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The Importance of Punctuation

YouTube link.

A recent post about a newscaster's gaffe prompted me to seek out this classic clip.  It was first posted on YouTube almost five years ago, but is worth viewing as an example of the importance of punctuation - specifically, that a period should signify a full stop.

The text as it was written for the newscaster:

“Good evening, I’m Ken Bastida; Dana is off tonight.

He was murdered and set on fire while celebrating his birthday. The body of Jimmy Frezshi was found by firefighters on Monroe Street…"

The result as it was read off the teleprompter:

“Good evening, I’m Ken Bastida. Dana is off tonight; he was murdered and set on fire while celebrating his birthday.

The body of Jimmy Frezshi was found by firefighters on Monroe Street…"

Shetland Pony Grand National

YouTube link.

This steeplechase features children riding Shetland ponies.
Since its inception this yearly series of races, which culminates at Olympia, has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity. This year the chosen charity is Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Between 50 and 60 jockeys and ponies have travelled the length and breadth of the country during the season all hoping to be the lucky 10 who make it to the prestigious Olympia week.

Re the thrown rider, the announcer's comment seems to be "These young children - they do bounce, they do bounce."

http://www.olympiahorseshow.com/programme02/, via Metafilter.

The Bechdel Test

YouTube link.

"The Bechdel test" requires a movie to pass three questions:

1)  Does it have two or more women in it (who have names) ?

2)  Do they talk to one another?

3)  Do they talk to one another about something other than a man?

Many movies apparently don't pass the test...

Via Sociological Images.

Ball Rolls Down an Incline Verrrry Slowly....

YouTube link.

The video demonstrates an unusual phenomenon that is NOT an optical illusion.  The physical principles involved are self-evident once you see how the "magic ball" is constructed.  Best of all, you can make one of these at home with simple hobby-store materials and impress neighborhood children and intoxicated adults.

Meet the Turtle Ant



Cephalotes varians ants live in pre-existing cavities in trees and branches, so one class of their workers has developed a most unusual adaptation.
Turtle ants aren't fighters. Rather, they're all about defense. If a colony gets hold of an old beetle burrow, the heavily armored majors will plug the entrance with their head shield and sit tight, budging only to let their nestmates pass. They are literally living doors.

Found at Myrmecos.  Elsewhere in the blog you can read about "formicophilia" (a newly named paraphilia).

Swingless Golf Club

YouTube link.

With an exciting final round of the Masters Tournament pending at Augusta National Golf Club, this seems an appropriate time to post a video of a golf club that uses an explosive charge to propel the ball.
The club uses a plastic strip of five (5) small powder charges, called a Power Strip. Energy from the charge drives the striker in the club head forward to hit the ball. An adjustable range control enables shots from approximately 25 to 200 yards. The handle grip has two parts - the upper grip slides up a few inches to cock the club, and the lower grip has the safety and the trigger. Holding the club like a regular driver, position it on the grass about an inch behind the ball (no tees needed) and press the safety and the trigger on the lower grip. With no swing involved there are no divots, fewer errant shots and fewer lost golf balls.

This would be the club of choice for Anton Chigurh.

Link.

The Biomimicry of the "RoboClam" Boat Anchor



Even the best-designed boat anchors are suboptimal in their holding power; when they drag across the floor of a lake or ocean they can do extensive damage to their surroundings.  Now researchers at MIT have developed the prototype of an anchor that drills into the sediment using the same mechanism employed by a clam.
The clam first wiggles a fleshy foot into the sand below and pushes its shelled body upward. This creates a tiny pocket of space under the shell, which sucks in both water and sand. At the same time, it clamps shut its shell with a pronounced twitch that creates more slick slurry, while pumping blood into the extended foot.

The RoboClam prototype is powered by compressed air; production models will have internal power sources and will be able to "unset" themselves with minimal disruption of the seabed.

Link, and related video.  Photo: RoboClam on the right, and a razor clam on the left. (Donna Coveney/MIT)

The Streets of San Francisco in 1905/06

YouTube link.

"In 1905, an unknown cameraman filmed a streetcar trip along San Francisco's Market Street. The following year, the Great Earthquake struck, and he filmed the trip again. This is a five-minute silent film that edits together excerpts of his two films. Footage from the Prelinger Archives, edited by Matt Lake."

Perhaps the more startling aspect of the video to a modern viewer is the realization that a century ago people walked, ran, drove, rode bicycles and horses wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted in the streets.  The first electric traffic lights weren't invented until a decade after these segments were filmed.

Via ArchaeoBlog.

.9999999... Is Equal to 1.000000

And now for something completely different.  A math puzzle.  Or conundrum, if you will.

In the figure to the left, the bar above the number 9 indicates that it is to be repeated forever.  For the remainder of this post, we will represent that concept by several nines with an ellipsis (.999...).

Now, here is the conundrum.  .9 repeating is EQUAL TO ONE.   Not CLOSE to one, mind you, but EQUAL to one.

Nonsense, you reply.  It is obviously less than one.  Not by much - by an infinitely small amount, in fact.  But the simple fact (?) that it is not one is enough to demonstrate that it can't be equal to one.  It's as close as you can get to one without being one.

Wrong.  It is in fact equal to one, and that fact can be demonstrated mathematically in several ways.

The most easily understood is to revert to other familiar repeating digits.  Everyone knows that 1/3 is 0.333... and that 2/3 is 0.666...  If you add them together, you get 3/3, which is one.

But now note that the sum of the decimals on the right side of the equation is 0.999...

Therefore, one is equal to (not close to) .999...

You don't agree?  Then try this.  Subtract .999... from one.  What you have is 0.000...  An infinitely long string of zeroes, which can only be equal to zero.  And if the subtraction of .999... from one leaves zero, then the .999... must be one.  But, you say, there's a one at the end that string of zeroes.  No, there isn't, because the string of 9s doesn't end.

There are other proofs at the Polymathematics blog, along with a long series of comments, an update refuting the counterarguments, and a final refutation of the most stubborn skeptics.

Link.

The Most Reproduced Work of Art in the World



The world's first adhesive postage stamps were issued by Great Britain in 1840, with the issuance of the "Penny Black" depicting Queen Victoria.  Thus began the convention of designating British stamps by the depiction of the country's sovereign.  Great Britain is the only country allowed by international postal regulations to omit a text name of the issuing country, which allows artists much greater flexibility in the creation of stamp designs.

In 1966 Arnold Machin sculpted a bust of Queen Elizabeth for the Royal Mail.  This "Machin head" has been in continuous use since then, and has thus been reproduced some 320 BILLION times.  Three copies of the original bust were known to exist, but recently a fourth one was discovered at the Machin family home.

In October the Queen's head will be sold to the highest bidder; it is expected to fetch £10,000.

Link.  Photo: BNPS.co.uk

Cardini's Sleight of Hand

YouTube link.

After an introduction by Ernie Kovacs, Richard Valentine Pitchford ("Cardini") performs the "intoxicated English gentleman" routine that made him famous.  This recording from the "Festival of Magic" television program in 1957 is the only known footage of Cardini in action.  He reportedly developed his ability to manipulate cards with gloved hands by practicing while in the trenches during WWI.

Via Professor Hex.

A Normandy Veteran Meets The President


The context of the photo is explained at the White House's Flickr photostream:
June 6, 2009
“After his speech in Normandy, a crush of people tried to get close to the President to shake his hand. I noticed this guy waiting patiently and then literally being pushed back into the crowd. I felt bad for him, and mentioned the incident to the President’s trip director, Marvin Nicholson. Marvin pulled the guy out of the crowd, found him a wheel chair, and brought him over to meet the President. He was a French veteran. The man’s face shows his emotion.”

Official White House photo by Pete Souza, via Reddit.

Spray-on Liquid Glass. Miracle Product? Or a Hazard?

The product isn't liquid glass in the sense of molten glass, but rather a nanoparticulate form of glass developed and patented by Nanopool, a German-owned company based in Turkey.
The liquid glass spray produces a water-resistant coating only around 100 nanometers (15-30 molecules) thick. On this nanoscale the glass is highly flexible and breathable. The coating is environmentally harmless and non-toxic, and easy to clean using only water or a simple wipe with a damp cloth. It repels bacteria, water and dirt, and resists heat, UV light and even acids. UK project manager with Nanopool, Neil McClelland, said soon almost every product you purchase will be coated with liquid glass.

Because a glass-coated surface resists soiling, the process is envisioned to be used extensively in hospitals, coating equipment, catheters, and bandages.
The spray cannot be seen by the naked eye, which means it could also be used to treat clothing and other materials to make them stain-resistant. McClelland said you can “pour a bottle of wine over an expensive silk shirt and it will come right off”.

The photo in the insert is of Alec Guiness, who famously portrayed "The Man in the White Suit," a character whose invention of unstainable clothing turned out to be a mixed blessing.  Other factors to consider include the substance itself - silicon dioxide.  When inhaled in macroparticulate form it can cause silicosis of the lungs; nanoparticles may have different toxicity, although none apparently have been reported with this product.  Yet.

Link, via RedditPhoto via.

What To Do if Your Vehicle's Accelerator is Stuck

YouTube link.

The images in the video are "safe for work," but the audio is of a 911 call with a lethal outcome, so those sensitive to such tragedies might consider leaving the video "under the fold."

Toyota has released some advice re what to do in their vehicles if the accelerator pedal becomes stuck:
• If you need to stop immediately, the vehicle can be controlled by stepping on the brake pedal with both feet using firm and steady pressure. Do not pump the brake pedal as it will deplete the vacuum utilized for the power brake assist.

• Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.

• If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.

• If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.

• If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.

Another excellent source of advice is an article at Car and Driver about coping with unintended acceleration.

Via Reddit, where there is an informed discussion thread.

The Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khafre, as seen from... Pizza Hut



Conventional photographs of the Sphinx, such as the one featured in this month's issue of Smithsonian magazine, are taken looking west and give the impression that the figure and the three pyramids sit in a remote Egyptian desert. The reality is that urban development of Cairo and Giza have brought the cities to within easy walking distance, as one can see from a Google satellite view.  This photo, taken from inside a nearby fast food location, emphasizes that reality in a dramatic fashion.

Photo credit. Via Reddit.

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