described by Plato pretty much match up with the dimensions of Tampa and Harbor Island (in Tampa Bay). So there you go. Mystery solved.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, History, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 10, 2004
Comments (9)
The GMC Holding Corporation sure isn't bashful about what it believes to be the potential market value of its new technology. According to this press release, its technology will solve the world's energy needs, providing pollution-free power to any kind of motorized product (car, boat, golf cart, etc.). And here's the best part: "The overall market value is expected to exceed a trillion dollars over the next 10 years and these estimates are more than likely to be low." Wow! A trillion dollars! I bet the stock value of the GMC Holding Corporation must be going through the roof after announcing a trillion-dollar product like that. Yup. It was up 20 cents yesterday, to end trading at $1.40. Obviously the market sees huge potential in this technology. But just what is this mysterious revolutionary technology? According to their website: "The prototype motor presented is a permanent magnet design, with the magnets suspended in an inner frame forming the rotor and multiple coils embedded in an outer frame forming the stator... The motor is designed on the known principals set forth by Nikola Tesla." Magnetic coils? Tesla? Oh, I understand now. It's another perpetual motion machine.
Categories: Free Energy
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 09, 2004
Comments (32)
image There should be an award like the Darwin Awards, except instead of being given to people who die in stupid ways it would be given to people who display extreme gullibility. If there was such an award, Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, would be this week's candidate for it. During the keynote address at the Oracle OpenWorld Show he displayed a picture, supposedly from 1954, of what the RAND Corporation imagined that a home computer would look like in 2004 (see the thumbnail: click to enlarge). His point was that people fifty years ago could hardly imagine what the computers of today would look like, and we can't imagine what computers will look like fifty years from now. But the picture he showed wasn't fifty years old. It's a hoax photo that's been going around the internet for the past three months. It began its life as an entry in a Fark Photoshop contest (theme: "Photoshop this mock-up of a submarine's maneuvering Room"... this photo easily won the contest). Apparently, McNealy hadn't yet learned where the photo really came from. Now, I'm sure, he knows.
Update: Here's a Popular Mechanics article about the 1954 Home Computer image and its creator, a Danish software designer named Troels Eklund Andersen.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 09, 2004
Comments (8)
In a recently published study, researchers at the Universities of Washington and Oregon have reported finding that two-thirds of children invent imaginary friends. I, of course, never had an imaginary friend as a child. That ten-foot-tall rabbit who lived in my closet was very real.
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 08, 2004
Comments (26)
Alan Caruba, Founder of an organization called The National Anxiety Center, has published a list of the 'Most Dubious News Stories of the Year'. Some of the entries include:
  • The University of Szeged in Hungary announcing that mobile phones may damage men's sperm
  • Reuters reporting that tens of millions of people in America may drown when a volcano in Africa cataclysmically collapses into the sea (though scientists only think this will happen 'sometime in the next few thousand years')
  • The New York Times reporting that the collapse of the Earth's magnetic field has begun in earnest (again, look for the effects of this to become evident in a couple of thousand years)
However, although Caruba has a point about the dubious quality of some of this reporting, glancing through the rest of his site I get the feeling that he's pushing a conservative agenda. So that might be worth taking into consideration. He doesn't seem to be that concerned about 'Dubious News Stories' emanating from Republicans.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 08, 2004
Comments (19)
image It's Mister Marbles, the life-size prop dead cat. The attention to detail that's gone into the creation of this thing is amazing: "Mr. Marbles is a cat who turns up dead, floating in a swimming pool. The prop is a jointed cloth construction, with pieces of plastic tubing to keep the limbs rigid, and filled with small air bladders to make it buoyant. The skull was cast in insulation foam in a silicone mold of an actual cat skull. The eyes and teeth are from a taxidermy supply company." It could be the perfect Christmas present for the person who has everything (except a life-size prop dead cat).
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 08, 2004
Comments (11)
image Wayne Pryde believes that he has taken the first photograph ever to capture the image of a meteorite striking the earth. He was taking pictures of clouds when he happened to get this photograph of what might be a grain-of-sand-sized meteorite hitting the Earth. But meteor experts aren't so sure. They're not yet crying hoax (Mr. Pryde swears that he hasn't digitally altered the photo), but they don't think the photo shows a meteor impact. However, they have no idea what else it might be. The Astronomy Picture of the Day site has put up a hi-res version of the image and is asking for help from the internet community. Maybe somebody online can figure out what this thing is.
Categories: Photos/Videos, Science
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 08, 2004
Comments (15)
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