Tag Archives: science

Rare gorilla caught on film

In the deep, sticky jungles of Cameroon lives a rare type of gorilla — one which has been hunted nearly to extinction by indigenous peoples and has never been placed on film.

Until recently, when a camera crew spotted the gorillas hanging out high off the ground in its natural habitat:

“These gorillas are extremely wary of humans and are very difficult to photograph or film,” said Roger Fotso, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Cameroon Program. “Eventually, we identified and staked out some of the gorillas’ favorite fig trees, which is where we finally achieved our goal.”

While the video footage of the great apes is comforting to those who thought they may already be extinct, scientists still worry for the future of these beasts. Not because of encroachment on their habitat, but because these gorillas appear to be knuckledraggers in more ways than one. Witness the video:

As you can see, this rare species is in mortal peril thanks to a lack of basic self-awareness and common sense. Some researchers predict the entire species will choke to death on potted meat sandwiches. Others predict they will be electrocuted by peeing on high voltage transformer stations. Either way, the world may soon lose the last of its rarest — and most retarded — primate groups.

Most Elusive Gorilla Caught on Video [LiveScience]

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Friday Random 10: Moons Over Mars Edition

Last month we brought you the sad news that our brave Mars robot — Spirit — was stuck in some deep sand on the surface of Mars with little hope of escape. The poor guy is still trapped there, but was recently able to make even more history by taking this photograph of the twin moons of Phobos and Deimos orbiting the red planet:

As you can see from these images — the first time these moons have ever been photographed from the surface of Mars — Phobos and Deimos are plainly not made of cheese. Rather they are giant floating skulls — the remnants of a once-proud civilization of 5,000 foot tall space aliens. Just kidding. They were faked in a sound stage in Burbank.

The songs:

Brackett, WI — Bon Iver
Dominos — The Big Pink
Twilight Galaxy — Metric
Holidays in the Sun — Sex Pistols
I Won’t Be Found — The Tallest Man on Earth
On A Plain — Nirvana
Omaha — Counting Crows
Hank — Jay Bennett
Lines — Tapes N Tapes
Together — The Raconteurs

Bonus Video:

Out of the Blue — Julian Casablancas (Live at Le Grand Journal)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Tiger gave everyone AIDS

OK, not that one.

Researchers say they may have traced the origins of the AIDS virus to an ancient tiger that lived either thousands or millions of years ago:

It appears the virus took on a bit of a tiger’s genetic material, scientists say, and a remnant of that cat remains in the virus to this day. That tiger, in fact, may have bitten a monkey, setting off an evolution of the virus that ultimately led to its infection of humans.

If true, these findings should do much to exonerate the monkeys we’ve been blaming for AIDS this whole time. When reached for comment, one monkey said “I told you it wasn’t our fault you hairless assholes, now throw some more bananas in this cage before I throw shit at you. By the way, what exactly is a medical testing lab? Do I have to fill out a survey or something? What are you doing with that dentist drill?”

AIDS May Date Back to Ancient Tiger [HeathDay]

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Plastic surgery finally starts making sense

It’s a conundrum I’ve pondered many times, most recently in Volume 3 of my series entitled Musings On Science, The Human Body, And the Failures Contained Therein Which I Have Seen At The Shopping Mall:

Since half of cosmetic surgery is taking stuff out of people, and the other half is putting stuff into people, shouldn’t we just put the stuff we take out of some parts into other parts?

According to the New York Times, the medical community is finally thinking along those same lines:

THE latest kind of recycling has nothing to do with soda bottles. It entails liposuctioning fat from, say, thighs or buttocks and injecting it into breasts to augment them. After being condemned in the early ’90s, this procedure is generating newfound excitement among the handful of doctors nationwide who offer it and patients keen to enlarge their breasts without resorting to implants.

The practice was condemned because doctors worried that injecting fat into peoples’ boobies would hamper mammograms. But since our communist death panel librul mooozlim president says women shouldn’t get those anymore, it’s time to reconsider. Or something:

But this year, the plastic surgery society reversed its former position. A report from its task force reviewed the limited research on fat grafting to the breast and concluded that it “can be considered a safe method of augmentation.” On the issue of mammography, the report said fat grafting “could potentially interfere with breast cancer detection; however no evidence was found that strongly suggests this interference.” Thus, the task force’s statement turned a red stoplight into a yellow one, signaling to plastic surgeons: Proceed with caution.

I know there are a lot of people out there who look down on those who opt for cosmetic procedures, and I think that’s pretty sad. On the other hand, this new “relocation” technique could make it a lot more difficult to tell who has been enhanced and who hasn’t. I think you should be required to disclose whether you’ve had this particular procedure done. That way your office mates can make up funny nicknames for you, like “Ol’ Butt Tits” and “Belly Boobs.” Look, I never said your office mates were funny. Jeez, get a new job already.

Your Own Fat, Relocated [NYT]

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Science is drunk and horny

The conventional wisdom holds that the average scientist is a sweaty, heaving nerd in a lab coat — a sticky, awkward, bearded trekkie with oversized square glasses and a piece of an onion bagel lodged in his hair.

That’s true, but he’s also drunk and horny.

The proof is in the extraordinary lengths science will go to in order to

1) Prove that drinking is good for you


2) Check out the sexxy lay-dayys


A team of Spanish researchers studied the habits of more than 15,000 men and 26,000 women and discovered that boozing — and I mean really BOOZING — is good for your heart. If you’re a man, that is. YAY MEN!

The researchers, led by the Basque Public Health Department, placed the participants into six categories – from never having drunk to drinking more than 90g of alcohol each day. This would be the equivalent of consuming about eight bottles of wine a week, or 28 pints of lager.

For those drinking little – less than a shot of vodka a day for instance – the risk was reduced by 35%. And for those who drank anything from three shots to more than 11 shots each day, the risk worked out an average of 50% less.


But not before we prove — with the science — that ladies are hotter when they’re not all bundled in mom jeans and bulky flannel shirts (damn you 1990s!!). Let’s go to England, where science took a big ass notebook into some nightclubs and just sat there, staring:

Using tape recorders hidden in their handbags, the researchers took note of what female clubbers were wearing and how many times they were approached by men asking them to dance.

For the purposes of the study, each arm accounted for 10 per cent of the body, each leg for 15 per cent and the torso for 50 per cent.

Women who revealed around 40 per cent of their skin attracted twice as many men as those who covered up.

The researchers did find, however, that exposing more than 40% reduced women’s chances of being mobbed by sweaty douchebags in nightclubs. The lesson — as always — is that science is staring at your ass. And drinking.

Alcohol ‘protects men’s hearts’ [BBC]
Women ‘should bare 40 per cent of their bodies to attract men’ [Telegraph]

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Friday Random 10: Fading Spirits Edition


Sad news from Mars this week as NASA officials are openly questioning the future of the Spirit rover, which has been cruising the surface of the red planet for six years. It’s not out of batteries or anything. It’s just kind of, well, stuck:

In April, Spirit’s wheels broke through a hard crust on the Martian surface and encountered loosely packed fine sand beneath. Initial attempts to drive the rover out ended up with it instead sinking deeper into the trap.

Engineers set up a sand box at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and positioned a sister rover inside to try to figure out a way for Spirit to free itself.

“We’ve pretty much exhausted all the possibilities, all the things that we can do on the ground,” rover project manager John Callas told Discovery News.

With the cold Martian winter on its way, the Spirit could be in danger of dying if it can’t get out of the soft sand and toward the sun — where its solar panels could collect enough energy to keep it alive during the winter. I think I speak for all robot enthusiasts when I say “Beeeep boop, brave Spirit. Beep boop beeeeeep.”

The songs:

Save us S.O.S. — Hot Hot Heat
My Little Corner of the World — Yo La Tengo
Naked as a Window — Josh Ritter
Everybody Knows that You Are Insane — Queens of the Stone Age
Hold Time — M. Ward
Bright Lights — Pete and the Pirates
Dominos — The Big Pink
How To Fight Loneliness — Wilco
Your Southern Can is Mine — The White Stripes
Let’s Not Shit Ourselves — Bright Eyes

Bonus video:

Brooklyn Zoo — Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Kind of a requiem on the 5-year anniversary of his death)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Rape steps?

Have you ever found yourself walking down some steps and thinking, “Man, these steps sure are awkwardly spaced and uncomfortable”?

If so, you’re probably a rapist or something.

rape_stepsAt least that’s the story at Tufts University, where a recent student newspaper article alluded to a set of “rape steps” placed down a gently sloping hill on campus. Apparently the admissions officers at Tufts tell prospective students that the steps were designed specifically to help female students escape male attackers.

No, really:

Admissions officers say that the steps were designed for women, and the theory goes that a woman should be able to climb the steps faster than a male attacker. Even as a female, I don’t understand how these awkwardly long yet short steps are supposed to rescue me from impending doom. I guess that feminine stride ain’t no stride-o-mine.

There is obviously a strong possibility that the steps in question are merely awkward, and that the “rape steps” legend simply sprung up around them. In my student days at the Gamaliel Painter Academy of Alchemy and Sledding, there were several fanciful explanations for otherwise uninteresting landscape quirks. The music center was built backwards! The library is sinking into the earth on account of the weight of the books! You’ve been placed on academic probation!

OK that last one was true. But in my defense, the steps down to the library are really awkward.

Engineering psychology and the Rape Steps [Tufts Daily]


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Fear the dookie-armored beetle

I once heard famed sociobiologist and Harvard professor E.O. Wilson say something to the effect of “I don’t know if God is responsible for life on earth, but if He is, He sure loves beetles.”

That was Wilson’s way of pointing out the remarkable diversity of the world’s beetles, about 300,000 of which we’ve classified and another probably 200,000 of which we haven’t. Compare that to humans, who come in three basic types — those who can do math and those who can’t (rimshot BAM!).

dookie_beetleAnyway, the world is apparently so full of beetles that at least one variety was bound to cover itself in its own shit — if only to get a little attention for once. Say eewww to the case-bearing leaf beetle, which builds a protective suit of dookie armor around its eggs:

“Specifically, they compress fragments of their feces into flat squarish plates using structures in their abdomen that are part of their genitalia,” said researcher Daniel Funk, an evolutionary ecologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “These plates are then added individually around the laid egg to form the egg case.”

When the eggs hatch, the larvae cut off the roof of these cases, poking only their heads and legs out in order to move and feed. They never leave these cases when they are young, instead adding their own excrement to enlarge them and accommodate their growth. After they reach maturity, the adult beetles cut themselves free of their cases with their mandibles.

“Ta da!” they say.

The purpose of the dookie armor is to protect the young beetles from crickets and other predators, who often ignore what appear to be discarded turds when searching for food. Even if they do discover beetles inside the turds, the scientists say the predators often pause before attacking — unsure of how to attack a clump of shit with food inside.

The lesson here is the same as always — if you want to protect your children, build an impenetrable wall of crap around them.

Bug Wears Armor Made of Poo [LiveScience]

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Lee Harvey Oswald’s picture is not a fake. (But is that the whole story?)

lee_harvey_oswaldA Dartmouth computer scientist says an iconic photo of Lee Harvey Oswald — in which he clutches both a bolt-action rifle and a stack of Maoist newspapers — is authentic, and could not possibly have been faked with the technology of the 1960s. The photo has long been a lightning rod for conspiracy theorists, who dispute its authenticity:

Farid and his team have developed a number of digital forensic tools used to determine whether digital photos have been manipulated, and his research is often used by law enforcement officials and in legal proceedings. The tools can measure statistical inconsistencies in the underlying image pixels, improbable lighting and shadow, physically impossible perspective distortion, and other artifacts introduced by photo manipulators.

The scientist even went so far as to construct a 3D model of Oswald’s head in order to prove that the shadows depicted in the image could have been caused by a single light source. Farid’s findings — to be published in an upcoming issue of Perception — are intended to debunk a key argument of those who believe Oswald was set up by the government and its fancy photo-shop-o-trons.

Unfortunately Farid did not have access to the equipment we have at Pax HQ. We ran the photo through our home-built magnophoto scantronomic oscillating refibrillator and noticed a peculiar anomaly in the upper right-hand corner. Let’s take a closer look at the highlighted area:


Now let’s get even closer:


And finally we’ll jump to 10x zoom and enhance. I think you’ll be shocked at what we’ve uncovered:


You can expect my full report “Panda Fucking: The Unifying Conspiracy Theory?” in the next issue of Cat Fancy magazine.

Incriminating Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald Not Faked [LiveScience]



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The lions weren’t that hungry


The Tsavo lions are the most legendary man-eaters in history. According to the story, the pair was responsible for killing and consuming 135 railroad workers in a 9-month span in 1898. They even made a movie about it. I think it was called “Shit! Lions!”

Anyway, researchers now say the lions — which are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago — were likely responsible for far fewer deaths than believed:

But after analyzing fragments of the lions’ bones and fur, scientists at the University of California in Santa Cruz have determined that the true number of humans eaten by the lions was likely closer to 35.

By comparing isotopes in the lions’ samples with their normal prey of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo, with other lions, and with the remains of 19th century Kenyans, the scientists estimated that one of the lions ate 24 humans, while the other ate 11.

“The possible range is between 4 and 72 humans, but 35 is most likely,” said Justin Yeakel, one of the study’s authors.

According to scientists at the Field Museum, the findings confirm their skepticism with contemporary accounts of the lions’ savageness. They note that the lions are also far smaller than John H. Patterson — the British engineer who killed them and had them made into floor coverings — had boasted. They also note that the Field Museum is now more boring than ever. How much more boring? Exactly 100 corpses more boring.

Scientists restate Tsavo lions’ taste for human flesh [Chicago Tribune]


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