Archive for February, 2010

NCBI ROFL: High Altitude Flatus Expulsion (HAFE).

By ncbi rofl | February 23, 2010 7:00 pm

mountaincrop“We would like to report our observations upon a new gastrointestinal syndrome, which we shall refer to by the acronym HAFE (high altitude flatus expulsion). This phenomenon was most recently witnessed by us during an expedition in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with similar experiences during excursions past. Read More

Grand Engineering Challenge of Our Era: A Non-Lethal Hot Dog

By Smriti Rao | February 23, 2010 3:35 pm

HotdogPediatricians have declared that the trusty ol’ hot dog is in need of a makeover, setting the stage for one of the biggest engineering challenges known to man and causing some to worry, “Is it the end of the hot dog as we know it?”

The cylindrical sausage has been deemed a choking hazard by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published an official statement on choking risks in the journal Pediatrics that included concerns about the snack clogging a child’s wind pipe. The pediatricians pointed out that 17 percent of all food-related asphyxiations among children are caused by hot dogs.

Talking about the proposal for a choke-proof hot dog, a doctor explains to USA Today:

“If you were to take the best engineers in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child’s airway, it would be a hot dog,” says statement author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “I’m a pediatric emergency doctor, and to try to get them out once they’re wedged in, it’s almost impossible.”

But Smith admitted that he doesn’t know how the sausage could be redesigned to be safer, adding somewhat lamely that he’s “certain that some savvy inventor will find a way.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

Scientists to Hollywood: Please Break Only 1 Law of Physics Per Movie

By Smriti Rao | February 23, 2010 12:24 pm

1206022046_starship-trooper“More science, less fiction” is the message from the scientific community to Hollywood, even as the sci-fi film Avatar continues to rake in cash at the box office. Physics professor Sidney Perkowitz took to the stage at last week’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to encourage more science in movies, but also to beg filmmakers not to bungle up their facts. For example, a movie should only be permitted to break one law of physics, he suggested.

Perkowitz, a member of the Science and Entertainment Exchange set up to advise Hollywood, singled out the giant space bugs in the film Starship Troopers for special scrutiny. He pointed out that if a real bug was scaled up to the size of the on-screen insects, it would collapse under its own weight. Perkowitz has come up with a set of scientific guidelines for Hollywood, and also encourages filmmakers to fact-check their scripts in a more deliberate manner so that audiences don’t dismiss a movie as absurd and stay away from the box office.

The Guardian reports:

The proposals are intended to curb the film industry’s worst abuses of science by confining scriptwriters to plotlines that embrace the suspension of disbelief but stop short of demanding it in every scene.

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NCBI ROFL: Binge drinking in Jewish and non-Jewish white college students.

By ncbi rofl | February 22, 2010 7:00 pm

manischewitz“BACKGROUND: In the United States, religious commitment, as measured by service attendance, has an inverse relationship with alcohol consumption, heavy use, and problem use. This association, however, has not been found consistently in Jewish Americans. The present study examined the relationship between religious variables and binge drinking in Jewish and non-Jewish white college students. In addition, the association among genetic, cultural, and religious variables and binge drinking was examined in the Jewish sample alone. Read More


And the Survey Says: Google Is Not Making You Stupid

By Smriti Rao | February 22, 2010 2:30 pm

is_google_making_us_stupidIn 2008, writer Nicholas Carr worried in The Atlantic that the search engine Google and the easy availability of information on the internet is making our brains lazy–and rendering humans stupid. He wrote that the net was destroying his capacity for concentration and contemplation, adding, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

DISCOVER’s own Carl Zimmer responded by taking the opposite stance, and declaring that Google is making us smarter. He argued that humans are “natural born cyborgs” and the internet is our “giant extended mind.” He wrote that there was “nothing unnatural about relying on the internet—Google and all—for information…. Nor is there anything bad about our brains’ being altered by these new technologies, any more than there is something bad about a monkey’s brain changing as it learns how to play with a rake.”

Now, a new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project agrees with Zimmer; it found that Google is indeed making us smarter by allowing us to make better choices. More than 76 percent of the 895 experts polled said Nicholas Carr was wrong in thinking that Google made us stupid.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: google, intelligence

NASA iPhone App Lets You Drive a Lunar Rover (Just Try Not to Get Stuck)

By Smriti Rao | February 22, 2010 10:20 am

iRoverPresident Obama may have nixed the idea of returning astronauts to the moon anytime soon due to budgetary constraints, but that hasn’t stopped NASA from doling out a gift to its lunar fans.

The space agency has released its first iPhone game, which is called the “NASA Lunar Electric Rover Simulator.” The free app, available on iTunes, puts you in the driver’s seat of a lunar rover. The release might serve as a kind of homage to Spirit, NASA’s real-life Mars rover that recently became immobilized. (Opportunity continues chugging along.) describes the idea of the game:

“Drive your Lunar Electric Rover (LER) over the lunar surface to conduct missions. Rescue stranded crew members, transport crewmembers, and launch and recover other Landers. Avoid being caught on the surface unprotected during Solar Particle Events (SPEs).”

Read More

NCBI ROFL: This biological weapon stinks.

By ncbi rofl | February 21, 2010 7:00 pm

18265766_dcc0a0b804GC/MS based identification of skunk spray maliciously deployed as “biological weapon” to harm civilians.

“Our laboratory has been asked to elucidate the origin of a strong “toxic smell” present in a prominent politician’s office, private house and motorcar. This stinky and pungent atmosphere has caused serious nausea and vomiting to several individuals. Read More

How To Make Your Twitter Followers Uneasy: Use ShadyURLs

By Smriti Rao | February 19, 2010 4:02 pm

computer-virusAnyone who uses Facebook or Twitter is probably familiar with or–Web services that shortens lengthy Web addresses to fit within limited character counts. These truncated URLs don’t make it clear what page the link redirects to, but most people have gotten used to that fact; users happily click a shortened URL without worrying that it might actually send you to a site that starts a computer virus download.

Now, a new website called is generating a few laughs for its service that claims to “make your Twitter followers a little more uneasy.” The web service shortens web addresses into “suspicious and frightening” links that would anyone think hard before clicking on.

For example: became—-_i6f3e__init_download turned into

When we typed in, here’s what we got:—START-RECORD–

Rest assured, these URLs don’t actually send you to sites where trojan horses will be deployed, worms will be injected, and webcams will start recording. Then again, we wonder how long it will be before someone puts an actual virus in a ShadyURL that looks obviously shady but that people will assume is a safe URL cloaked in false shadiness.

Damn your logical puzzles, Internet.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Astronauts in Space Finally Enter the Intertubes
Discoblog: New Device Aims to Read Your Dog’s Mind—and Broadcast It on Twitter

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: shadyURL, Twitter

Is Apple Taking Sexy Back? Raunchy Apps Vanish From the App Store

By Smriti Rao | February 19, 2010 3:56 pm

organize-apps-20090909Is Apple trying to sweep sex under the rug? Online reports suggest that the tech giant is looking to purge the App Store’s shelves of sex-themed apps. Some tech sites have noticed that sexy apps like “Sexy Women” and “Exotic Positions” that were previously available are now missing from the App Store.

The case of the missing sex-apps surfaced when the developer behind adult-themed app “Wobble iBoobs,” Jon Atherton, received a notification from Apple saying his app was being removed from the App Store for being too graphic.

TechCrunch reports on the email Atherton received from Apple:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: Apple, apps, sexy apps

Want More Oxygen for Your Workout? Pony Up $2700 for This Backpack

By Smriti Rao | February 18, 2010 8:16 pm

oxyfitHere’s a product for anyone who has ever huffed and puffed on the treadmill, while wishing they had done a better job of keeping fit. A new device called Oxyfit claims to make the workout experience a little easier by pumping oxygen-rich air directly into your breathing space. (Air out in the wild contains about 20 percent oxygen.) The increase in oxygen flow, claim the makers, will maximize your workout.

Japan Trend Shop sells the product, and extolls the merits of Oxyfit:

Not only can this help with fatigue and other symptoms of low oxygen, but it can actually boost brainpower and metabolism as well. More oxygen lets you run farther, work longer, and even lose weight! An increased supply of oxygen speeds up your body’s metabolic engine, burning more calories and stimulating fat loss. Finally, the improved circulation from increased oxygen levels can produce nootropic (brain-stimulating) and anti-aging effects (through increased moisturization of the skin).

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