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Saturday, March 8, 2014

How Merv Griffin Came Up With That Weird Question/Answer Format for Jeopardy!

At Smithsonian mag, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings (wiki) delves into what gives the virtually unchanged game show its lasting power.

In 1963, television host and erstwhile actor Merv Griffin was flying back to New York City with his wife Julann, after a weekend visiting her parents in Michigan. Merv was looking at notes for a new game show, and Jul­ann asked if it was one of the knowledge-based games she liked.

“Since ‘The $64,000 Question,’ the network won’t let you do those anymore,” replied Merv. The rigging scandals of the 1950s had killed off American quiz shows, seemingly for good. “They suspect you of giving them the answers.”

“Well, why don’t you give them the answers? And make people come up with the questions?”

Merv didn’t know what she meant.

“OK, the answer is ‘5,280.’”

He thought a moment. “The question is, ‘How many feet in a mile?’”

“The answer is ‘79 Wistful Vista.’”

“‘Where did Fibber McGee and Molly live?’”

Those two simple questions changed TV history.

“We kept going,” Julann Griffin remembers today, “and I kept throwing him answers and he kept coming up with questions. By the time we landed, we had an idea for a show.”

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bald Man Bongos: Have you ever just wanted to slap a bald man on the head?

Hopeful Economic News - Report: Burying, Cremating Baby Boomers To Generate $200 Trillion In GDP

NEW YORK — Describing it as a burgeoning growth sector that will drive the American economy for decades to come, an encouraging new report out Thursday estimates that burying and cremating the baby boomer generation will add some $200 trillion to the nation’s gross domestic product over the next 30 years.


The report from research firm Moody’s Analytics claimed the impending deaths of the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 would spur a long, robust period of expansion, single-handedly pulling the country out of its current economic malaise and fueling a dramatic increase in wages and standards of living as the nation mobilizes its workforce to dispose of the age group’s remains.

“With so many people dying at once, the funeral industry is poised to surpass the technology and biomedical sectors and become the engine that propels our economy forward,” said economist Gerald Lang, explaining that as more and more boomers die, casket and urn manufacturers will rapidly scale up production and open scores of vast new facilities to meet the surge in demand for their goods. “We can expect job creation to skyrocket as millions are put to work building the mortuaries, mausoleums, and high-powered furnaces we’ll so desperately need. And with every single baby boomer eventually needing to be transported to a morgue, autopsied, and properly discarded, we’ll see unemployment drop to near record lows.”

“In short, the unprecedented baby boom that followed World War II is about to provide us with an equally valuable corpse boom,” he added. “And that’s welcome news for the average American’s wallet.”

Forecasts suggest that the expansion in mortuary services will be akin to the growth of tech startups in recent decades, and that coastal Florida is well positioned to become an industrial hub on par with Silicon Valley, likely serving as the chief headquarters for major Fortune 500 body bag manufacturers and headstone companies. Already, profit-minded speculators are reportedly driving up land prices to record levels in Fort Lauderdale, where thousands of condominiums will need to be razed to make room for enough cemetery plots for millions of soon-to-be dead baby boomers.

According to the report, today’s younger generations are set to enjoy marked increases in economic opportunity and annual income as their parents and grandparents die off. Hundreds of billions of dollars are set to be infused into local economies, experts stated, as a wave of prosperity flows across the country from sympathy card producers, to candlemakers, all the way down to manufacturers of easels that hold large portraits at memorial services.

The report also affirmed that the entire U.S. economy must recalibrate to meet the challenges of the death-industry-based economy of tomorrow. In particular, the report’s authors noted that chemical companies will need to repurpose their facilities to generate the 200 million gallons of embalming fluid baby boomers are expected to absorb by 2035, while the engraving industry would have to add an estimated 4 million workers to ensure the required amount of granite grave markers are properly buffed and inscribed with the names and death dates of the deceased masses.

Additionally, economists stated that ailing U.S. automakers would see a huge boost in business, with the Big Three car manufacturers reactivating dozens of long-idled plants to keep pace with the explosion in demand for hearses.

“Investors should definitely keep an eye on crematory futures­—that’s where the smart money is,” said market analyst Margaret Hughes, who predicted that facilities for the incineration of human remains will soon be on every block in urban shopping districts. “And young people would be well advised to pursue careers as coroners or undertakers. When baby boomers depart, they’re going to leave behind an entire generation of mortician millionaires.”

“Frankly, anyone who knows a thing or two about floral arrangements will be vaulted into the upper class in this new economy,” she added.

Explaining that the sooner they die, the sooner the “golden age of economic prosperity” will arrive, the report pointed to encouraging data on baby boomers’ high rates of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, all of which are expected to help accelerate economic growth to levels unseen since the digital revolution.

While many observers have said the new era of affluence can’t arrive fast enough, others remain more cautious, asking what will happen a few decades from now when most of the boomers have been buried, and the so-called casket towns expected to pop up all across the country see their single source of revenue dry up.

“Sure, it’ll be a huge windfall at first, whether you’re churning out coffins, dark-colored suits, floral wreaths, statues of grieving angels, tiny American flags, or those black pillbox hats with netted veils,” said James Keeley, 37, a small business owner in Cleveland. “But after my parents die, and all their friends die, and we complete the monumental task of getting rid of all the bodies and ashes, what happens then?”

“As much of an economic boon as the baby boomers’ deaths will be, we can’t depend on their dead bodies always being there for us,” he added. “If we’re prudent, we should already start preparing for a future without their mortal remains.”

(Yes, of course it's The Onion.)

‘Jurassic Park’ But With Cats



via The Awesomer

Friday links

Grimm fairy tales, as told by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Related: 12 Things We Learned About Buffy from Sarah Michelle Gellar's Reddit AMA.

Is Eating Your Boogers Good For You? Related: How does my nose produce so much snot so fast when I have a cold?
HD Video of Earth From Space Brings Maps to Life.


Early Explosives manual from 1530: rockets strapped to cats and birds?

Apparently "Goat Arousal Expert" is a real job.


ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, including French travel tips for visiting America and Dr. Seuss's nudes.

Is Eating Your Boogers Good For You?

From the always interesting Today I Found Out, an answer to one of those frequently pondered but rarely answered questions that plague us all:

Does physically taking boogers out of your nose, putting them in your mouth and swallowing boost your immune system? The short answer is probably not. You ingest your snot all the time without needing to channel it through your mouth. So if there is a benefit here, you get it without needing to munch your nose nuggets.

That said, there are a couple medical professionals willing to comment on the benefits of mining for green candy, particularly touting benefits to one’s immune system.

One of the more credible sounding proponents of the habit is Scott Napper, a professor of biochemistry who made waves around the world’s media outlets in 2013 when he half-heartedly proposed to a group of his students that eating one’s boogers allows our bodies to safely develop anti-bodies to the weakened pathogens present in our snot and noses. He also suggested that the reason boogers have a sugary taste is to entice children to eat them, thus helping bolster their immune systems… It’s evolution. You can’t fight it.

While he was mostly just trying to get students interested in doing science by an unconventional proposition, Napper’s hypothesis, thanks largely to the media, has since morphed into many seeming to think that he actually did some sort of study on this, and that there is evidence to support it. The truth is that to date no such study has been done, though Napper has expressed interest in doing one, and no doubt would win an IG Nobel Prize for his work if he ever does it.

Of course, as you might expect, finding a large sample size of volunteers is something of a hurdle.

Another name that comes up whenever the subject of eating boogers is mentioned is lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger. In 2004, he reasoned that eating boogers is healthy for a similar reason that Napper did. The Museum of Hoaxes did a little background check on the good doctor and noted that Dr. Friedrich Bischinger has never published a medical study on the subject and his original quote about the benefits of eating boogers comes from a poorly translated interview with a German magazine. As far as we can tell, Bischinger has never really elaborated upon his original hypothesis since then.

So without any study to date on the subject, to answer the question at hand, we’ll need to analyze the plausibility of the hypothesis. Is he correct about the microbes and other things in your nasal mucus? Yes, that’s one of the functions of it- to help filter out dust and pathogens.

But there is a problem from here. As pointed out by Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, we humans ingest our nasal mucus all the time- day and night. The wet mucus in our noses generally gets shuttled back into our throats via cilia, and sometimes via simple gravity when our heads are in the right position.

So, if you didn’t know it before reading this article, you ingest boogers every day. You might have just swallowed some right now. Think about it.

Needless to say, few medical professionals give credence to Napper’s or Bischinger’s hypothesis. In order for it to be true, there would have to be something special about the relatively dried mucus that you have to pick out over the wet or dried mucus you snort up and swallow. And there is simply no reason to think there would be any significant difference other than, potentially, moisture content.

However, not all hope is lost for you bogey fans, as Dr. Joseph Mercola notes, there’s an increasingly popular hypothesis that our obsession with cleanliness as a society is causing more of certain types of diseases because our bodies aren’t being exposed to certain pathogens regularly, and thus our immune systems are weaker as a result- the so called “Hygiene Hypothesis.”

So it is plausible enough that ingesting mucus does indeed expose our bodies to pathogens it can handle and is helping the immune system in this way. But, as mentioned above, this happens anyway. There’s no need to manually pull it out of your nose and put it in your mouth… unless of course, you like it. Either way, it’s going to end up in your stomach.

That said, while it may seem gross to those of us who’ve never tried (or don’t remember- nearly all children do this at one point or another), according to the sparse few studies that have been conducted on booger eaters, the vast number of people who eat their nasal mucus find it palatable, which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone as if they didn’t, they’d likely just stop. As Sidney Tarachow in a 1966 report on coprophagia (the compulsive eating bodily secretions) noted, “persons do eat nasal debris, and find it tasty, too!”

So to sum up, at least to date, there is no scientific proof that ingesting snot by passing it through your mouth is beneficial. That said, it is plausible that the snot we do all ingest all the time is benefiting us in the way snot-eating proponents suggest. It’s just that we don’t need to put it into our mouths to see the benefit, if such a benefit does exist as hypothesized.

In the end, though, as long as you’re careful, picking and eating is not generally going to hurt you, and many find it tasty… so, if that’s your thing, bon app├ętit!

Bonus fact:

The correct term for eating one’s own mucus is the decidedly less off-putting sounding term: mucophagy, and according to the BBC, at least 10% of people who regularly pick their nose “occasionally practise mucophagy“. Further, about 90% of the adult human population in the same survey admitted to picking their nose (a figure that climbs to 99% in younger people). So the habit is oddly common considering the extreme taboo that surrounds it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Early Explosives manual from 1530 offers images of rockets strapped to cats

Although the use of animals in warfare is widespread and well-documented, these medieval images have caught the collective imagination. A video (below) has been making the rounds in the last day or so based on a set of images originally posted in November, 2012 on the BibliOdyssey blog: Early Explosives: Grenades, projectiles, fireworks and offensive weaponry illustrations from a 16th century German manuscript.  hat post led to the involvement of Mitch Fraas, an historian at the University of Pennsylvania; he did some research into the subject and found similar images elsewhere, and information on what was actually going on.  





Turns out the manuscript was actually a guide to siege warfare, and those be-backpacked kitties are meant to burn down hard-to-access castles and the like, dying in the process. Considering, for example, the section titled “To set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise’:

“This section details how to use doves and cats loaded with flammable devices to set fire to enemy positions.

On cats the text paints a grisly picture of attaching lit sacks of incendiaries onto the animals to have them return to their homes and set fire to them.

'Create a small sack like a fire-arrow … if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place.

'And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.'"

The extract from the Russian Primary Chronicle describing the actions of Olga of Kiev (c.945 CE) is particularly striking:
“Olga requested three pigeons and three sparrows from each household. Upon their receipt, her men attached rags dipped in sulphur to the feet of each bird. When the birds returned to their nests, they lit the city on fire and the Derevlians perished in their homes.Olga’s vengeance was now complete.” The Russian Primary chronicle : Laurentian text, (Mediaeval Academy of America,1953), p.81.
Original set of images from BibliOdyssey, and they have several more. 

Ms. Codex 109 ('Feuer Buech' or 'Feuerwerkbuch' -Fireworks Book) is an anonymous paper manuscript of ~230 leaves, including more than 30 colour sketches, hosted online in full by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Fraas's article was summarized by the Atlantic.

Additional coverage at Atlas Obscura, the Associated Press and an essay from Ben Breen at the Appendix.

Here's a storified account by Fraas.



video via Globe and Mail.

Bitcoin creator, a 64yo Japanese-American who lives with his mother, revealed after years of mystery

A libertarian, Nakamoto encouraged his daughter to be independent, start her own business and "not be under the government's thumb," she says. "He was very wary of the government, taxes and people in charge."
The mysterious man behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency has apparently been unmasked. An investigation by Newsweek tracked Satoshi Nakamoto to Temple City in California, revealing him to be a 64-year-old Japanese-American man whose creation of Bitcoin was a secret even to much of his family.

"For the past 40 years, Satoshi Nakamoto has not used his birth name in his daily life," Newsweekreporter Leah McGrath Goodman wrote. "At the age of 23, after graduating from California State Polytechnic University, he changed his name to 'Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto,' according to records filed with the US District Court of Los Angeles in 1973. Since then, he has not used the name Satoshi but instead signs his name 'Dorian S. Nakamoto.'"

The Newsweek reporter "obtained Nakamoto's e-mail through a company he buys model trains from," after "scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized US citizens." That database showed one "Satoshi Nakamoto... whose profile and background offered a potential match." She exchanged e-mails with Nakamoto and met him in person at his home, but only briefly. "At one point he did peer out, cracking open the door screen and making eye contact briefly. Then he shut it. That was the only time I saw him without police officers in attendance," Goodman wrote.

Goodman also met Nakamoto "with police officers as witnesses."

"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he said. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."

Nakamoto lives with his 93-year-old mother.

Nakamoto created Bitcoin in 2008. His identity had not been revealed, and some assumed his name was a pseudonym. Gavin Andresen, described as Bitcoin's chief scientist, tried to explain why Nakamoto wanted to remain anonymous. "If you come out as the leader of Bitcoin, now you have to make appearances and presentations and comments to the press, and that didn't really fit with Satoshi's personality," Andresen said. "He didn't really want to lead it anymore. He was pretty intolerant to incompetence. And he also realized the project would go on without him."

Even when Andresen worked with Nakamoto, they only talked about code. Nakamoto "ignored all of Andresen's questions about where he was from, his professional background, what other projects he'd worked on and whether his name was real or a pseudonym," Newsweek wrote.

Andresen speculated that Nakamoto created Bitcoin for political reasons. "He doesn't like the system we have today and wanted a different one that would be more equal," Andresen said. "He did not like the notion of banks and bankers getting wealthy just because they hold the keys."

Nakamoto has an estimated $400 million worth of bitcoins but lives modestly, having not cashed them in for dollars.

Nakamoto's first job after college was working on "defense and electronics communications for Hughes Aircraft in southern California."

"He is the only person I have ever known to show up for a job interview and tell the interviewer he's an idiot—and then prove it," said Arthur Nakamoto, his younger brother.

Nakamoto later worked as an engineer for RCA, financial information service Quotron Systems Inc., and other technology companies. He was laid off twice in the 1990s and fell behind on mortgage payments and taxes, leading to a foreclosure on his family's home. "That experience, says Nakamoto's oldest daughter, Ilene Mitchell, 26, may have informed her father's attitude toward banks and the government," Newsweek wrote.

Arthur Nakamoto called his brother "brilliant" and an "amazing physicist" but also said, "My brother is an asshole. What you don't know about him is that he's worked on classified stuff. His life was a complete blank for a while. You're not going to be able to get to him. He'll deny everything. He'll never admit to starting Bitcoin."

Ilene Mitchell called it "flabbergasting" that her father could have created Bitcoin. As Goodman wrote, "Ilene Mitchell says she isn't surprised her father would choose to stay under cover if he was the man behind this venture, especially as he is currently concerned about his health. 'He is very wary of government interference in general,' she says. 'When I was little, there was a game we used to play. He would say, 'Pretend the government agencies are coming after you.' And I would hide in the closet.'"

The Newsweek article on Nakamoto is extensive and worth reading in full.

via Ars.

IRS Cartoon du jour (actually from last year but still resonates)



via Time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday links

It is mandatory to have a smile if you come across a child or pet. Even if they are ugly: 11 French Travel Tips for Visiting America. Geographically related: The Last Peach Orchards of Paris.

Old English Words We Should Still Use Today.

German Pro-Soviet Propaganda Of World War Two: The Crimea, The Jews And The Nazi Good Guys.

Dr. Seuss's Little-Known Book of Nudes: The Seven Lady Godivas (SFW)

Interactive Baby Name Visualizer: Enter a name (you can search over 29,000 names) and watch how its popularity spreads across the United States over the past century. Mouseover a state to its details.

ICYMI, Monday's links, including that crocodile-eating snake and the origins of American accents, are here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Old English Words We Should Still Use Today

13 of these old words, from Business Insider (links to more below):
Author Mark Forsyth writes about the words we've lost. From his book "Horologicon" to his Tumblr and published articles, we compiled a list of the best words that need reviving.
1. Ultracrepidarian (n):"Somebody who gives opinions on subjects they know nothing about."

Example: Too many ultracrepidarians discuss the conflict in Syria.

2. Snollygoster (n): "A shrewed, unprincipled person, especially a politician."

Example: Many consider Chris Christie a snollygoster after the Bridgegate scandal.

3. Zwodder (n): "A drowsy and stupid state of body or mind."

Example: Without my morning coffee, I remain in a zwodder all day.

4. Philogrobolized (adj): "Conveys a hangover without ever having to admit you've been drinking."

Example: Pedialyte freezer pops can save even the most philogrobized partier.

5. Grufeling (v): "To lie close wrapped up and in a comfortable-looking manner; used in ridicule."

Example: Avoid grufeling in the face of a challenge.

6. Clinomania (n): "An obsessive desire to lie down."

Example: Without adequate sleep, you'll suffer from more than clinomania.

7. Hum durgeon (n): "An imaginary illness; also "the thickest part of his thigh is nearest his arse."

Example: You should never claim hum durgeon to miss work.

8. Quomodocunquize (v): "To make money in any way that you can.”

Example: Rather than quomodocunquizing, invest your money wisely.

9. Fudgel (v): "Pretending to work when you're not actually doing anything at all."

Example: Sometimes fudgeling can actually increase your focus.

10. Snecklifter (n): "A person who pokes his [or her] head into a pub to see if there's anyone who might stand him [or her] a drink."

Example: Snecklifters never pay for their own whiskey — or offer to buy one for you.

11. Ergophobia (n): "The morbid fear of returning to work."

Example: The worst employees suffer from extreme ergophobia on Mondays.

12. Famelicose (adj): "Constantly hungry."

Example: I'm famelicose for a grilled cheese.

13. Groke (v): "To gaze at somebody while they're eating in the hope that they'll give you some of their food."

Example: My dog constantly grokes at me longingly while I eat dinner.

More articles on the same subject - some overlap but many additional old words:

20 “Forgotten” Words That Should Be Brought Back.

Borborygmus, ramfeezled and zamzodden: Weird and wonderful words we've forgotten.

30 Old Words We Wish Were Still In Use.

18 obsolete words, which never should have gone out of style.

via GeekPress.com.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday links

The Curious Case of the American Accent.

Infographic: Illustrating All the Deaths in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.

This is a fascinating story: Hotel hermit got $17M to make way for 15 Central Park West.

Childhood Pics of Super Heroes.

In Australia, Python Caught on Camera Eating a Crocodile After 5 Hour Battle.

15 Barbaric Origins Of Modern Wedding Traditions.

ICYMI, Friday's links, including a gallery of prize-winning microscopic images and a set of woman-shaming vintage ads are here.

In Australia, Python Caught on Camera Eating a Crocodile After 5 Hour Battle

Witnesses said it took hours for the snake to take the crocodile down.
A group of Australians were having breakfast near a lake in Mount Isa over the weekend when they witnessed an unexpected event: an epic battle between a snake and crocodile.
‘‘[The crocodile] was fighting at the start, so it was trying to keep its head out of water and survive,” Corlis said of the event, calling it “unbelievable.”




More information and photos at The Age

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Infographic: Best Actress Winners' Oscar Dresses - From 1929 to 2013


via Breitbart.

Infographic: All the Deaths in Shakespeare’s Tragedies

Illustrating the deaths in all of the tragedies using, apparently, the people from bathroom signs:
via io9

Spengler: Ukraine Is Hopeless … but Not Serious

Read the whole thing, by David Goldman (aka Spengler)  Excerpts:

As for the Crimea: Did anyone seriously think that Vladimir Putin would let the main port of Russia’s Black Sea fleet fall into unfriendly hands? Russia will take the Crimea, and the strategic consequences will be nil. We couldn’t have a strategic confrontation if we wanted it. How would we get troops or ships into the Black Sea area in the first place in order to have a confrontation? Perhaps the Belgiums will send in their army instead.

There isn’t going to be a war over Ukraine. There isn’t even going to be a crisis over Ukraine. We will perform our ritual war-dance and excoriate the Evil Emperor, and the result would be the same if we had sung “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” on a road trip to Kalamazoo. Worry about something really scary, like Iran.

Ukraine isn’t a country: it’s a Frankenstein monster composed of pieces of dead empires, stitched together by Stalin. It has never had a government in the Western sense of the term after the collapse of the Soviet Union gave it independence, just the equivalent of the family offices for one predatory oligarch after another–including the “Gas Princess,” Yulia Tymoshenko. It has a per capital income of $3,300 per year, about the same as Egypt and Syria, and less than a tenth of the European average. The whole market capitalization of its stock exchange is worth less than the Disney Company. It’s a basket case that claims to need $35 billion to survive the next two years. Money talks and bullshit walks. Who wants to ask the American taxpayer for $35 billion for Ukraine, one of the most corrupt economies on earth? How about $5 billion? Secretary of State Kerry is talking about $1 billion in loan guarantees, and the Europeans are talking a similar amount. That’s not diplomacy. It’s a clown show.