Wanted: Mom for Neanderthal &
The Lecture That Shook the World
You may be convinced that science can’t pack heat, but it does and how. In part because new discoveries are inherently frightening, and often such fears are well founded. Also, it may sound stereotypical, but scientists are not really the most socially skillful people around.
Cases in point: a geneticist has announced that a woman could, potentially, give birth to a Neanderthal, a species that evolution selected out thousands of years ago. And you wouldn’t believe how a physiologist demonstrated publicly his erectile dysfunction therapy.
There’s no need for alarm, though. We’re not about to pile on the work of these incredibly gifted individuals, just because they wouldn’t know who the Kardashian are. Many members of the not-so-bright but sociable cognizant crowd like us spend a great deal of time trying to forget them too.
Still, in a profession where trial and error is essential for success, even if it takes decades if not centuries, some blatant examples of vexing lack of social awareness have already had their day in the sun. Thus at least theoretically, they wouldn’t need to be repeated ad nauseum as they do.
What those two examples above demonstrate, however, is that many of the very shining examples of human intellect can’t, well, pay attention for too long. Or that when Desperate Housewives is on, they’re simply peeping through some microscope, finding out how our world will change in the next millennium.
THE ITALIAN SCAPEGOATS
To underline this point, and add yet another layer of caution to the proceedings, take the L’Aquila earthquake, that struck Italy’s region of Abruzzo, in 2009. The country’s deadliest quake since 1980 killed 297 people and left hundreds of injured, besides causing the usual misery and widespread material destruction.
So, what did the Italian government under flamboyant billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi do? Persecuted seven seismologists at the Commission for Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, of course. Continue reading
Three Cases to Delay the World’s
Slow Slide Towards the Dark Side
A retiring owner decides to give away his business to employees. A cab driver returns a wad of cash left in his car. A mayor who’ll spend a week on Food Stamps. These sound like cliche plots for yet another boring season of television sitcoms. Except that they’re not.
Joe Lueken is really giving his 46-year-old grocery chain away to his 400-plus employees. Las Vegas cabbie Adam Woldemarin did return over $200 grand to a twice-lucky gambler. And Newark Mayor Cory Booker is indeed set to try living on a meager stipend.
Before going any further, though, let’s get some debris out of the way. We don’t know any of these people, never shopped at Village Foods in Bemidji, haven’t ridden a cab in Vegas, or even cast a vote in Jersey. In fact, readers of this blog know we’re no cheerleaders for anyone or anything.
But, let’s face it, this sort of stories are in terribly short supply these days, and heaven knows they’re so few and far between, we wonder whether someone is not pulling our leg this time too. If they are, you probably know the drill better than we, that shame-on-them, shame-on-us business.
We’re sure that for much less, many have been called heroes, and may even have believed for a moment that they were indeed special, just for doing the right thing. Because in an ideal word, there shouldn’t be Continue reading
Billionaires’ Paradise Among Space
Debris & a Punch Heard on the Moon
For space aficionados, the good news is, here comes another age of orbital traveling. For science buffs, the bad news is that it’ll be geared towards tourism, not research. For star gazers, we’re about to resume our interrupted space adventure. For crazy wingers, that dream will cost more than an arm and a leg.
Up to now, space exploration has been the charge of rocket scientists. But what comes next is the luxury vacation extravaganza the majority will never be able to afford. It’s the trade-off of the times: either we had this less than perfect vision restored, of a future flying through galaxies, or postpone it all for generations.
If it doesn’t seem like a fair choice, and that the distance between an astronaut and a commercial pilot may be wider than the one between Earth and the moon, well, that’s just the way the world goes round.
On the other brighter and slightly radiation-exposed side, we may find that flying above the atmosphere and back, even if represents such a diminished glance of a once grand view, it still is a high-risk proposition not to be taken lightly.
And who knows? Perhaps boys and girls around the world will still dream of one day fly so high that their clock will slow down, and their hearts will race faster, and that this planet’s troubles will seem way smaller, even if for a moment.
In the meantime, commercial companies are already jockeying for Continue reading
Time for Ned Kelly to
Have His Third Burial
When Australian outlaw Ned Kelly was living his brief and tormented life, 158 or 157 years ago, depending on who you ask, there was probably little doubt about how it all would end. His death by hanging, on three counts of murder, would have been the final act in such a short life of a hapless character.
Not for Kelly, though. His body went through quite a few adventures of its own, as it turns out. First, his bones were moved in 1929, and then exhumed 80 years later, when his DNA was identified. But his skull has been always missing until recently. Now, a self-described witch claims to have it.
By now, much of what we believe we know about this contemporary of American Jesse James, also young and outlawed, is subjected to skepticism for lack of consistent records. In fact, we may never know how much of it is even based on fact, such as the Robin Hood bit, or just pure myth.
But it makes for good copy. News about Kelly have been as hot now as they were during the 1960s, when the potential of iconic antiheroes for selling T-shirts built a few small fortunes. It helped it too that a 1970 movie based on his life, starring Mick Jagger, was a minor hit of the era.
THE IRISH BUSHRANGER
As any middle-schooler can tell you, when the British Empire was deciding what to do with the vast extension of the land ‘down under,’ its most ‘brilliant’ idea was to send to the continental-sized new country a band of convicted criminals. Let loose in the inhospitable territory, those who didn’t die, thrived.
Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly was the son of a first generation Irish con sent by the British to rot way down below the equator, an ‘award’ offered to him and his comrades, as an alternative to death in the northern Continue reading
While BP’s All But Done With It,
Wildlife in the Gulf’s Still Reeling
Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by subcontractors working for BP Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, caught fire and killed eleven people, in what became the U.S.’s biggest environmental disaster. It took 87 days for the giant British concern to cap the well, after an estimated five million barrels of oil had already spilled into once pristine gulf waters.
BP was forced to set aside a $20 billion fund to cover the cleanup efforts, which were undertaken along with U.S.’s environmental agencies and local organizations, and pay for reparations. Such amount’s still to be fully spent and legal battles still rage over who should pay what and to whom.
It may take years before we know for sure the true extent of the damage to wildlife, fisheries and the ecosystem the spill has caused. But disturbing reports about deformed shrimp and lung-damaged dolphins are no comfort for those who’ve been fighting for years against the use of fossil fuels, exactly to prevent what seems now statistically inevitable: another ecological disaster.
It won’t be easy. And it’s not just because BP, despite settling billions of dollars of claims from the spill, has again asked a U.S. judge for yet another delay to resolve remaining disputes. But energy policies in the U.S. and pretty much every other big western economy are still in large part controlled by the oil and gas industry.
Particularly in the U.S., such fight to end our oil dependency has been disheartening, and the Obama administration’s done less than expected supporting research of alternative energy sources. On the contrary, Continue reading
“You’re Welcome But
Can We Crash Here?”
If you’re one of the thousands of veterans returning to the U.S. from Iraq, welcome back. You’ve probably already heard it before, but let’s restate the fact of how grateful we all are for your sacrifice.
Now, there’re a number of facts that can be said about you: you’re coming back from a few tours in Iraq e possibly in Afghanistan too, but you know of many who did not.
You also know of some who did it but with serious physical and psychological wounds; you think you’re fine but perhaps have considered the possibility of seeing someone to help you cope, too. Despite the medals you’ve earned over there, you’re still not sure of what to do with your life from now on; and you’ve already been told at least twice, that there’re no jobs available.
Now, a few things you may not have heard about what’s going on around here, and we must warn you, they may hurt: regardless of what you’ve been told, most people have all but forgotten you were even there.
HOME WHERE YOUR HELMET IS
There’s a record number of Americans living under the poverty line, and the national unemployment levels match those of 70 years ago. Continue reading
Europe Push Against Gypsies
May Set Dawn of New Diaspora
Em France,police forced some 160 of them out of a Marseille camp, in anticipation of the coming presidential elections.
In the U.K., 80 families have been fighting eviction from the Basildon district’s Dale Farms for almost a year now.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Romanies, or Gypsies, or British Travelers remain vilified and marginalized as they have been since their origin, which can be traced back to the Indian diaspora in the tenth century.
There’s something about these “Egyptians” and their nomadic lifestyle that strikes deep-seated suspicions and fear at heart of the mainstream of the European society. Continue reading
Sweet Baking Goods
for Strong Stomachs
We haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love
the smell of freshly baked bread and cake.
Either because we associate it with our own childhood, or because bread is one of the oldest staples of the human diet, the fact is that we all seem easily captivated by the aroma of baked flour and sugar.
So it may take a very high level of craftsmanship, and a good deal of insight, for anyone to put a dent on such deep-seated reaction.
That’s what Dan Gentle, a designer and cake hobbyist, and Kittiwat Unarrom, a baker and sculptor, seemed to have Continue reading
Eating Animals May
Be Coming To a Boil
The short-comings of public campaigns about people’s bad health habits are well known. The best example, of course, are the billions of dollars spent trying to warn people about the devastation that cigarette smoking may cause.
The graphic depictions of terminal diseases caused by the nasty habit, tough rhetoric and even government-sponsored draconian laws restricting its practice, as it happened in New York, have all but failed to make a real dent in the profits of the tobacco industry, let alone the smokers’ pleasure.
At the end of the day, scary tactics notwithstanding, to quit smoking remains a deeply personal decision, akin of choosing a particular diet regime, or becoming a vegetarian.
Which brings us to the age-old discussion over whether we should or are we even supposed to have the flesh of dead animals as so central a staple of our food consumption.
Since last century, growing criticism of the meat industry has reached strident levels. Beyond the usual health-minded Continue reading
When Someone’s Discarded
Bubble Gum Is An Art Canvas
Ah, the sidewalks of New York. Nothing like a stroll through the city streets, the lights, the noises and the smells, the colorful characters. At this time of the year, few other pleasures can beat the… wait, what’s that?
You just stepped on it. You lift your foot and take a good look at your sole. Thank goodness, it’s not what you’d feared. But it’s still going to take some work to scrape it all off.
The sticky black blob that’s now attached to the bottom of your shoe is one of the Big Apple’s most annoying nuisances: a discarded chewing gum. And unlike dog poop, there’s not a law Continue reading
There may be only fewer than 50 individuals of this beautiful feline left in the wild. It shouldn’t be so, since they sit at the top of the food chain. Guess who’s been mercilessly hunting them for centuries?
Now the World Wildlife Fund has set an area covering 650,000 acres in Russia for the Land of the Leopard National Park, a last-ditch effort to prevent these magnificent creatures from extinction.
That’s why we dedicate this Caturday to the Amur, the rarest among the rarest. Click on the picture to watch the video. There are also many other ways you can help, including adopting one of them.
A Discreet Community Gets
Its Fair Share of Silly News
The Amish, that pious group founded in the 1600s, are known for simple living, plain clothing, and aversion to the conveniences of technology, according to Wikipedia. They are also very particular about facial hair styles. Just ask the Brothers Mullet.
A couple of weeks ago, the Ohio police arrested Johnny and Lester Mullet, plus their friends, Levi and Lester Miller (we swear, we’re not making this stuff up). The charge: kidnapping and burglary, which is very much out of character for a group with such a guarded reputation, if you’d ask us. But we’re glad you didn’t.
FACIAL HAIR ENFORCEMENT
That’s because, what’s behind those charges is way more embarrassing to old Sam, the patriarch father of the Mullet brothers, than being associated with the name of a ridiculous 1980s hairstyle Continue reading
Hit the bottom? Go to ‘CONTENT’ (above, middle left) and find what’s been published on Colltales before. Or go ahead and check ‘Older Entries.’ ‘Curb Your God,’ ‘Curtain Raisers,’ ‘Page Openers,’ and the complete, exclusive coverage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, along with the stories that got you going not so long ago are still around. So much good stuff, you’ll be surprised. Enjoy your search.
Just when you were ready to celebrate the fact that summer this year will last a bit longer, and we mean, a very tiny, teeny little bit longer, here comes the buzzkillers to tell you that we’re actually wasting it, meaning, that we’re in fact very late and even close to the end.
These are but just two of the ways that we obsess with measuring time, or at least, fool ourselves with the illusion that time can be measured. But at the end of the day, we’re no better than that Lewis Carroll rabbit, always rushing, insanely busy and ever so late.
And if you thought that such obsession is a mere product of our modern times, hum so over the top and, as that old Lennon song would say, running everywhere at top speed, you haven’t heard the one about the South Pacific.
As it turns out, a tiny, teeny sun-drenched island decided that it had to do some catch up with time of its own, and get in line with the same time zone of nearby Australia, New Zealand and Tonga. The good folks of Samoa did, then, some unheard of in a very long time: they’ve Continue reading
Butch Cassidy and
The Snake Oil King
A recent movie about cowboys and aliens, although far from evoking classic westerns by John Ford and Howard Hawks, still managed, somehow, to inspire a revival of sorts of public interest in the genre and historical period.
Or at least, that’s what one would be led to believe with the recent bombshell news concerning one of the most beloved and mythical real legends of the old west: Butch Cassidy.
A 1934 manuscript, written by a machinist who died in Spokane three years later, has helped to ignite a furor over the legacy and mysterious fate of the famous character.
The manuscript, “Bandit Invincible: the Story of Butch Cassidy,” was written by William T. Phillips, and claims that the bank robber portrayed by Paul Newman in an immensely popular movie about him and Continue reading
Frankenstein, Born Past the Witching
Hour & Under a Bright, Gibbous Moon
Since the waxing, gibbous moon will most definitely ruin the view of the Draconid meteor showers this weekend in the Northern Hemisphere, the next best thing is to find out who may have seen it from her window in the summer of 1816.
It turns out the author of one of the seminal pieces of horror literature, Mary Woollstonecraft Shelley, may have written her famous novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, in a warm, moonlit June night spent at Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
That’s when Lord Byron famously challenged her, her future husband Percy, and John Polidori to each write a ghost tale. But no one succeeded like Mary, just 18 at that time.
Percy Shelley and Byron Continue reading
Does This Tax
Make Me Look Fat?
According to the World Hunger Organization, 925 million people went to bed starving last year, including 13 million American children.
But before you drop your fork and choke with this opening slice of grim reality, we assure you, this post is not about that.
You wouldn’t care to go around beating about the bush, anyway, and most people would rather have seconds from the today’s special: rampant obesity in developed societies.
For despite all those stats about hunger, and the medical risks and social stigma associated with overeating, our collective girth keeps on growing.
Again, why preach to the already stuffed? That business Continue reading
When to Serve O.J., Beer
Or Whiskey to Your Gadgets
In the future, you may not drink (god forbid) but you’ll still need whiskey for your home, orange peels for your car engine, and some beer, to improve Wi-Fi reception.
In other words, if now it’s already common to pump your ride with alcohol, are we too far away from rehab clinics for homes and public transportation?
NEED POWER? HAVE A SCOTCH
Something is already happening in Scotland, where a pilot project will power about 9,000 homes with whiskey.
By the way, we’re favoring here the American spelling of the word. Natives of the British islands know a few differences between whisky and whiskey.
Everybody else would be happy if all the talk about names would simply go away, so they could have a drink already.
That being settled, haven’t you heard that Scots hold well their liquor? Nothing out of order, then, that they may live in homes fueled by their Continue reading
Belzeebud, New Demon
Bat & the Vampire’s Kiss
For all the irrational fear and centuries of literature inspired by vampire bats, there has been only one death ever in the U.S. caused by their bites. And it happened last year.
Even though the Mexican teenager died after working in a scorching sugar plantation in Louisiana, authorities say he was probably bitten before entering this country.
He died of rabies, a potential fatal infection mainly carried by bats, which are becoming increasingly common in this country.
Going back to the fantastic literature of gore, rabies may be the original connection between vampires and their arch-enemies, werewolves, since dogs are also carriers of the disease.
In fact, much of the resilience of the myth of the blood sucker Continue reading
Perhaps, it’s the wax, a material that serves so well to depict the human body in such a lifelike manner as to scare the children out of the room.
Or it may be the scale accuracy of these sculptures, that could fool the untrained eye of a passerby into thinking that this person is only immerse in deep thought, to be so still in the middle of the crowd.
Maybe is the fact that they are all shown either sleeping or in a serene, contemplative mood, leading one to expect their eyes to pop open at any instant and stare back at you.
There’s something so elusive and so scary about the Sleeping Continue reading
Wild Boys of Europe &
Brazilian Child Brides
Apparently, children and cats share a common trait: both easily revert to a feral state, when left on their own.
That’s hard but still better than what happens to kids in certain countries: they’ve got jobs and marry early.
Two weeks ago, an English-speaking teenager showed up at Berlin’s City Hall claiming to have been living in a nearby forest with his father for five years.
Ray, as he identified himself, seems articulate enough and his story, including his father’s death and burial, if it hasn’t been confirmed yet, does make sense. So far, he has refused to offer other details about it though.
Meanwhile, census figures for 2010 revealed that Brazil has a staggering number of children, in fact over 40 thousand, who are married or living with a partner.
FERAL CHILD VS. RAPE VICTIM
What’s somewhat ironic is that one child found living without parents in a jungle would generate so many news stories, while thousands of children living in abusive conditions within society can’t get a meaningful coverage by the media.
One, the myth of “l’enfant sauvage,” has a profound resonance in our collective awareness, and the few cases reported ignited a rich literature of ideas society holds dear since way before the Enlightened era.
The other extreme, though, is a much more prevalent phenomenon, and with much deeper impact on how we perceive ourselves as a civilization, and yet, can hardly muster Continue reading
A Killer Garden, the Voodoo
Market & New Noodle Museum
Here are three places to go this weekend, after you stop by at the Zuccotti Park to support the Occupy Wall Street movement: stroll through a garden, go to the market, and visit a museum.
DON’T TOUCH THE FLOWERS
There are few occupations in life that can lead you straight back to your roots other than to be a gardener. For some, there’s nothing like sowing seeds to the earth and building a palette of colors and fragrances with exotic flora.
It’s also one of the reasons why backs are hardly straight these days, and chiropractors and orthopedic specialists are constantly on demand.
Something else entirely happens at Alnwick Poison Gardens in England. As its name leaves little doubt about it, you bend down and smell the flowers at your own risk.
Hand-picked by a certainly glove-clad English duchess, Continue reading
A trench, dug by someone seeking water, near a farm called Cortijo de Gazpacho in Granada, between the villages of Viznar and Alfacar.
That’s where one of Spain’s greatest poets, Federico Garcia Lorca, is believed to have been buried 75 years ago today, after being shot by a right-wing firing squad.
That’s what historian Miguel Caballero Pérez has been able to piece together, after years sifting through the Spanish police and military archives.
It was early in the country’s civil war and future dictator Francisco Franco had just started his bloody cavalcade towards power, with help along the way from Hitler and other European Continue reading
Sperm Donor Trends, Breast Milk
Diet and Birth as Performance Art
A quick spin on the latest about conception and how those who can give, are giving it, those who already have it, are taking it in, and those who are expecting, are coping with the it all.
For when it comes to bring another human being to this world, no measure is large enough, and no gesture has the right dose of grandeur to match the experience.
Now that we managed to pack two simple sentences with a lot of bull, let’s just add that everything you’re about to read is dead serious, or rather, life affirming.
In other words, in a world of so much carnage, etc, etc, it’s always reassuring to see the business of life doing its thing Continue reading
By now, most people know that mushrooms are a very peculiar species. Either because they can feed you and can also intoxicate you to death. Or because the infinitude of their variety allow them to grow on the soil and on your own body.
You certainly knew, for example, that the earth’s biggest organism by area is a mushroom, the giant fungus that presides over 2,200 acres of a national park in Oregon, which genetic tests have shown that is indeed a single individual.
Also, as a Colltales reader, you’re already aware that some species of mushrooms are strong enough to break down heavy pollutants, and even dirty diapers, no matter how, er, messy Continue reading
Two Unexpected Ways
to Recycle Plastic Bottles
At an average of almost three billion tons discarded every year, it’s about time we find alternatives for recycling plastic bottles.
You already know that the business of recycling is big worldwide, and finding other uses for discarded plastic can actually boost the bottom line of many a corporation.
Take energy concern Vadxx, for example, which found a way of reverting non-recyclable plastics back to a low-sulfur content crude oil.
Scraps, non-metal parts of cars and even your copious e-waste, are all prime materials for Vadxx’s reactors. It may sound like another oil producer’s gimmick, but anything that has the Continue reading
Good Manner Signs (& Rare
Put Downs) You Should Know
It’s a matter of our hyper-busy, constantly on-the-run lifestyle that often seems we have no place for politeness on our daily interactions with our fellow humans.
That’s when artist Jay Shells‘s street signs come in handy. They won’t remind you to ask please or say thank you, but then again, haven’t you learned anything from your Mom?
In fact, it’d be a terrible mistake to let our guard down and skip such niceties, however superfluous they may seem at one time or another. Specially because you may agree with us, you’re such a sweet and educated person.
Or, in other words, since we’re yet to see the head of a rude bastard to be chopped off right in front of us, we’re now sure that that will certainly happen only to those of us who may Continue reading
Chainsaw Science &
It’s often said that some branches of modern scientific research are way too dependent on funding, and that many a medical think-tank can be accused of putting commercial consideration ahead of the need for new therapies.
Perhaps. Fortunately, there are honorable exceptions. And to prove that scientific rigor is not incompatible with sense of humor, many an important breakthrough was achieved pursuing an initial formulation that could as well serve as a comedy routine.
That’s exactly what Improbable Research means to promote. With its motto, “To Make People Laugh and Then Think,” it publishes unusual scientific papers on its magazine, the Annals, and every year chooses winners for its Ig Nobel Prizes.
“Blood and Tissue Spatter Associated with Chainsaw Dismemberment,” a serious investigation on the effects of such Continue reading
Sleeping Artist, Amoral Friends
& the Man Who Burned to Death
Ah, the wonderful world of the absurd. Or, as Aunt Eve’d call it, there’s a freak show out there. What are you doing about it?
We know, she could sound pushy, but the point is, under the patina of normality, the sheen of business as usual, the varnish of any day in the life, weird things happen, people strive to break the mold, and the result, is what follows.
THE NIGHT DRAUGHTSMAN
Take Lee Hadwin, for example, a 37-year old North Wales nurse who’s never studied nor is particularly into art. That is, except when he’s at sleep.
Since he was four, Hadwin has this strange habit of sketching and drawing on his sleep. He’s done so often that now, Continue reading
Coverage for Mothers
& Men’s Little Helpers
If the future “ain’t what it used to be,” and your bedroom travails have failed to launch you to space, blame it on health insurance or on faith, but never on science.
Research is now far advanced into the development of a birth control method for men, a better pill for women, and a Viagra-type of therapy extracted from the Brazilian Wandering Spider.
For all we know, these are all around the corner, just like the brave new world we were supposed to be living around this time. Now if only our health care plan would be up to speed, we’d be all in Continue reading
As thousands of Americans, we’re proud of what’s happening at Zuccotti Park in downtown New York City in the past two weeks.
We offer our utmost solidarity and support to those who have peacefully taken to the streets to demand accountability from the Wall Street institutions and what they represent at this Continue reading
When Nature Deals
A Sleight of Hands
Not to point any fingers, but when it comes to physically identifying someone, it’s no longer safe to rely on memory or anatomy alone.
The issue is naturally crucial for law enforcement, and police departments all over are taking steps to revise old guidelines for fingerprinting and lining up suspects, so to adapt to more scientific methods of identification.
Memory does play tricks and someone’s recollection of an event is conditioned by subjective factors and plagued by all sorts of potential distortions.
So is the analysis of someone’s marks and crevices at the tip of their fingers, long considered gospel in police work.
At the end of the day, suspects should be positively identified based on a comprehensive set of parameters, rather than by the way they look to someone, or whether they’re born with more digits or have no fingerprints at all.
THE 24 MAN
Meet Yoandri Garrido, a Cuban who has two extra fingers and Continue reading
Boy You’ve Been a Naughty Girl
– You Let Your Knickers Down
From the loincloths of 7,000 years ago to today’s multitude of styles, the underwear has come a long way. Fortunately to everybody, we won’t dwell much on the subject.
We plan on touching ever so lightly on the latest news about it, but promise to skip as many unintended puns as possible.
For unlike celebrities who sign and auction theirs for charity, and media rats who go through garbage bins of royalty and sports icons searching for discarded ones, we’re simply not interested in covering the subject as news. Only briefly. (Sorry, we couldn’t help it.)
UNDIES ON THE ROAD
What spiked our interest was, of course, the world breaking news that thousands of mostly women panties were dumped last week alongside a road in rural Ohio.
Altogether, about 3,000 pairs in an assortment of colors and Continue reading
17 Little Hearts & the
Wildlife in Your Fridge
While you were arguing about what will finally bring peace to the Middle East, science was busy creating things, discovering stuff, taking care of its business.
So it may be as good a time as any to find out about two radically different directions modern research is taking, both aiming loosely at improving your life twice fold.
We assure you, if these scientists succeed in their quest, you, and the tribes of Libya, and the refugees of Gaza, as well as the job seekers in Atlanta, and the immigrants from Mexico, and pretty much everyone else and their nieces, will have a lot to benefit.
The first time the heart of a human being was implanted into the chest of another was in 1967 in a breakthrough surgery conducted by Dr. Christiaan Barnard.
It may have been the most classic example of the surgery being a complete success, despite the patient dying a short while Continue reading
By now, every one of our enlightened readers knows that the biggest organ in the human body is not the skin, as it’s often believed, but the liver.
So it happens that the miraculously soft tissue that prevents your guts from spilling, and whose color hues can easily determine your place in society, is actually a multi-component system, hair, nails, glands and so on, flawlessly stitched together.
Most of everything else about it, though, remains poorly understood and, as far as subjects for a jovial discussion at the dinner table are concerned, skin would be one that we wouldn’t touch.
But if there’s one thing that everyone seems to agree about the Continue reading
Hard Times Bring Changes &
Crazy Ideas to Eating Places
Restaurants are like churches, someone already said: they exist solely to cater to the hungry, and yet they often leave them with an even bigger gap inside.
The other day, we caught an interesting and very useful take on restaurants fulfilling yet another function in our convoluted social relations: our home office.
The online discussion was about the benefits of becoming a regular at your favorite eatery, so to use it as a place to conduct your personal business too, along with eating and meeting people socially.
The idea, of course, is not new. But the article was instructive because of the author’s detailed strategy pursuing his dream of having an extended home office away from home.
So, there was the advantage of be known by the staff, of having Continue reading
Dirty Little Secrets
of Hand Sanitizers
For at least a century now, it’s common knowledge that one of the essential conditions for good health is to wash your hands often.
Which doesn’t mean that personal hygiene should stop there. But ever since it became evident that clean hands do save lives, to keep them that way is not just mandatory for living in society, but also very easy to do.
Also for a century, running water and soap for at least a minute or two would do the job. The benefits of this simple habit to improve global health cannot be underestimated. But neither can the correspondent growth of the soap and cosmetics industry during the same period.
So much so that in the past 20 years, while it exponentially Continue reading
Things One Can Tell
Just by Kissing You
As if there aren’t enough excuses for us to avoid touching each other, it’s now easier than ever to spot a few health conditions just by looking at someone. Or, at the most, with minimal physical contact.
If such contact would happen to involve the lips, it’s natural that people would be paying extra attention to their general appearance. To get more aroused by their lusciousness? No, silly, to check for signs of some lurking ailment, if not for poor hygiene habits.
Certain things are common knowledge. Swollen lips, for Continue reading
Silicosis, Tiny Hands
& the Last Bloody Bath
A roundup of some of the most interesting, creative, odd and alarming trends in consumer news.
Since this is not an advertising piece, we picked the ones that look important, but are probably useless; sound promising, though wouldn’t stand close scrutiny; and could be standouts, if we were already living in the barren post-apocalyptical world that sometimes assault us on our sleep.
Some folks would do anything for a pair of sandblasted, designer jeans. The former “worker’s garment” costs now more than the average monthly minimum wage paid by the industry, especially in the underdeveloped nations to where most labels outsource their main production lines.
Worst, sandblasting, a technique for giving denim an artificially Continue reading
To Laugh Is Great; As
Medicine? Not So Much
It’s not everyday that someone comes out of brain surgery giggling. Even if someone is a seven-year old British girl, Enna Stephens, who had a tumor removed from her brain a month ago, and has barely stop finding everything so funny ever since.
It turns out, Enna’s giggling does help everyone around cope better with her devastating illness. But Pseudobulbar affect, or PBA, a neurological disorder caused by nerve damage, leaves sufferers unable to control their emotions. And that’s no laughing matter.
Even though the giggles have now calmed down, and she only Continue reading
Amazing Old & New Islands and
The World Sinking Back Into the Sea
For those anxiously awaiting news about the islands of the world, here’s our seasonal report. It includes brand new isles, old weird ones, and the doomed Dubai archipelago.
It is in days like these, though, when riots burn parts of London to ashes, and markets everywhere take a scary nose dive, that one may be driven to think: but what about the islands? The fact that such a sad individual is a resident of a mental colony is really besides the point.
It turns out that the world of islands is a vibrant and ever Continue reading
Against Heatwave, Common
Sense Beats Talking About It
You may complain about the scorching weather until cows can’t come home, because they all died of sunstroke. Or you may do something about it. As we speak, at least two initiatives are ready to start making a difference for thousands of Americans.
This summer, as U.S. cities bake under record temperatures, many of them seem to be getting on board for a simple and cheap idea: paint the rooftops white.
It’s a proposal that has been percolating for years, but its time Continue reading
Recycling Junk as Art Form
And Tool for Social Change
They say, one man’s garbage is another’s million-dollar art show, but we say, don’t believe it for a minute. We produce so much junk already that if some artist or visionary decides to recycle it by packing and selling back to its source, more power for them.
We, for ones, are not about to enjoy the prospect of waking up submerged in a sea of plastic cups and wrapping paper and, well, you got the picture.
That’s probably one of the reasons why Brazilian artist Vik Muniz came up with Waste Land, a film about the catadores, self-appointed recyclable material pickers at the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, in the outskirts of Rio.
The film is a series of visual panels, moving photographs of members of the community that lives off the landfill, sometimes enacting famous paintings, such as the Jacques-Louis David 1793, Death of Marat.
The Italian Dario Tironi, on the other hand, uses old toys, discarded Continue reading
Freeze it or Reconstruct the Face:
Dressing Dead Bodies With Fungi
The death of Robert Ettinger, founder of cryonics, and Frank Bender, forensic sculptor extraordinaire, within a few days of each other last week, somehow encapsulates two radically different views of our longing for permanence far beyond our natural expiration dates.
Their obits also extrapolate two curious takes on how we should dispose our earthly remains, when that date does come: put a speed on the organic matter that will feed on the body, or simply burn it and stuff its ashes in lethal bullets. Your choice.
THE BIG (COLD) SLEEP
Ettinger, who died on July 23 at 92, a physics teacher, lived his life as a scientist and sci-fi writer. But with his 1962 book, The Prospect of Immortality, he laid down the basic tenets of cryonics, the radical concept of freezing the body after death, so it can be revived by yet unknown medical techniques of the future.
He went on to found and lead the Cryonics Institute and the Immortalist Society, and became the movement’s most visible figure. That did not prevent his ideas, and the ethical debate over the procedures to make it all possible, from taking a life of their own, completely independent from him, and mostly close to public derision.
His scientific training may have been instrumental in insulating him to it Continue reading
There are just a few things we like better than books. Like rare books. Mysterious, single-edition books. Books no one knows who wrote them, or what they’re really all about.
We told you about the Voynich Manuscript. Still impenetrable, despite efforts of the best minds of our time. Legendary cryptologists and code breakers, all have tried their hand at it and they all failed.
Now, here’s another one: Le Livre des Sauvages, which like the Voynich, also seems to have come to light years after it was written. But apart from that and the fact that it remains Continue reading
As the science of forensics gets more sophisticated, so does our contemporary interest in finding out more about the great masters of the past. For centuries, paintings and written accounts told us stories and tales, most done years after their deaths, of some of the seminal figures of art, literature and the sciences. There was not much we could do to find out more about them.
Until now. DNA, geo-imaging, penetrating solid-body analysis, even newly uncovered records about those influential characters are making possible to know who they really were, how they lived and what made them accomplish so much, all by studying their earthly remains.
Spain, for example, is embarking in a search for the bones of Miguel de Cervantes, the immortal author of Don Quixote de la Mancha, long thought to have been buried within the walls or Continue reading