Tag Archive | things made of awesome

Seaweed, marshmallows, phantom hands, and other science tidbits

How a mistakenly-hired seaweed scientist helped win WWII. (Bletchley Park tried to recruit a cryptogramist…well, a cryptogamist is a biologist who studies seaweed, mosses, and ferns.)

According to my mother, my missing pectoral muscle was noticed almost immediately by the doctor who delivered me. There was no diagnosis of any cause for the defect, and I’m not sure if she even asked. It was just missing, and I accepted that absence as a simple fact for most of my childhood.”

“RN’s case is interesting because the hand that was amputated only had three fingers to begin with. One would expect that her phantom limb would be a replica of the hand she lost. But that’s not what happened. RN reported feeling five fingers on her phantom hand. They weren’t five normal fingers—her thumb and index finger felt shorter than the rest—but there were definitely five.

“While students of all categories suffered from class-induced jet lag, the study found that night owls were especially vulnerable, many appearing so chronically jet-lagged that they were unable to perform optimally at any time of day.”

“Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”

And the laptop Negroponte was pitching in 2005 simply didn’t exist. [One Laptop Per Child]’s prototype was little more than a mockup. It hadn’t signed a manufacturer, let alone priced out a sub-$100 product. Groundbreaking technologies like the crank and mesh networking system were still mostly theoretical.”

“Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.

Good news about escaping from Irma, Chechnya, and/or the KKK

The last flight out of Puerto Rico, ninja’ing its way out the narrow spiral between the body of Hurricane Irma and one of the arms. These pilots, and the people on the ground who plotted that flight, deserve some kind of medal.

“They helped him get job training. They helped him get counseling. And now, as a former white supremacist himself, he will receive training on how to help other people. It’s a very individual program and it really works.” The important work of Life After Hate (whose government funding got cut under this administration, because of course).

I was a neo-Nazi. Then I fell in love with a black woman.” It’s more complicated and less Pollyanna than the headline suggests, but the progress is genuine.

“For three months, the [Canadian] federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.

Vintage subways, eclipses on other planets, and music on X-rays

Photos of the Boston construction of America’s first subway system.

“On Jupiter, which has 69 moons, it’s possible for there to be multiple eclipses occurring at the same time. On Pluto, whose moon appears much larger in its sky than the Sun, total eclipses can happen every day for years on end.” [Video]

The only music that was allowed were classic composers, or simple folk tunes, whose words were all about how great socialism was.” So Soviet Russia got an underground cottage industry in illegal music…recorded on discarded X-ray film.

Doctor Who co-creator Sydney Newman advocated a female Doctor in 1986. (As well as some very ’70s companions.)

People tend to lose track of actual facts about the Bible, including how Lovecraftian it is: There are twelve pearly gates, they’re carved from a single pearl each, and they are never, ever closed.

Good things. #LoveWins, and every win makes the next fight easier.

All these rights and protections are open to the whole US now.

So are all these wonderful, loving, affirming scenes. (Every time I think I’m done being emotional about this, someone links to a photo of a together-for-five-decades couple finally being able to tie the knot, and I start tearing up all over again.)

That includes all of us queer cis people, all the queer trans people, and all the straight trans people, whose relationships would have been treated differently from state to state depending on whether they recognized your gender identity.

We got Mexico, too.

And Ireland is removing the requirement to get an outside medical opinion before you can be recognized as trans.

And US federal health plans now have mandatory transition-related coverage.

And we get to keep our healthcare subsidies.

And the White House is lit up in rainbows. (As are all these other buildings.) (And my Facebook feed.)

And you know, here’s a thing: There’s been a ton of political and corporate celebration, including politicians who never really pushed for this talking about what a great victory it is, and companies dressing up their products and logos in rainbows purely because it’s good branding. You can look at all that and think, great, they only care about our rights now that it’s the cool thing to do. Or you can look at all that and think, wow, caring about our rights is the cool thing to do.

None of this was happening in 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to make same-sex marriage a thing. These politicians and these marketing departments are the weathervanes that show us what direction the winds of social change are blowing. And it’s a good direction.

There are more fights to fight, but the way is so much smoother than it was just 11 years ago. And every victory makes the next one easier.

Fly your rainbow flags high

This is for the lesbian with cancer who needs to be on her partner’s health insurance.

This is for the bi man who needs his partner’s children to be allowed to visit him in the hospital.

This is for the trans woman who won’t be able to keep her house unless she gets spousal benefits after her girlfriend’s death.

This is for the couple who won’t be able to afford a house at all unless they can file as husbands.

This is for the woman who’s going to be deported without a marriage visa from her US-based wife.

This is for the queer person whose parents kicked them out of the house, but would happily swoop in and try to claim their possessions from a grieving widow…and then demand that their friends attend the funeral in birth-sex-conforming clothing.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of acting like marriage is just a symbol, just an excuse to have a party with cake. It’s not. Marriage is a set of substantial rights and recognitions, many of which are most important when your life is at its worst. There’s a reason the fight for same-sex marriage was originally catalyzed by the AIDS crisis. Everyone (even people with loving biological families, but especially people without them) deserves the ability to get legal recognition for their family of choice.

AND NOW WE’VE GOT IT.

Four lovely things that have brightened this week

(1) Cantwell Faulkner Muckenfuss III is a real name of a real person.

Not only did somebody think “Cantwell Faulkner Muckenfuss” was a great name, but three sets of parents in a row had the same thought. Either that, or Cantwell Faulkner Muckenfuss Sr. was so unhappy with his lot in life that he decided to relieve the misery by sharing it, and Cantwell Faulkner Muckenfuss Jr. figured this was a great and sensible tradition.

Just. You guys. Cantwell Faulkner Muckenfuss III.

~~~

(2) Bloodstone parasol handle. Definitely a parasol handle, and not an ornately carved bloodstone version of…um, some other object.

There’s one of these stashed in Cecil Palmer’s bottom drawer, is what I am not saying.

~~~

(3) The sudden realization that you can cook rice in a crock pot. Which seems so obvious in retrospect, but I have wasted so much rice by boiling it on the stove and inadvertently burning some, never realizing there was an easier way.

~~~

(4) Wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower.

Artistically cohesive wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower. Gosh, those are classy. How soon can we install artsy-but-functional wind turbines on everything else? Because it should be sooner.

Modern toasters have USB ports in them.

Which apparently means you can plug one into your computer, map the handle-pushing action to any key on your keyboard, and use it to, say, play video games.

Now who’s going to take the next step, plug in ~104 toasters, and start typing things (Internet comments! programming!) with a full-fledged toaster keyboard?