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Beaver vs Poplar Tree

The poplar tree that had fallen to the ground was no match for the determined beaver, who chewed through its limb in less than a minute. After chewing up the tree’s limb, the beaver then carried it back to the pond where a dam is being built.

What a strong beaver.

Via Laughing Squid

(Image Credit: Laughing Squid)


When You’ve Memorized A Film

You know you’ve watched a film too many times when you can recite all the lines in it, as well as describe the stuff happening on the screen. Watch as voice actor SungWon Cho, also known as ProZD, recites the film Peter Pan from memory.

(Image Credit: ProZD/ YouTube)


The Thriving Industry of Poop Delivery

You could express your love by having flowers delivered. But what do you do to convey a message that is less romantic? The Toronto-based blogTo reports that there are several options for mailing fecal matter to that special someone in your life. Some of these services, such as Poop Senders, allow you to place anonymous orders so that, like a secret admirer, your identity can remain hidden. What a sweet premise this could be for a romantic comedy!

-via Dave Barry | Image: Poop Senders


The Lion Dance

The Lunar New Year begins on Friday, February 12 this year. The Lion Dance is a traditional part of the festivities in China. If you've ever wondered what the dancers look like underneath the lion costume, watch these two guys. Their dance looks pretty straightforward until... Well, just watch and you'll see something truly amazing. -via Nag on the Lake


The First Hypodermic Needle

The modern disposable hypodermic needle is a marvel- safe, clean, and almost painless compared to the reusable instruments many of us remember from years past. But how did this method of introducing drugs into our bodies start? Earlier physicians would wound the skin, as in variolation, but the first use  of a needle-like instrument was in 1844, when Dr. Francis Rynd injected morphine acetate into the face of a woman who was most likely suffering from the painful nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia.  

The most interesting thing about this section of the report, however, is the ‘instrument made for the purpose’ of injecting the drug. Dr Rynd did not include a description or illustration of this instrument – probably a mistake, as it was his opportunity to publicise his invention. We do know what it looked like, however, from an article he subsequently published in 1861:

This is not a hypodermic syringe but a novel type of trochar: an instrument with a sharp tip and a cannula through which fluids can be introduced (or evacuated). It had a sharp needle to puncture the skin, but no plunger to propel fluids into the body; instead, the drug was dropped into the cannula, using ‘an ordinary writing-pen’, and then left to infiltrate the tissues by gravity alone.

The injection did deliver relief to the patient. Read about the case, and also the first injection using a syringe with a plunger a few years later, at Thomas Morris' blog. -via Strange Company


Dire Wolves Were Not Really Wolves

You might only know dire wolves from the TV series Game of Thrones, but they were real dogs that grew up to six feet long in order to hunt the megafauna of North America tens of thousands of years ago. Quite a few of their remains were preserved in the La Brea tar pits. Dire wolves were identified as a species in the 1850s, but now DNA analysis tells us more about them. For example, they weren't really wolves.

After sequencing five genomes from dire wolf fossils between 50,000 and 13,000 years old, the researchers found that the animals belonged to a much older lineage of dogs. Dire wolves, it now appeared, had evolved in the Americas and had no close kinship with the gray wolves from Eurasia; the last time gray wolves and dire wolves shared a common ancestor was about 5.7 million years ago. The strong resemblance between the two, the researchers say, is a case of convergent evolution, whereby different species develop similar adaptations—or even appearances—thanks to a similar way of life. Sometimes such convergence is only rough, such as both birds and bats evolving wings despite their differing anatomy. In the case of dire and gray wolves, lives of chasing large herbivores to catch some meat on the hoof resulted in two different canid lineages independently producing wolflike forms.

The DNA study is causing scientists to rethink how and why dire wolves went extinct, and how they should be classified. Read more about dire wolves at Scientific American. -via Metafilter


New Orleans will have "Float Houses" Instead of Parades for Mardi Gras

After last year's Mardi Gras celebrations led to a huge number of COVID cases, the parades are cancelled for this year. But New Orleans is bringing the parade flavor back anyway, by decorating houses as if they were traditional Mardi Gras parade floats! A project called "Hire a Mardi was Artist" is putting artists, float builders, and craftspeople to work transforming homes into colorful art installations. The money raised through donations pays for the work, and also helps struggling musicians and others who are impacted by the Mardi Gras cancellations. -via Boing Boing


Aphrodite Temple In Turkey Unearthed

A sixth-century BC temple dedicated to the ancient Greek goddess Athena was unearthed on the Urla-Çeşme peninsula in Western Turkey. The researchers discovered a portion of a statue of a woman, a terracotta sculpture of a female head, and an inscription which states that “this is the sacred area.”

“Aphrodite was a very common cult at that time,” team leader Elif Koparal, an archaeologist at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, tells the Hürriyet Daily News.
“From the findings, we understood that there must have been a cult area in the region,” says Koparal.
Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of beauty, love and procreation. At times, she was also associated with seafaring and war. Early sculptures show her clothed and largely similar to other goddesses, but around the fifth century B.C., artists began portraying her naked or mostly nude, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Many temples and shrines were devoted to her cult, with particular areas of strength in Cyprus and on the island of Cythera off the southern coast of Greece.
The ancient city of Aphrodisias, a Unesco World Heritage site located southeast of the Urla-Çeşme site in modern-day Turkey, was named for the goddess. Followers built a temple to Aphrodite there in the third century B.C., followed by the construction of the rest of the city, including a theater and bath complexes.

I wonder what the temple looked like in its prime.

(Image Credit: Yağmur Aydın/ Wikimedia Commons)


How Wars And Humans Evolved

“Does war bring out the bestial side of human nature or the best?” That's the question that Canadian historian Margaret Macmillan asks at the beginning of her book titled War: How Conflict Shaped Us. Macmillan has synthesized a vast body of literature about war, and she has seen how new technologies and weapons have changed the course of history, and the dynamics of war.

Steven Paulson asked her if we humans are inherently violent. This is her answer:

I come down on the side that we’re not inherently violent but we may have violent tendencies that evolution has left us. When we’re afraid, we have a tendency to lash out, but I don’t think that means we are necessarily violent. We often see examples of altruism and people living together. What is more important is why people fight—and I’m thinking of war, not just random one-on-one fighting. People fight wars because of organization, ideas, and cultural values. The more organized we are, unfortunately, the better we seem to get at fighting. War is very organized. It’s not the brawl you get outside a bar or the random violence you might get when someone feels frightened.

It is certainly a paradox that the more organized and nicer we become, the better we become at waging wars.

More about this over at Nautilus.

What are your thoughts about this one?

(Image Credit: stevepb/ Pixabay)


Danger: Electric Eels Hunt in Packs

Avoid bodies of water, such as Amazonian rivers or bathtubs. Push those creatures carefully out of your hovercraft. Electric eels are dangerous. Carlos David de Santana, a zoologist, discovered that electric eels can engage in coordinated herd attacks against their prey. BBC News quotes him:

"It was really amazing - we thought these were solitary animals," said researcher Carlos David de Santana. [...]
Douglas Bastos, from the National Centre for Amazonian research in Manaus, Brazil, filmed the behaviour - capturing the moment of the collective electric strike. Small fish, called tetras, are the target of the attack; they fly into the air and land stunned and motionless on the water.

Dr. de Santana previously made headlines when his expedition discovered an electric eel that can deliver 860 volts. If he wants to be a proper mad scientist, he could put these discoveries to villainous uses.

-via Gizmodo | Photo: Douglas Bastos


Maximizing the Expected Value of a Lottery Ticket

The Powerball jackpot now stands at $550 million, and the Mega Millions jackpot is up to $750 million. You can increase your odds of winning ever-so-slightly by buying a ticket. But how much is that $2 investment really worth, and how can we increase the odds of claiming those jackpots for ourselves without having to share with some other winner?

We propose and analyze a practical scheme to increase the likelihood of single winners, or equivalently to minimize the probability of sharing. Paradoxically, this manages to increase the expected value of a lottery ticket without costing the central authorities any additional contributions to the payoff pool. Given that larger potential winnings attract more players, we anticipate that implementation of our scheme would generate increased interest in these games, and enlarge the ostensible benefits for or from the governments running them.

Further, we demonstrate that the number of Powerball tickets bought increases quadratically with pool size, which implies that tickets become increasingly less valuable after the pool passes a critical threshold. This analysis makes it possible to determine the range of pool sizes where tickets have positive expected value. In particular, it establishes that Powerball tickets bought (under the current sales model) with pool sizes between $775.2 million and $1.6656 billion have positive expected value.

What this extremely complex mathematical analysis misses is that the "value" of a lottery ticket lies more in the pleasant fantasy it creates for the buyer than in the actual outcome. And if you win, how horrible is it to have to share a windfall that you'll never be able to spend in your lifetime anyway? In any case, the recommendations are mostly for the system that sells the tickets, in generating numbers that will be less likely to produce duplicates, although there are some tips for buying tickets. Read the calculations at Chance magazine. -via Metafilter


On Abraham Lincoln’s Convoluted Plan For the Abolition of Slavery

Abraham Lincoln's campaign against slavery was revealed in speeches he made between 1854 and his inauguration in 1861. During this time, he had retired from Congress to practice law, but was pulled back into politics by his opposition to Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas' drive to open up new territories as legal slave states. In those years, Lincoln developed possible plans for nationwide abolition.

Lincoln acknowledged how hard it would be to abolish slavery. “If all earthly power were given me,” he said, “I should not know what to do.” He imagined four possible scenarios, only the last of which he thought had any hope of success. “My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia.” He referred to the African nation as the “native land” of southern slaves, as if they were an alien presence in the United States despite having been here for generations. Yet however desirable colonization might be, Lincoln went on, “a moment’s reflection” revealed its impracticality. “If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days.” So Lincoln’s first scenario—colonization to Liberia—was whisked aside as impractical. “What then?” he asked.

You can read of Lincoln's other three scenarios for abolishing slavery, none of which involved a bloody war between the states, at LitHub. -via Damn Interesting


This is a Keurig for Ice Cream

It's called ColdSnap. A prototype for this marvel debuted at the online CES trade show. It functions similarly to a Keurig coffeemaker, except that it produces soft serve ice cream from pre-prepared pods. CNN describes how it works:

The company says the machine simultaneously pulls heat from the pod, creating a cooling effect on the liquid ice cream mix, and engages a part within the pod that churns the ingredients during the cooling process. Air is sucked into the can to make the required loft in the ice cream.

Michael Fonte, the developer, attributes the concept to his kids:

The idea started years ago when Fonte and his two daughters grew tired of reading the same books at bedtime and decided to write in "invention journals."
"We included new toys, toothbrushes and hoola hoops," he told CNN Business. "One day, they asked for an ice cream machine."

Fonte expects that the machine will cost $500 and each pod about $3 when it reaches the market.

-via Dave Barry | Photo: ColdSnap


Praying Mantises Watching TV

Four different species of praying mantises watch a small scale TV set made from a phone in their comfy living room. You might rightly assume that they have their preferences in subject matter- in this case, a cartoon of tasty, tasty butterflies. -via Laughing Squid


2020: the Game

You knew it was coming sooner or later- a game about the year 2020. Now that we've gotten through and made it to 2021, you can relive the previous year with a side-scrolling game that leads you through the major events of 2020, starting with the Australian wildfires. Use your arrows to run and leap, save the baby koalas, and... I don't know what happens after that, because I keep getting killed in the fire. The caption teases that you'll encounter a pandemic, a stock market crash, an election, and more, so if you get that far, let us know how you fare. -via Boing Boing

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