Miss Cellania's Blog Posts


Do Copied Citations Create Renowned Papers?

The Following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

(Image credit: Flickr user Magnus Halsnes)

by M.V. Simkin and V.P. Roychowdhury
Department of Electrical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles

Recently we discovered [see cond-mat/0212043] that the majority of citations in scientific papers are simply copied from the lists of references that appear in other papers. Here we show that a model, in which a scientist picks three random papers, cites them, and also copies a quarter of their references accounts quantitatively for empirically observed citation distribution. Simple mathematical probability, not genius, can explain why some papers are cited a lot more than the other.

Greatness? Or Just Simple Probability?
During the “Manhattan Project” (in which scientists created the first nuclear bomb), Enrico Fermi, the physicist, asked General Groves, the head of the project: “What is the definition of a ‘great’ general?”.1 Groves replied that any general who had won five battles in a row might safely be called great. Fermi then asked how many generals are great. Groves said about three out of every hundred. Fermi conjectured that, considering that opposing forces for most battles are roughly equal in strength, the chance of winning one battle is 1/2, and the chance of winning five battles in a row is 1/25=1/32.

“So you are right General,” said Enrico Fermi. “About three out of every hundred. Mathematical probability, not genius.”

General Groves pinning a medal on Enrico Fermi. (image source: Atomic Heritage Foundation)

The existence of military genius was also questioned on basic philosophical grounds by Tolstoy.2

Greatness in Science: Your Papers Are Cited a Lot
A commonly accepted measure of “greatness” for scientists is the number of times other people cite their papers.3 For example, SPIRES, the High-Energy Physics literature database, divides papers into six categories according to the number of citations they receive. The top category, “Renowned Papers” lists those with 500 or more citations.

Let us have a look at the citations to roughly 24 thousands papers, published in Physical Review D in 1975-1994.4 As of 1997 there where about 350 thousands of such citations: fifteen per published paper on the average. However, forty-four papers were cited five hundred times or more. Could this happen if all papers are created equal? If they indeed are, then the chance of being cited is one in 24,000.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Beauty and the Beast

Disney is recycling their biggest princess movies by remaking them in live action format. First there’s Cinderella, coming soon to a theater near you, and now they’ve announced a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. Although it seems like yesterday, the animated Beauty and the Beast came out 24 years ago! And there’s a whole slew of trivia behind that film that you probably never thought of.

1. Walt considered remaking the fairy tale as far back as the 1930s. But he liked to take his time mulling things over, and while he was pondering Beauty and the Beast, a live-action version of the movie was released by French playwright Jean Cocteau. Perhaps not wanting to release an animated version of a movie that had just been released, Disney tabled the idea.

2. In the late '80s, Disney hired British animator Roger Purdum to direct a non-musical version of Beauty and the Beast, with Linda Woolverton writing the script. But the company wasn't happy with the result of 10 weeks of storyboarding (which you can see here)—the story was too dark and depressing. "In the middle of our process, Little Mermaid premiered, and that changed everything," Woolverton told the Los Angeles Times. "[T]he concept of the musical, the Broadway musical brought to animation by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. So I was flown to Disney in Florida to meet with Howard. Howard and I just clicked. ... In a hotel room in Fishkill, N.Y., Howard and I pretty much conjured up this version of Beauty and the Beast. Howard and I never clashed. I was his student. He taught me everything I know about musicals."

There’s plenty more of “could have beens,” deleted scenes, deleted songs, and more in the trivia list at mental_floss.


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The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

The following article is from the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Tunes Into TV.

In 1967 CBS hired the Smothers Brothers to host a variety show that would attract a young, hip audience. The show did that …but CBS didn’t like it. Here’s a look at the controversy behind The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

FAMILY BAND

In the 1960s, musical comedy duo Tom and Dick Smothers, professionally known as the Smothers Brothers, were already veterans of the folk scene. They’d recorded several hit albums of their unique act: singing and playing folk songs before shifting into scripted sibling arguments and topical standup comedy bits.

After the brothers appeared on a string of talk and variety shows, CBS signed them to a contract in 1965 and created The Smothers Brothers Show. It was a forgettable sitcom -Dick’s character was a playboy, Tom was the ghost of his dead brother- and the brothers felt it didn’t play to their strengths. There was none of their usual bantering, and they got to perform music in only one episode. The show was canceled due to low ratings in 1966.

HOW TO BEAT A BONANZA

Meanwhile the network was trying -and failing- to compete with NBC’s hit Bonanza, the #1 show on television. Nothing could touch it in its Sunday night time slot, and it had even killed off former hits Perry Mason and The Garry Moore Show. When Moore was canceled at the end of 1966, CBS decided that the best way to compete with Bonanza was counter-programming. Bonanza attracted mostly viewers over 40. What if CBS put something on that appealed to people in their 20s and 30s? At some point the network realized it already had the ideal stars of this new show under contract: the Smothers Brothers.

Before agreeing to a new show, executive producer and star Tom Smothers insisted on full control. His reason: The Smothers Brothers Show had been so stressful for him that he’d developed an ulcer and gotten divorced. CBS agreed and the brothers got to work hiring writers and performers from the burgeoning Los Angeles comedy scene. Some of those unknowns: Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Pat Paulsen, and Albert Brooks.

FOR WHAT ITS WORTH

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour debuted on Sunday, February 5, 1967, at 9PM.

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Sweet Cocoon

(YouTube link)

A well-fed caterpillar tries to squeeze into a small cocoon to start her metamorphosis. You and I know that’s not how it’s done in nature, but this is a cartoon. Two insects decide to give her a helping hand, which leads to all kinds of shenanigans. This animation was created by Matéo Bernard, Matthias Bruget, Jonathan Duret, Manon Marco, and Quentin Puiraveau of the French art school ESMA. -via the Presurfer


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The Board Game Trial of the Century

We recently linked had the story of how the game Monopoly was born, tracing it to Elizabeth Magie’s The Landlord’s Game, which she patented in 1903. Parker Brothers bought the rights to a derivative game in the ‘30s from Charles Darrow, then bought the rights to Magie’s game for $500 -and destroyed it. Skip ahead 40 years, and we have the story of Ralph Anspach, who challenged Parker Brother’s rights over the game and uncovered Magie’s story.  

Anspach, an economics professor, developed the game Anti-Monopoly. It was designed, like The Landlord’s Game, in order to teach an alternative to cutthroat economic competition that leads to monopolies. But Parker brothers did not like it one bit.

Anspach hired a lawyer and began looking into whether Parker Brothers was, in a moment of supreme irony, committing an antitrust violation against Anti-Monopoly. They reasoned that a common trait of monopolies was to use legal threats to scare off competition. Depositions ensued, and though Anspach held his own against the Parker Brothers legal team, he was a teacher of modest means and they were a multimillion-dollar corporation with a lot to lose. The idea of going through with the lawsuit seemed crazy.

It was, therefore, a revelation when Anspach’s son happened upon a passage in a book noting that Charles Darrow hadn’t actually invented Monopoly. If a Monopoly board game preceded Charles Darrow’s 1935 patent, that patent might be overturned. Monopoly might, in fact, be built on a house of Chance cards. It might be in the public domain.

What followed was a long legal battle over whether Parker Brothers could keep a monopoly on Monopoly. Read what happened in the battle between one man and a corporation with a team of lawyers at mental_floss.

(Image credit: Flickr user Christian Bucad)


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Orb-x

The object of the game Orb-x is to roll your orb into the black hole. You’ve got objects to change the trajectory of your ball, but you have to plan your moves ahead of time. As you get through each level, there are more objects that act differently. I was fine until I got to level 14, then decided it would take too much time to figure it out. Eventually, I will finish the whole thing. Try it yourself -I found it enjoyable. -via Look At This


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Parrot Takes a Shower

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Miss Iris the Hyacinth Macaw likes to be clean, so she takes a shower in the sink. She knows how to use the faucet, and she likes the pressure on high!
-via Daily Picks and Flicks

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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The Dress That Launched a Thousand Memes

This week saw the internet go crazy over a picture of a dress that appeared to be different colors to different people. It didn’t take long for creative minds to take advantage of the situation. We had tons of people trying to explain the phenomenon, but even better were those who made it funny. As you can see here, Liz Climo used the dress perfectly for her animal characters.

Randall Munroe at xkcd explained how the phenomena worked without a word in his Friday comic. The hover text for this one is priceless. Keep reading for more.

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The Case of the Missing Log Cabin

The Klamath County Sheriff’s office in Oregon received a report Tuesday of a stolen house. No, it wasn’t a mobile home, but a 1,500-square-foot log cabin that was completely missing from its foundation. Deputies began an investigation of this unusual crime, the likes of which none of them had ever seen before. Within 48 hours, the cabin was located, almost a mile away.

The property in question is originally purchased by Ronald Niederbrach.

He and a girlfriend, Paulette Kallo, live together for a time in a conventional house on the property. At some point, Miklos Kallo, Paulette's ex-husband, also moves onto the property and she provides care for him as he has health issues.

Miklos Kallo buys a log cabin kit, has it built and stays in the cabin.

Things don't work out between Niederbrach and Paulette, and Niederbrach moves to Sisters.

The Kallos reconcile and live in the house until a fire severely damages it, leaving it uninhabitable. At some point, the property is titled in the names of all three persons.

On July 8, 2014, Miklos Kallo sells the cabin to a fourth party. In September, the buyer moves it to where it was found this week.

Yes, it's a real soap opera. Niederbrach didn’t know the cabin was gone for some months. When he discovered it missing, he asked Paulette Kallo about it, and she said she didn’t know anything. The unnamed buyer of the cabin had no idea there was any dispute over the ownership until the police got involved. The investigation is continuing to determine who, if anyone, had the rights to the structure. You can read the entire story at Oregon Live.

(Image credit: George Rede | The Oregonian/OregonLive)


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DIY Electrical Wiring

(YouTube link)

He just wanted to install a new light in the bathroom, but it didn’t turn out exactly right. It looks like a case of two homeowners in a row who did their own wiring, and believe me, building on someone else’s weirdness only leads to more weirdness. At least this couple hasn’t been electrocuted, which is a real possibility when you get this many wires crossed.

I once had a bathroom/bedroom addition built. It didn’t take long to figure out things were wonky, because when you turned off the bathroom light, the alarm clock by the bed stopped. I could’ve called the contractor back to fix it, but he’d screwed up so many other things, he probably would have just made it worse. I got a master electrician to sort things out -after he stopped laughing. -via Viral Viral Videos


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His First Toothbrush

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An attractive ragdoll cat named Milk gets his teeth brushed for the first time. His reaction is just adorable. I think the word is “flabbergasted.”

The animated gif of this video was posted at reddit with the question “Have you ever seen a cat become broken?” Many commenters said yes, and left proof, compiled here.

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The Crooked Houses of Lavenham

Lavenham is a town in Suffolk, UK, which has a whole slew of houses that lean this way or that, with the exposed beams showing off their tipsy attitudes. It’s not because of an architectural fad or tradition; these houses were straight at one time. It’s because of economic boom and bust. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Lavenham was a booming and prosperous community due to the local wool fabric production.

The town grew so fast that many of the houses were built in haste with green timber. As the wood dried, the timbers warped causing the houses to bend at unexpected angles. Unfortunately, Lavenham’s good times didn’t last long. When Dutch refugees settled in Colchester began producing cloth that was cheaper, lighter and more fashionable than Lavenham's, the town’s cloth industry went bust. By the time the dried timber started twisting, Lavenham’s families had lost its wealth and with no money to rebuild their homes, Lavenham’s crooked houses were left as they were.

The remaining crooked homes are charming in their own way, and you can see plenty of them at Amusing Planet. -via Everlasting Blort

(Image credit: Flickr user Andrew Hill)


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Downton Funk

(YouTube link)

Once more, we have proof that whether something blends or not matters less than whether you can make a pun out of the titles. Yet this one works on other levels as well. The TV show Downton Abbey meets the song “Uptown Funk” in this mashup from College Humor. -via Tastefully Offensive


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Gender-neutral Restroom Signs

(Image credit: Cory Doctorow)

(Image credit: Over Waves’ Bindings)

When you gotta go, you gotta go, but where? More and more public restrooms are unisex, or gender-neutral, meaning anyone can use them. Another term is “family” restrooms, even if it’s a one-holer. Signs used to designate these restrooms can take on a real flair, as shown here. See 17 creative restroom signs for a new generation at Buzzfeed.


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Why People See a Different Colored Dress

(YouTube link)

Now that everyone is arguing over the color of a dress, AsapSCIENCE steps in to explain how people perceive and interpret colors differently. First impressions can be confusing, while knowledge that comes later can fill in some of the gaps. The upshot is that brain is an amazing organ that sifts through both information we have and information we don’t have to make sense of the world around us. -via Tastefully Offensive


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It Looks Like You’re Trying to Accessorize…

Would you like help? Yeah, it’s funny, but as soon as you admit that you get the joke, you’ve dated yourself. Adding googly eyes to a paperclip evokes recollections of Clippy, the annoying virtual assistant in Microsoft Office applications sold from 1997 to 2003. Furbyfresse uploaded this picture and said her boyfriend made earrings for her. -via Fail Blog

View more fun pics over at our NeatoPicto Blog

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The World's Weirdest Flowers

Have you ever noticed that the seed pods of a snapdragon flower looks just like a string of human skulls? Creepy, huh? Mother Nature produces plants in an astounding variety, and many of them look like something significant to humans whether it benefits the plant or not. Boing Boing has a list of 40 of the world's weirdest flowers that include flowers that look like something else, flowers with odd lifestyles, and flowers that might not even be flowers at all. Some are rare and endangered; others you might be growing in your own kitchen, and you’ll see pictures of each of them.   

(Image credit: Flickr user laajala)


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What Color is This Dress?

There’s been quite a debate among Tumblr users about the colors of this dress. The picture was posted by Swiked, and then passed around, igniting arguments wherever it showed up. I looked at it and said, “That’s white with gold lace.” Then I read three posts at Buzzfeed about the controversy surrounding the colors, with plenty of pictures of the dress with various color corrections and even a catalog entry, and they determined that the dress is actually blue with black lace.

But what really floored me was when I returned to the original picture and saw it as blue and black! I could not make myself see white and gold again at that point. THEN I went somewhere else for about twenty minutes and returned to the original picture. It appeared white and gold again- for a minute or two, then it turned blue and black again. Now, my eyesight isn’t the greatest, but this is one weird phenomena.  

Update: There's a discussion of some of the factors going into this photo here.

What colors do you see in the dress?




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Strangers on a Beach: The Origins of Tom Ripley

Patricia Highsmith's most memorable supervillain was inspired by a chance encounter. But how fictional was he really?

Early one morning in the summer of 1952, Patricia Highsmith awoke in a room at the Albergo Miramare hotel in Positano, Italy. The 31-year-old author had been traveling through Europe with her girlfriend, Ellen Blumenthal Hill, and the two weren’t getting along. Leaving Hill in bed, Highsmith walked to the end of a balcony overlooking the beach. It’s not as if things weren’t going well for her—her novel Strangers on a Train had just been adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock. But the tumultuous relationship was taking a toll. As she gazed out at the sand, pulling on a cigarette, she watched “a solitary young man in shorts and sandals, with a towel flung over his shoulder, making his way along the beach. There was an air of pensiveness about him, maybe unease,” she recalled in a 1989 issue of Granta magazine. She started to wonder: “Had he quarreled with someone? What was on his mind?”

The intrigue stuck with her. Two years later, while living in a cottage rented from an undertaker in Lenox, Mass., Highsmith drew from that image as she began a new novel, about a man named Tom Ripley. Even then, she sensed that she was onto something special. “She considered [The Talented Mr. Ripley] ‘healthier’ and ‘handsomer’ than her other books at its ‘birth,’” Joan Schenkar writes in her excellent biography The Talented Miss Highsmith.

Highsmith’s instincts were correct: With the charming sociopath Ripley, she’d created a new type of character entirely. In five novels over the next four decades, he’d become not only her most acclaimed and memorable creation but the prototype for a new kind of antihero: the unlikable, immoral, cold-blooded killer we can’t help but like anyway. Ripley was a character so fully realized, so simultaneously compelling and disturbing, it seemed as if he were based on someone Highsmith knew intimately. In a sense, he was.

An orphan unhappily raised by an icy aunt, 23-year-old Tom Ripley is living in New York City when we first meet him, trying his hand at casual extortion. In a bar one night, he’s approached by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf, father of an acquaintance, Dickie. Greenleaf is looking for someone who might persuade his son to return home from the bohemian life he’s been leading in the Italian village of Mongibello, and Tom seizes the opportunity. But what he finds when he locates Dickie is something he hadn’t expected: a glimpse of the privileged existence he’s always dreamed of.

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Your Chance to Drink with Owls

Japan has been a leader in animal cafes, including one where you can get up close and personal with owls. London has decided to up the ante with an owl tavern, although it will be temporary.

Annie the Owl and friends will be taking over a Soho bar from March 19 to 25, 8:30 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. Customers can enjoy two hours and two cocktails nestled amongst the nocturnal birds. There's just one catch—you have to be very lucky to get a spot. Right now, the tickets are being sold for £20, but you have to enter a lottery to earn some face-time with the owls. Winning the raffle only gives you one ticket, so you'll have to fly solo if your friends don't win as well.

Right now, owl cafes are all the rage in Japan, but (perhaps predictably) London kicked it up a notch by adding booze to the equation. On top of feathery friends and drinks, the bar also offers music, comedy, and an "electric atmosphere." The drinks will be mixed by some of London's top mixologists, and the birds will all be accompanied by professional falconers, so you know you'll be in good hands.

The birds will be well-chaperoned, and only people are allowed alcohol. Proceeds from the owl bar will go to The Barn Owl Centre, an organization dedicated to protecting owls. Get all the particulars for the upcoming owl cafe at mental_floss.

(Image credit: Richard Fisher)

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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The Horrible History Of The World's Most Notorious Mental Asylum

The word “bedlam” means chaos to modern ears, and that meaning came from the British asylum known as Bedlam, short for Bethlehem Royal Hospital. It was born in 1247 as a priory which soon began to take in the mentally ill. Over the next few centuries, the asylum changed hands, changed management, and even changed locations, but for most of that time was a chamber of horrors. The inmates received either no treatment or terrible treatment, and at times were put on display as freaks. The institution is still in use today, although conditions have changed. All Day has an illustrated  timeline of the history of Bedlam over the past 750 years. 

(Image credit: Wellcome Images via Wikimedia Commons)


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Going Back to the ‘90s

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Be careful what you wish for, because with great power comes great responsibility. These familiar adages go double for this video from College Humor. You may feel nostalgic for the ‘90s if it was your childhood (otherwise, I just don’t see it), but going back is not the funfest it might seem. Now, if time travel were possible, this scenario puts an entirely different spin on events that we still don’t understand. What if the most senseless events from history were an attempt to stop something even worse? This video contains NSFW language. -via Viral Viral Videos


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Kitten vs. Chicken

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A kitten named Dash turns his attention to play-attacking and play-fighting a Frizzle chicken named Mora. The hen isn’t taking this sitting down, and even tries a couple of times to put that tiny predator in its place. Dash doesn’t take the hint. Once upon a time, you had to actually have pets to enjoy this kind of thing, but now we can just share the best moments. -via Daily Picks and Flicks   

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12 Facts You Might Not Know About Babe Ruth

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

George Herman “Babe" Ruth is, without a doubt, the most famous, beloved and mythical baseball player of all-time. Perhaps of all athletes, ever, only Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan have been more influential and as well-known.

The guy hit his legendary 714 home runs in 22 seasons (1914-1935), drove in over 2,200 runs and had a lifetime batting average of .342. Not only that, but he was also a star pitcher in his early days, compiling a lifetime record of 94 wins and 46 losses. Okay, let's take a look at 12 facts you may not have known about “The Sultan of Swat,” the one and only Babe Ruth.

1. He started out as a left-handed catcher.

Young George Ruth started playing baseball at St. Marys Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. He began his career as a left-handed catcher, the rarest of all position players.

Ruth, top row center, at St. Marys Industrial School for Boys.

The school only had a catcher's mitt for a right-hander, so George would catch the ball with his left hand. If a runner on base tried to steal, he'd toss the glove aside, catch the ball in the air and throw it to second base with his left hand.

2. He became a pitcher because he ridiculed another pitcher.

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Five Things Alice in Wonderland Reveals About the Brain

Even though it’s been 150 years since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published, we are still finding new meaning in it. Lewis Carrol’s tale turns logic inside out, and along the way, gives neurologists insight about how the human brain operates. Characters in the book explore the way we perceive language, time, and our own corporeal bodies. For example, Alice changes her own size several times by the magic of eating or drinking.

In 1955, a psychiatrist called John Todd found that certain patients reported exactly the same feeling of “opening out like a telescope”. The disorder is known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, and it seems to be most common in children. “I have heard patients saying that things appear upside down, or even though mommy is on other side of the room, she appeared next to her,” says Grant Liu, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who has studied the phenomenon.

Carroll’s diaries show that he suffered migraines, which often trigger the syndrome – leading some to speculate that he was using his own experiences as inspiration. Liu suspects the syndrome can be pinned to abnormal activity in the parietal lobes, which are responsible for spatial awareness, skewing the sense of perspective and distance. But despite the fact that it can be disturbing, these fleeting illusions are generally harmless. “The majority are unaffected – and we just provide reassurance that the patient is not crazy and that other people also experience these things,” says Liu. Today, neuroscientists are trying to evoke the illusion in healthy subjects – which they think might shed light on the way we create our sense of self in the here and now.

And that’s only one of the five specific findings in neuroscience that relate to the more illogical passages in Alice in Wonderland outlined in an article at BBC Future. -via Digg


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43 Words Invented by Authors

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Sometimes when you’re reading a book, you run across a word you’ve never heard before, but you can usually figure out what it means by its context. I learned many words that way, and I was sometimes wrong. I should have looked them up, but who wants to break the spell of a good book? Some of those words were just made up by the writer. John Green runs down a whole bunch of examples in this latest video from mental_floss.


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If Ken Burns Tackled Boston’s Snowpocalypse

(YouTube link)

Ken Burns’ documentary series The Civil War (as well as his other documentaries) had a certain style that brought out the despair and melancholy of the people who lived through it, emphasized by the sad fiddle music. YouTube member SafetyWhales took the same approach to documenting Boston’s current winter, using Facebook posts by real people who live there. Harry Apinwall, the one who described the apocalypse, provided the perfect finale. -Thanks, Linda Shaw!


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Talking Husky Puppy

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Little Ramsey the husky pup obviously lives with both people and dogs -but he sure sounds like he’d rather talk people language than howl like a dog! I had to giggle at this almost as much as the woman holding him. -via Tastefully Offensive

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Hard-hitting Drinks

(YouTube link)

What kind of drinking game requires putting on a helmet? You’ll quickly find out. From the video description:

In a bar in Russia, one man chose to drink a special cocktail, shot the soldier. Before starting this challenge, it must put a military helmet on his head. The servers will launch the starting signal with a whistle, and then hit the glasses of alcohol on the customer's helmet, he must then drink dry-ass. Meanwhile, another server will give him a shovel or fire extinguisher on the helmet to each end of sips. The customer will then drinking alcohol 4 shooters before the big final, a good shot of beer barrel on the helmet. An effective technique!

As they say, in Mother Russia, keg taps you! By the time it's all over, he doesn't feel a thing. Until the next morning, when he has to deal with both concussion and a hangover. -via reddit


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A Dream Come True

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article that reviewed the new and improved restrooms at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. That’s only interesting if you live in New York City, but toward the bottom of the article, we learn that someone has fulfilled her lifelong aspirations.

A second person who checked out the women’s restroom — and who asked not to be identified because she has always wanted to be an anonymous source — reported her findings by email: “Black shiny granite-y sink. Arched faucets by Sloan. Tasteful slate gray and powder gray tiles.”

If you know who she is, please don’t tell anyone. We don’t want to crush the dream.


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Profile for Miss Cellania

  • Member Since 2012/08/04


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