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Lots o' Linky-Links: Bizarre Edition

I currently have about 40 windows open in my browser, some of which have been sitting there for nearly two months, so you all know what that means! Time for another list of links bringing you wonders beyond imagination from all around the Web.

From the Department of You Can't Make That Shit Up

In the news from Miami last October, a call went out to a bomb squad to defuse a suspicious package full of kittens. From the story:

Employees at a Cocoa Beach Social Security office called 911 to report a "suspicious package" was left on their doorstep with no postage or address. [...] A quick examination by the experts determined the box's contents was about to explode - with cute and cuddliness. Inside were two kittens.

Soviet Russia was a weird, weird place. When they weren't building nuclear-powered lighthouses, they were floating projects to dam the Bearing Strait and melt the polar ice cap, which is certainly one way to get a northern port that doesn't freeze over in winter.

In Italy, the land of the Pope and expensive leather shoes, the High Court annulled a marriage because the wife thought about having sex with other people. Apparently, she wanted an open relationship, he didn't but married her anyway, then sought an annulment some time later because he couldn't come to terms with her desire to do the deed with other men. The Italian courts called it a "virtual" betrayal, as opposed presumably to a real one. Thoughtcrime can apparently be a civil offense too. Wonder if he ever thught about another woman?

Unclear on the Concept: In Tennessee, a US judge wrote that military service should be open to lesbians, "thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.” This would not apply to gay men, who he wrote "spread disease at a rate out of all proportion to their numbers in our population and should be excluded from the military."

And in more political nuttiness, the new US subcommittee chair on environmentalism, right-wing religious conservative John Shimkus, says that global warming can't possibly be happening because it contradicts the Bible. His reasinong for believing that global warming (and any other form of environmentla distruction) can't ever happen: "I want to start with Genesis:8, verse 21 and 22, ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done. As long as the earth endures, sea, time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’ I believe that’s the infallible word of God and that’s the way it’s going to be for his creation."

Too Cool for Words

Tron: Legacy may have been a lame, half-assed attempt at a movie with dialog so astonishingly awful that Jeff Bridges actually wrinkled his nose while he was reciting some of his lines, but it gave birth to what is arguably one of the coolest things on the road: the street-legal lightcycle. This gorgeous piece of machinery comes complete with a helmet with cool light effects as well; here's a picture:

I love urban decay. I love large-scale engineering projects. I love bizarre Russian cold-war excess. So it's probably no surprise I'm a big fan of EnglishRussia, the Web site that dedicates itself to all things bizarrely Russian. One of my favorite EnglishRussia posts these days is this photo shoot of an old, abandoned Russian submarine base located in the Ukraine. If I ever make it back to Eastern Europe, I'd dearly love to see this place. (Also on EnglishRussia, the collection of Cold War military vehicles converted to tractors and construction equipment is pretty fun.)


It wouldn't be a linky-links collection if it didn't include sex. First up, for all you tentacle lovers out there, comes Necronomicox (link NSFW), customizable silicone sex toys inspired by the Cthulhu mythos. Cthluhu may be sleeping, but I'm coming!

In more technical news, it turns out that the pain centers in the brain are active during female orgasm. This handily explains why some forms of pain can enhance sexual gratification, and also shows just how complex the orgiastic response is.

And speaking of pain and sex, this article on non-consent and humiliation fetishes, excerpted from the book "Yes Means Yes," is a good read. It talks about being both a feminist and a sexually submissive woman, something I've long said is not actually a contradiction at all.

Science and Technology

It still, to this day, blows my mind that people actually believe in homeopathy, the notion that water can somehow remember "mystical energy vibrations" from having things dissolved in it in such small concentrations that not even one atom of the supposed active ingredient is left in the "medicine." According to this line of thought, if you have a headache you want to get rid of, take one aspirin, crush it into fine powder, dissolve one tiny speck of that powder in a bathtub full of water, and then take one drop of the resulting liquid, and that'll fix you right up. This clever homeopathy vs. science metaphor nicely illuminates the silly reasoning--and I use that word very loosely--behind homeopathic "medicine."

Research into schizophrenia is starting to suggest that a viral infection early in life, during a critical period of brain development, may be linked to schizophrenia later in life. This so-called "insanity virus," or other viral infections which disrupt brain development, may be linked to other types of mental illness as well.

From Information Is Beautiful, which has linked to some of my sexual infographics in the past, comes this interactive Mountains out of Molehills chart showing the things we're afraid of, extracted from media scare stories about various purported threats. The relationship between the level of danger (in terms of number of lives lost) and the level of fear is really interesting; people are about as scared of bird flu (which kills less than 300 people a year) as they are of swine flu (which kills 18,000), but are barely even aware of killer wasps, which kill 11,000 people a year.

Something that I've dreamed about for years is now one step closer to reality: flexible subdermal LEDs that can be implanted under the skin. Forget boring old-tech static tattoos; give me glowing tattoos, oh yeah! Though I think I'll wait for the 2.0 version, myself.

Just For Fun

I'm Comic Sans, Asshole -- a spirited defense of this much-maligned typeface that it's so trendy to hate.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
I also really like the interactive graph on the strength of evidence that various supplements are beneficial on Information is Beautiful.
Jan. 11th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
The orgasm fMRI story is misinterpreted. Yes, the anterior cingulate and insula are active during pain. However they are in no sense "pain centers" of the brain. The insula is involved in representing states of the body, particularly internal organs, including pleasurable and neutral states as well as aversive states. The anterior cingulate cortex is involved in motivation -- and resolving conflict between different possible courses of action. Pain is extremely motivating. So is sex. So is liquid when you are thirsty, and food when you are hungry.

Not that I don't think that pain and other intense sensations like orgasm can interact interestingly in these regions -- but the story is way oversimplified.

A good popular science article on the insula:

Jan. 11th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
-blinks at homeopathy stuff-

The last time I hear the word 'homeopathic remedy', it was regarding a book full of home remedies for common minor ailments. Things like trying a nice hot shower to ease a headache, or using olive oil to loosen a plug of earwax. Taking vitamin C after getting stung by a wasp or bee, and applying chewing tobacco to the sting. That sort of thing. They didn't always work, but a fair number of them did, and the book also had several doctors chiming in with why or why not any given remedy was likely to work.

When did 'homeopathy' start getting applied to this woo-woo bullshit, or did I just manage to never run into this part of it before?
Jan. 11th, 2011 07:15 am (UTC)
A lot of folks call that kind of stuff "naturopathy."

I've heard people abuse the term "homeopathy" as well. Strictly speaking, it refers to "medicines" by placing vanishingly small amounts of things like onion juice in water, and then diluting it over and over again until the concentration drops to zero. The water is said to retain an "energy vibration" from the long-lost active whatever.
Jan. 11th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
"homeopathy" has always been woo from its very inception, and has a very distinct definition & set of rules. Anything that does not follow that formula is not homeopathy, it's something else (naturopathy is probably the most accurate). However, marketing gurus have latched onto the word since so many people don't understand what it means & they just think it means "natural". It doesn't.

Homeopathy "works" on the underlying assumption of "the Law of Infinitesimals" and the "Law of Similars", which means like cures like and extremely minute substances diluted in water. The "theory" is that the water has a "memory" of the "energy" of the active ingredient and that's what cures you, since the inventor of homeopathy believed in spiritual cures, not biological cures.

If you have a headache, you don't actually take aspirin, as in the example above, you take something "natural" that CAUSES headaches, then dilute it in water, shake it up a bunch of times, take a drop of that solution, add it to a new bottle of water, shake it up a bunch of times, and repeat the process. How many times depends on the specific dilution recipe (called C, I believe), but, in general, a solution is diluted 10-1000 times. Which means, in a practical sense, that the amount of active ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is about equivalent to a single grain of sand in the entire universe.

Jan. 11th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC)
My mistake, the dilutions are done on a 10 or 100 base scale, not diluted 10-1000 times. The dilutions range from 6X to 30X where X is the Roman Numeral 10, so it would be 10 to the 6th POWER, or 1 part ingredient to 1 million parts water.

Some remedies are done to the scale of C, such as 10C where C is the Roman Numeral 100. Which would make 30C one hundred to the 30th power, or 100 with 30 zeros after it.
Jan. 11th, 2011 09:50 am (UTC)
Awesomes! *steals*
Jan. 11th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
Comic Sans is awesome! 90% of the folks at work use it on the internal IM because you can actually read it on the fly instead of having to pause to decipher frilly text and italics. Thanks for a good distillation of links!
Jan. 11th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
I use Comic Sans for my t-shirts because the font is evenly thick throughout all parts of the letter (so I can print small type) and yet it still distinguishes between those letters that other sans serifs can't, like l, I and 1

Of course, I'll print a custom shirt with whatever font the customer wants, but the default is Comic Sans because it's just the easiest font to read a short slogan in.
Jan. 11th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
case in point - that should be a lower case L, a capital I, and a number one.
Jan. 12th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
Comic sans is the only font that makes sense to use with kids with autism and other kids with writing and reading difficulties. It's the only easily available font where the letters are shaped in the exact same way we teach kids to write them. For some kids, it makes no sense to write a letter differently than it looks in print and then be expected to realize they're actually the same letter.
Jan. 12th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
I wonder what's driving the periodicity in claims about violent video games. Silly season? Congress in session?
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
The cynic in me suggests "periodic attempts to goose the media presence and line the pockets of twits like Jack Thompson.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )