Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

10 Ridiculous Feats of Literature

Instead of judging works of literature based on their artistic merit, we’ve decided to rank them by degree of difficulty. These 10 authors may not be Shakespeare, but they sure had vaulting ambitions.

1. The Story That Will Never Be an e-Book
Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright

Some might call Gadsby a “love” story. But Ernest Vincent Wright wouldn’t have used that word. Instead, he described his novel as a story of “strong liking” and “throbbing palpitation.” That’s because in 1939, Wright gave himself one restriction: He promised to write Gadsby without using the letter E.

Wright wanted to prove that a great author could work around such a restriction and still tell a gripping story. To prevent any stray Es from entering the text, he tied down his typewriter’s E key, and then put his expansive vocabulary to the test. The result is an astounding feat of verbal gymnastics. While vividly describing a wedding scene, Wright manages to avoid the words “bride,” “ceremony,” and even “wedding” (he calls it “a grand church ritual”). To explain away the verbosity of the language, he uses a narrator whose poor command of English and circumlocution even irritates the story’s other characters.

When the book was announced, one skeptic attacked Wright in a letter, claiming that the feat was impossible. “All right,” replied Wright in the book’s intro, “the impossible has been accomplished.” Sadly, Wright didn’t live long enough to revel in Gadsby’s critical acclaim. He died the year the book was published.

2. The Tale Told in the Blink of an Eye
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Many authors have struggled through illness and injury to write their masterpieces, but none more so than Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French fashion magazine Elle.

In 1995, at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a major stroke and slipped into a coma. He regained consciousness two days later, but his entire body—with the exception of his left eyelid—was paralyzed.

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Microwaving an Airbag in Slow Motion

What is the worst possible non-living thing you could put into a microwave? Gav and Dan, the Slow Mo Guys, very well may have found it. An automobile airbag. It takes a warped mind to even think up such a stunt, and in their defense, they aren't the first to do it. But do it they did, heating the device to deployment pressure, and then recorded the results on their high-speed cameras.

(YouTube link)

The destruction is glorious. So is the danger. Don't try this at home. -via Sploid


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First Look at The Disaster Artist

Oh, hi, Mark!

Tommy Wiseau's 2003 movie The Room was hailed as the "worst movie of all time." It therefore became a cult favorite. Audiences gasped at the utter incompetence of Wiseau, who wrote, directed, and starred in The Room. Could he really be that bad at filmmaking? The new comedy The Disaster Artist recreates the making of the film, and answers that question with a resounding "Yes!"

(YouTube link)

The Disaster Artist stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, and Sharon Stone. It is scheduled for release December first. -via Tastefully Offensive


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Tracing the Elusive History of Pier 1’s Ubiquitous ‘Papasan’ Chair

The "papasan" chair became a best seller for Pier 1 Imports in the 1970s, and an icon that you still see in stores, homes, and lawns. They were exotic, comfortable, and most importantly, affordable to young people who needed a place to sit in their first apartment. Where it came from, and how it got to America, is a story with many versions. However, Pier 1 was the place most Americans discovered the chair.

According to the International Directory of Company Histories, furniture salesman William Amthor started liquidating extra rattan furniture he had in 1958 at a warehouse—Cost Plus, which grew into Pier 1’s main rival, World Market—along Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Inspired by the business, Charles Tandy and Luther Henderson of the Tandy Corporation, later RadioShack, gave Amthor a loan to open a retail shop under the name Cost Plus in 1962 in neighboring San Mateo. By 1966, their operation was renamed Pier 1, importing inexpensive goods from around the world, especially Asia, and marking them up. The resale cost, however, was still cheaper than other American and European furniture at the time, attracting budget-conscious baby boomers looking to furnish their first homes with the hippie chic of “beanbag chairs, love beads, and incense,” as the Pier 1 website tells it.

But the popularity of the papasan chair has its roots in the antithesis of the love beads and incense crowd: the Vietnam War. The chair itself has a particularly murky history, with many accounts of how and where it was originated. Read those conflicting stories in an article at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Ing. Radek Michelfeit)


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10 Amazing Additions Coming to Disney Parks and Resorts

The House of Mouse has some big plans afoot, as detailed at the recent D23 Expo. That includes new theme parks and areas built around your favorite movie franchises, new interactive experiences, new hotels, new rides, new transportation, and more. Fans of Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and even Mickey Mouse enthusiasts all have something to look forward to, at both Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. You think the new interactive Star Wars park sounds cool? Wait until you see the new interactive Star Wars hotel!

That sound you just heard was Star Wars fans across the galaxy warming up their lightsabers. Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek announced plans for a completely immersive Star Wars-themed hotel, where guests are declared citizens of the galaxy the moment they check in. "The story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits," Chapek said. More details, including the opening date, are yet to come.

Read about ten of the coming innovations, with pictures and videos, at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Disney)


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Our Favorite Fictional Sports Announcers in Movies

Sports broadcast hosts, play-by-play announcers, and color commentators: you find them in every sports movie to help us keep up with the action, because the big game is condensed for time. And since they are there, they are often used to play the role of the villain, or for comic relief, or to set the tone of the scene. The most memorable sports announcers have been compiled in a list at TVOM. Even if you you don't recall the announcers in these films, it's an excuse to watch clips and look back at some great sports movies.  


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Animals Hugging

Here's a site you'll want to bookmark for those days when all the news is bad news and nothing seems to go right. Animals Hugging is exactly what it says, with a few animals kissing and cuddling thrown in. Sometimes the critters are the same species, while others show interspecies affection.

You'll see cows, bats, horses, rabbits, goats, kangaroos, squirrels, deer, chickens, and parrots showing affection, but more cats and dogs than anything. -via Metafilter

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

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Robot Suicide

A security robot from the firm Knightscope was patrolling the Georgetown Waterfront complex in Washington, DC. It apparently descended into the pit of depression and gave up its will to live, plunging itself into a fountain face first. The robot suicide was documented in a photo Tweeted by Bilal Farooqi. He said,

We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots.

The Georgetown robot may be the first to end its own life in the real world, but its demise reminds us of the many depressed robots in pop culture. There's Marvin, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the Pass the Butter Robot from Rick and Morty, and quite a few others named in an article at Buzzfeed.


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The Counterfeit Coin Riddle

In order to get out of the dungeon, you must perform a service for the king. He wants you to identify the one counterfeit among twelve coins, but you can only use his scale three times to do it. Lucky for you, you are the kingdom's top mathematician. I can slice a tomato into 18 pieces with five cuts, but this one's a real head scratcher.

(YouTube link)

Jennifer Lu sure came up with a hard one in this riddle. I might have been able to figure it out, if I had infinite time and no stress, but the scenario as it is would not allow for that. The king has a temper, you know. -via Geeks Are Sexy

Love games and puzzles? Visit NeatoPuzzles for more!

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Facial Feedback (Smiles and Frowns)

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Research and Feedback About Facial Feedback Theory
compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

Some researchers are trying to see whether reality smiles on the idea that (a) smiling causes happiness, and (b) frowning induces unhappiness. Here are some prominent attempts.

2006: Pencil-Chomping and Race Bias in Several Persons
“The Influence of Facial Feedback on Race Bias,” Tiffany A. Ito, Krystal W. Chiao, Patricia G. Devine, Tyler S. Lorig, and John T. Cacioppo, Psychological Science, vol. 17, no. 3, 2006, pp. 256-261. The authors, variously at University of Colorado, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Washington and Lee University, report:

Participants were surreptitiously induced to smile through holding a pencil in their mouth while viewing photographs of unfamiliar Black or White males or performed no somatic configuration while viewing the photographs... [The study was conducted on] 33 (6 Asian American, 2 Hispanic American, 22 Caucasian American, 3 other) and 40 (3 Asian American, 4 Hispanic American, 29 Caucasian American, 4 other) undergraduates.

2008: Poisoning Your Face Might Increase the Happiness of the Human Race

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Levitating Bird

Watch the weird way this bird flies! The original video from Al Brooks is 21 seconds long, but all the action happens in the first two seconds. What's happening is that the frame rate of the security camera synched up with the bird's flapping rate. You've seen that effect in wagon wheels in movies and helicopter blades in videos. The effect makes the bird seem to just float around eerily. -via reddit


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Clearly, He's a Winner

A group of two-year-olds are competing in the Dutch Championship walking bike race on July 8. Senn Swieters pulls out in front, giving it his all on his green walking bike, having the time of his life. Senn's headed straight for the finish line. The crowd cheers him on!

(YouTube link)

Or maybe not. Don't celebrate until the finish line is crossed. Considering how much the average two-year-old cares about winning, he's probably avoiding the finish line because he doesn't want the event to be over. A good time was had by all.  -via Mashable

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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Stained Glass Anime Character

John Farrier's recent DIY art project is a stained glass panel depicting an anime character. It's beautiful, but I'm not familiar with many characters, so I'd like an anime fan's take. Do you readily recognize the character? Is she well-known? The image source at DeviantART is a giveaway, in case you just want to know. -via John Farrier 


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Doctors Remove 27 Contact Lenses from One Eye

A 65-year-old woman was being prepared for cataract surgery at Solihull Hospital near Birmingham, UK. Trainee ophthalmologist Rupal Morjaria says that as a team prepared to anesthetized the patient, they found a "blue mass" in her eye. On removing it, the mass turned out to be a glob of 17 disposable contact lenses! They looked around and found ten more lenses still in her eye. The patient hadn't complained of any irritation.

"When she was seen two weeks after I removed the lenses she said her eyes felt a lot more comfortable," Morjaria tells Optometry Today. "She thought her previous discomfort was just part of old age and dry eye."

The woman had not complained about problems other than cataracts, according to the report Morjaria and others published in the British Medical Journal. The patient had been wearing monthly disposable contact lenses for some 35 years, she said.

The cataract surgery was postponed because of the risk of infection. The case raises concern about patients who order contact lenses online and don't see their optometrist regularly. Read more on the story at NPR.

(Image credit: Bpw)


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What Movies Always Seem to Get Wrong about Stockbrokers

If you've ever seen your career depicted in a movie, your first thought was probably on how wrong it was. It's true of most occupations, because everyday functional workers don't make for compelling drama (or comedy). But since very few of us deal with stockbrokers on a regular basis, the stereotypes in movies can easily give us the wrong idea. Only the greediest, most hubristic, amoral, and clever characters are stockbrokers in film. Learn how wrong that is in so many ways in an article at TVOM.


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Cat Carries Her Bed Upstairs

(YouTube link

A cat in Quebec gave birth to a litter of kittens upstairs. Not long afterward, she decided that they needed her cat bed, which was downstairs. Whether it was because the bed is soft, or because it has sides to keep the kittens corralled, she knew what she wanted, and went to work to make it happen. YouTube commenters are wondering why the humans didn't help her, but she seems to have the situation pretty well under control. Smart cat. -via Tastefully Offensive

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

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A 1991 Letter About the Solar Eclipse

Grandma Betty saw the solar eclipse in 1991, and regretted that her new grandson was too young to know what it was all about. But she looked up the next solar eclipse that he might see, and wrote a letter about it. Trevor's mom kept the letter until it was time to open it 26 years later, which was this past week. The letter is overflowing with love and pride for her grandson, and with wonder at the marvels of the universe.  

In case you're wondering, Grandma Betty is still going strong at age 79. Trevor (redditor davedavedaveck) told us so.


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RIP Martin Landau

People remember Martin Landau as Rollin Hand in the TV series Mission: Impossible, or maybe his numerous appearances on The Twilight Zone. Or for his Academy Award-winning role as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. I will always remember him as Commander John Koenig in the TV series Space: 1999. Laundau appeared in 79 movies and dozens of TV shows. Landau died unexpectedly Saturday from complications during a hospital stay in Los Angeles.

"Mission: Impossible," which also starred Landau's wife, Barbara Bain, became an immediate hit upon its debut in 1966. It remained on the air until 1973, but Landau and Bain left at the end of the show's third season amid a financial dispute with the producers. They starred in the British-made sci-fi series "Space: 1999" from 1975 to 1977.

Landau might have been a superstar but for a role he didn't play — the pointy-eared starship Enterprise science officer, Mr. Spock. "Star Trek" creator Gene Rodenberry had offered him the half-Vulcan, half-human who attempts to rid his life of all emotion. Landau turned it down.

"A character without emotions would have driven me crazy; I would have had to be lobotomized," he explained in 2001. Instead, he chose "Mission: Impossible," and Leonard Nimoy went on to everlasting fame as Spock.

Ironically, Nimoy replaced Landau on "Mission: Impossible."

Laundau was 89. -via Metafilter


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Meet the Thirteenth Doctor

Want to know who will play the 13th incarnation of The Doctor in the BBC series Doctor Who beginning in December? Speculation has been rampant since it was announced that Peter Capaldi will be retired from the series. If you really want to know, you'll need to continue reading, in consideration of those who don't want to know this soon.

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Lipizzans: The Dancing Horses of Vienna

The following is an article from the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again.

(Image credit: Srdjan Živulovič)

If you think dancing is for sissies, the battlefield ballerinas of Vienna will change your mind.

CRISS CROSS

We'll start with Hannibal's elephants and Genghis Khan. Vilano horses from the mountains of Spain were known for their strength at least as far back as the days of Julius Caesar. These big guys carried Hannibal's warriors across the Alps alongside those famous elephants. Then someone got the bright idea of crossing Vilanos with the Barb horses (whose ancestors carried Genghis Khan and his hordes from Asia). The result was the Andalusian horses of Spain. If all this Alps crossing and horse crossing makes your eyes cross, be patient- we've almost got our dancing horses.

In 1580, Charles, Archduke of Vienna, founded a stud farm at Lipica (also called Lipizza), a village in Slovenia close to the Italian border. There, using the Spanish bloodstock, the archduke created strong, graceful horses that are born dark in color but whose coats gradually lighten to a brilliant, snowy white -the Lipizzan breed. At about the same time Austrian royalty also founded the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to teach classical horsemanship. The horses used and bred at this school became exclusively the Lipizzan.



GETTING THEIR KICKS IN BATTLE

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How To Live To 100

Every time we post about someone who has lived to be 100 years old -or older- they have a story about how they did it. But each of those interviews is just one person's story. AsapSCIENCE has an overview of the science that pinpoints the specific things that may lead to longevity.

(YouTube link)

However, some of the factors aren't under our control at all. And those that are might be confounded by other factors. Keep in mind also that a long life is not much of a benefit if the last decades are spent in ill health. Still, we can live a perfectly healthy life and be hit by a bus tomorrow. So we are back to the old adage: Plan your life as if you'll live forever, savor it as if today were your last day. -via Geeks Are Sexy


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Free Ice Cream on National Ice Cream Day

Since 1984, July has been designated as National Ice Cream Month, and the third Sunday in July (July 16 this year) is National Ice Cream Day! You can celebrate by learning some facts about ice cream, but the most obvious way to mark the day is to eat some ice cream. Many ice cream companies and some fast food outlets are offering free ice cream, or very good deals, on the best treat for a hot day. See a list of the deals at Uproxx. Unfortunately, the only free ice cream deals available in my town require downloading an app, which probably won't help, since I don't use a smartphone. Your mileage may vary.

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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How Cellophane Changed the Way We Shop

The invention of cellophane in the early 20th century was a miracle for grocers and grocery shoppers. For the first time, you could actually see the food inside its package! Cellophane (along with shopping carts and parking lots) helped stores evolve from full-service groceries to self-service supermarkets.

Yet there was a notable exception to the adoption of self-service retailing: the meat department. Even in supermarkets, the meat-buying process remained akin to that of a traditional local butcher shop, where an expert cut slabs of beef behind the counter on a per-order basis, after conferring with customers individually. Some grocers did experiment with self-service meat marketing in the 1930s, but soon gave up due to refrigeration and packaging challenges.

Not until after World War II did most grocers adopt self-service meat sections. That happened partly due to advances in refrigeration cases, but largely thanks to innovations in cellophane.

Nowadays, the part of the store most likely to show off food under cellophane is the meat department. In order to accomplish that, food vendors had to make meat look appetizingly fresh and keep it that way under cellophane. The key was color. Ai Hisano wrote a book about cellophane, and is researching a new book on the history of creating the color of foods. She tells us some secrets about how cellophane and the manipulation of color made supermarkets what they are today, at Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge blog. -via Nag on the Lake  


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The Warning

We try to give you a warning when linking to something that might be unpleasant, sad, scary, or NSFW. We try to give a thorough description of what you might find. It's completely up to you to follow a link when we've made it clear what would be awaiting you. The truck that spilled a load of hagfish on the highway comes to mind. You just couldn't help yourself, could you? This is the latest comic from Sarah Andersen at Sarah's Scribbles.
 


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The Ultimate Playlist Of Banned Wedding Songs

A year ago, we linked to FiveThirtyEight's Ultimate Wedding Playlist, featuring the most requested songs to be played at weddings. But every bride and groom who hires a DJ has a song or two, or more, or an artist, or an entire genre that they ask specifically not be played. Those songs have been compiled in a new list, and the ones that rose to the top are perfectly understandable.

Oddly enough, a few songs on this list are the MVPs from last year’s list! “Happy,” “Shout” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” are just a few of the most popular songs that also appear on DJs’ rosters of banned songs. Either those songs have gone out of style overnight, or, more likely, their popularity has made them polarizing. If you’re making demands of a DJ, you don’t need to ask him or her to avoid playing Bulgarian death metal — that’s probably a given — but you need to speak up about “Single Ladies” now or it’s going to get a rotation.

Read more about songs banned from wedding playlists and see a longer version of the song list at FiveThirtyEight.  


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The Prank Confessional Booth at the 1992 Democratic Convention

A priest came to the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City. He rode a tricycle and hauled a confession booth that was labeled "Portofess." Father Anthony Joseph announced he was ready to take confession from any and all politicians who wanted to unload their sins. After some publicity, it turned out that the priest was actually artist and prankster Joey Skaggs (previously at Neatorama), who tells the story of the Portofess.

There are thousands of journalists there, waiting for action. They’re hungry for something. I had a professional furniture maker spray the booth so it looked well finished. I had a fine craftsman working with me. It wasn’t a refrigerator box on the back of the tricycle. I had a beautiful full priest outfit—I was walking down Broadway, and saw a priest outside a church. I asked him, “Excuse me, Father, where do you get your threads?” He invited me in and showed me the catalog they used to order all their clothes. He said, do you want one? I’ve got extras here. I ordered the whole outfit from there.

Everything is in the detail. I’m very detail-oriented because that’s what’s convincing. The sculpture looks beautifully well made. I had glasses on, and I just looked the part of a priest. Of course, I had friends who would come and step into the confessional booth and tell me dirty jokes. I had a tape-player playing Gregorian chants. I had a little flyer to hand out, saying “Religion on the move, for people on the go.” I had a little basket on my tricycle in the front and people—especially journalists—reached in to take that. I said I had pedaled all the way from California. The story and the visuals were too good.

He had actors come into the confession booth, but also heard from strangers who revealed probably more than they should have. Read the rest of the interview with Skaggs at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Joey Skaggs Archive)


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Behind-The-Scenes Footage Of The Last Jedi

We have exactly five months to go until the release of Episode VIII, so it's the perfect time for Disney to release some footage from the set of The Last Jedi. Just in case we'd started to lose interest, ya know.

(YouTube link)

There's no actual footage from the film here, as far as we know, but we do get a glimpse of sets, some special effects, and characters both old and new. Carrie Fisher is there, so you might want to get a hankie ready. -via Digg


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A Data-Based Guide to Dealing with Lines at Disneyland

Wait times for rides at Disneyland are getting longer even as ticket prices rise. That's not surprising, because the more you pay for an experience, the more determined you are to experience it all. But there are ways to make it easier. The Los Angeles Times has charts and graphs that give the lowdown on wait times for the various rides at Disneyland, as well as the park as a whole, by time of day, dates, and methods. There's also a section for tips from readers about the best way to save time during your visit. There are some attractions that always have short lines, in case you are dying to see the Enchanted Tiki Room or It's a Small World. See all the charts here. The data only applies to Disneyland in Anaheim, but the tips might help those going to Walt Disney World in Florida. -via Boing Boing


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The Role of Cats & Dogs in Victorian Cases of Spousal Abuse

A blog post from Mimi Matthews is an overview of cases from the Victorian era of pets defending a woman from spousal abuse. It opens with the trial of George Amey, who assaulted his estranged wife, Isabella. George no longer lived with Isabella, but visited her in the home he had left, where she lived with her cat Topsy. An altercation began, and George threw Isabella down and started to strangle her.  

George might have killed Isabella if not for Topsy’s sudden—and rather unexpected—intervention. Upon seeing her mistress being ill-used, the faithful cat sprang into action. As the Illustrated Police News relates:

    “The wife told the warrant-officer Roskelly that while on the ground and screaming, a favourite cat, named Topsy, suddenly sprang on her husband and fastened her claws in his eyes and her teeth in his face. Her husband could not tear the cat away, and he was obliged to implore her to take the cat from him to save his life.”

George was arrested, charged, and ultimately sentenced to prison for one month.

This is just the first of three cases that explain why women alone tend to become cat ladies or dog ladies. Although, in one case, it was the man's own dog that prevented him from killing his wife. -via Strange Company

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

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Fighting Mosquitos with More Mosquitos

Verily, the science division of Google, is conducting a field study of a plan to rid Silicon Valley of yellow fever mosquitos -which can also carry dengue fever, malaria, and Zika. It involves releasing 20 millions more mosquitos.

Verily is working with Fresno’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District to release 1 million male mosquitoes every week for 20 weeks, starting now. These mosquitoes have been rendered essentially sterile by infection with a bacteria called Wolbachia pipientis, which naturally colonizes mosquitoes and other insects in the wild. In time, if the local females continue to mate with the sterile males, the population should drop. The effort will ramp up to the full 1 million mosquito capacity over the next week, Kathleen Parkes, a Verily spokesperson, told The Verge in an email.

This wouldn't work in a species where a female mates with multiple partners before laying eggs, but apparently mosquitos aren't like that. Of course, the first question is, what could possibly go wrong? It's not like we haven't tried "fixing" our environment by introducing new creatures who became invasive, and in this case, it's both mosquitos and bacteria. Of course, the yellow fever mosquitos are invasive already, but introducing one critter to take care of another critter has gone wrong before. The second thought one has is sympathy for the poor grad student who had to sort millions of male mosquitos from the females. Read more about this project at the Verge. -via Digg


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Profile for Miss Cellania

  • Member Since 2012/08/04


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