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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Awkward Russian glamour photos

There are thousands of these available on the interwebs; I had a really hard time choosing the most awkward and eventually ran out of time/energy to search for them. At any rate, here's a selection - feel free to link to more in the comments.  

By the way, if you know someone who likes awkward photos so much that you want a related Christmas/birthday/whatever present, there's also a book full of them called, appropriately enough, Awkward Family Photos, and a day-to-day calendar version which provides you with, presumably, 365 awkward pictures.

43 Hard-To-Explain Date Site Pics Found Only In Russia

Related posts:

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday links

The Inventor Of The Phone Was Obsessed With Sheep Nipples.

Predicting weather with bug sex.

Amish man starts Uber-esque horse and buggy ride-sharing. 

The story of the 1776 plot (from within) to murder George Washington and his senior officers.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include Milton Friedman's birthday, Beatrix Potter's botanical drawings, how to become a fossil after you die, and, from 1380, the onion test for determining whether someone is or is not dead (with bonus Monty Python).

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Herd Reich? Brit farmer turned Nazi super cows into sausage because they were too agressive

Hitler’s drive to produce the perfect Aryan race was not confined to people – it also extended to a specially bred herd of Nazi-engineered cows, which have turned out to be so aggressive that a UK farmer has been forced to turn half of them into sausages.

Heck cattle was bred by Nazis as
propaganda tools. Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill
Derek Gow imported more than a dozen Heck super cows to his West Devon farm in 2009, nearly a century after they were first created in the 1920s.

But, Farmer Gow, who is the only British farmer to own the breed, has been forced to kill seven of his herd because the cows were so aggressive they repeatedly tried to kill his staff.

“We have had to cut our herd down to six because some of them were incredibly aggressive and we just couldn’t handle them,” said Farmer Gow, who said the meat made “very tasty” sausages that tasted a bit like venison.

“The ones we had to get rid of would just attack you any chance they could. They would try to kill anyone. Dealing with that was not fun at all. They are by far and away the most aggressive animals I have ever worked with,” he said.

Comparison of the reconstructed appearance
 of the aurochs (top) with average Heck cattle (bottom)
The aggressive breed was produced by German zoologists and brothers Heinz and Lutz Heck, whom the Nazi party commissioned to produce a breed of cattle based on aurochs, a species of extinct ancient wild bull.

The resulting cows, made from wild genes extracted from domestic descendants of the aurochs, had such muscular physiques and deadly horns that they were used in propaganda material during World War II as a further illustration of the Third Reich’s strength and purity.

“There was a thinking around at the time that you could selectively breed animals for Aryan characteristics, which were rooted in runes, folklore and legend. What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval,” said Mr Gow.

“The reason the Nazis were so supportive of the project is they wanted them to be fierce and aggressive. When the Germans were selecting them to create this animal they used Spanish fighting cattle to give them the shape and ferocity they wanted.” Fresians and Simmentals were also part of the breeding process.

Aurochs, or Bos primigenius, died out in 1627 in Poland. 
The aurochs were a species of wild bull that had once roamed the forests of Europe but were hunted to extinction in the 17th century. The brothers' imitation was slightly shorter than the original, but retained the muscular body, deep brown complexion and shaggy, coffee-coloured fringe.

The cattle were mostly destroyed after the fall of Nazism in 1945, although some have survived in European nature conservation parks.

Although many of Farmer Gow’s herd were aggressive, others were calm and quiet, he said, adding that he has no regrets.

A painting by Heinrich Harder showing an
aurochs fighting off a Eurasian Wolf pack
“Since they have gone it is all peaceful again. Peace reigns supreme on the farm. Despite these problems, I have no regrets at all. It has been a good thing to do and the history of them is fascinating,” he said.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Predicting weather with bug sex

In this scientific study, the authors examined how the weather—or, more specifically, atmospheric pressure changes – affects the sexual behavior of insect species, specifically the curcurbit beetle, the armyworm moth, and the potato aphid. They found that any change in the atmospheric pressure caused the bugs to be less frisky, likely to protect themselves in situations involving high winds and heavy rains.

Potato aphids were less interested in mating
 when pressure changes heralded a storm.
When they measured the male beetles’ response to female sex pheromones under the different conditions, they found a significant decrease in pheromone response when air pressure fell compared to stable or increasing pressure.

Furthermore, 63 percent of males started copulating faster in the presence of females during dropping atmospheric pressure, a condition associated with high rains and winds. By contrast, under stable or rising air pressure conditions, all males showed full courtship behavior.

Additionally, the amount that female armyworm moths and potato aphids showed mate-attracting behavior was also measured under the three atmospheric conditions.

The female armyworms’ calling was reduced during decreasing air pressure, but the potato aphid showed reduced calling during both decreasing and increasing air pressure, two conditions that can occur with high winds. In both cases, reduced calling went hand-in-hand with reduced mating behavior.

Generic bug sex picture
“The results presented show that three very different insect species all modify aspects of their sexual behavior in response to changing barometric pressure,” explained co-author Dr José Maurício Simões Bento from the University of São Paulo.

“However, there is a great deal of interspecific variability in their responses that can be related to differences in size, flight ability and the periodicity of mating.”

More at Nature and Discover, and here's the full study: Weather Forecasting by Insects: Modified Sexual Behaviour in Response to Atmospheric Pressure Changes

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for a long time, although I've personally always thought that it's a bad idea to teach generations of kids that nuclear waste is not only healthy but will, in fact, turn you into a superhero. They're kind of like Toxic Avenger but not as gross-looking.

So, here's some history:

via Neatorama:
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for over thirty years, in so many different iterations that you need a script to keep up. Your favorite version probably depends on what age you were when you were introduced to them, and what comic/cartoon/movie was hot at the time. As we retrace their history through this video, you’ll be treated to lots of TMNT trivia along the way.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday links

July 27 is free-market economist Milton Friedman's birthday: here are some favorite quotes and short videos. And Beatrix Potter's birthday is this weekend: in addition to Peter Rabbit et al, she produced some gorgeous botanical drawings.

How to build a mountain range.

Stealing Passwords by Reading Thermal Residue on Keyboards.

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead (the onion test), plus bonus Monty Python.

How the tiniest plot of land in Manhattan came to be.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include cutting hair with fire, the instant pot of the 1600s known as the Digester of Bones, the 2018 UK snail racing championship, and for Aldous Huxley's birthday, an audio of him narrating Brave New World.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

MIlton Friedman's birthday

There are so many excellent quotations from Milton Friedman that it's impossible to choose - I've included a few below, but feel free to add more in the comments.

Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government-- in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.

Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink, and make the combination worthless. 

The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. 

Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation. 

Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government

I would cut the real taxes borne by the American people by cutting all government spending ten percent across the board. 

I am favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible.

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

~ Milton Friedman (wiki) (variously attributed) 

The long-term solution to [to high unemployment] is to increase the incentive for ordinary people to save, invest, work, and employ others. We make it costly for employers to employ people, and we subsidize people not to go to work. We have a system that taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.*

~ Friedman (in U.S. News and World Report, 7 March 1977) 

July 27 is the anniversary of the birth of Nobel prize-winning American economist Milton Friedman (wiki) (1912-2006) in Brooklyn, New York. Friedman studied at Rutgers, Chicago, and Columbia and earned his Ph.D. in 1946. He was widely regarded as the leader of the "Chicago School" of monetary economics, which stressed the quantity of money as the cause of business cycles and inflation and thus the importance of government monetary policy. 

With his wife, Rose D. Friedman, he wrote many books and a series of columns for Newsweek between 1966 and 1983, also serving as an advisor to President Reagan from 1981 to 1989. Friedman received his Nobel prize in 1977 for his contributions to quantitative economic science. He is also credited with the well-known observation, "There's no such thing as a free lunch," but in fact it probably appeared in common parlance after the "free lunch" became customary fare in saloons around 1840 - when you had to buy a beer to obtain it. The Chicago-school economists began using this phrase regularly in articles and speeches in the 1970s. 

Be that as it may, Friedman did note in his book, Capitalism and Freedom,

"History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition."

* N.B. But I would add that "nonwork" includes the fiscal chicanery and crony capitalism that merely moves money around without producing any tangible product - to the enormous financial advantage of the movers and disadvantage of taxpayers.

There are a lot of videos of Friedman discussing various topics - below are a few short ones that give you a feel for him and his policies:

On greed:

Why drugs should be legalized:

On the minimum wage:

Socialism is force:

Responsibility to the poor:

Thursday links

For Aldous Huxley's birthday, here's an infographic of Huxley vs Orwell, a letter from Huxley to Orwell explaining why he (Huxley) was right, and audio of Huxley narrating Brave New World.

The Instant Pot of the 1600s Was Known as the Digester of Bones.

Physics is allowing us to read scrolls from Pompeii.

Apparently, cutting hair with fire is a thing.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include 17th century infertility remedies, how tech's richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse, what happens to Sherlock Holmes mail, and, for NatGeo's Shark Week: the Batman 1966 Shark Repellent Bat Spray scene.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python

BL Harley 3140, f. 39r (14th c.)
We all know that the old ways are frequently the best; that may turn out to be the case here, but I think we need further testing.  I would personally rather not be declared dead based on the onion test.   
"Moreover, if there is any doubt as to whether a person is or is not dead, apply lightly roasted onion to his nostrils, and if he be alive, he will immediately scratch his nose." 
Johannes de Mirfield, Breviarium Bartholomei (c. 1380-95)

Of course, it's impossible to think about being not quite dead without thinking of the Monty Python (wiki) "Not Dead Yet" scene from Holy Grail:

Wednesday links

For NatGeo's Shark Week: here's the Batman 1966 Shark Repellent Bat Spray scene, a Lego re-enactment, and Mythbusters "Essence of Dead Sharks" shark repellent test.

The length of a music single was determined by the weight-driven pulley system on a 1920's recording machine  - it allowed approximately three and a half minutes to record before a 100 pound weight hit the floor.

Sherlock Holmes gets a lot of mail. What happens to it?

17th century infertility remedies.

How tech's richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse.

A free online course offered by MIT: How to Win at Texas Hold 'Em.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a brief history of prosthetic limbs, the anniversary of the 20th of July plot (the unsuccessful bomb attempt to kill Hitler in 1944), the science of the perfect s'more, and an analysis of the Bayeux Tapestry's 93 penises. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

For NatGeo's #SharkWeek: the Batman 1966 Shark Repellent Bat Spray

I'm reminded of this every year during Shark Week - in the clip below, Adam West's 1966 Batman fends off an angry about-to-explode shark with a can of shark repellent spray. That scene was actually rather faithful to the early Batman comics, which show that the Dark Knight does, indeed, carry around a can of shark repellent with him at all times. You know, just in case.

So, Batman is hanging from the Bat-copter (on the Bat-ladder) and is attacked by an about-to-explode shark. He wrestles with it for a bit and tries a few ineffectual Bat-punches to the shark’s head and body, then grabs his Bat-radio and asks Robin to throw him down a can of Shark Repellent Bat-Spray. This is stored in the Bat-copter along with three other “Oceanic Repellent Bat Sprays” designed to fend off, in addition to sharks, whales, manta rays and barracudas. Too bad Steve Irwin didn't think to carry those.

There is, of course, a Lego re-enactment:

Kind of related: Mythbusters on Does "Essence of Dead Sharks" Work as Shark Repellent?:

More at Fact Fiend.


Here's the 1983 episode of The Family Feud: the cast of Gilligan's Island vs the cast of Batman.

The Evolution of Batman in Cinema: From 1939 to Present.

Looking for gift ideas for that special someone?

Yes, of course they have them at Amazon, for both men and women.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday links

It's the anniversary of the 20th of July plot, the unsuccessful bomb attempt to kill Hitler in 1944.

The Bayeux Tapestry with knobs on: what do the tapestry’s 93 penises tell us?

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon

The Scientific Quest For the Perfect S'more.

Ye Oldest Public Library in the English Speaking World.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the physics of how lawn mower blades cut grass (at 50K frames per second), spiders flying by using electricity, and the anniversary of the beginning of the atomic age (the 1945 Trinity nuclear test).

It's the anniversary of the 20th of July plot, the unsuccessful bomb attempt to kill Hitler in 1944

Unhappy German nation, how do you like the Messianic role allotted to you, not by God, nor by destiny, but by a handful of perverted and bloody-minded men? 

A few days before the attempt: Stauffenberg standing 
to attention, left, as Hitler visits the Wolf's Lair. To 
the right is Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, later 
executed as a war criminal
In Germany, they came first for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak up. 

Pastor Martin Niemöller (attributed, in the Congressional Record of 14 June 1968) 

The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one's self a fool; the truest heroism is to resist that doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when it be obeyed. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Blithedale Romance, Ch. 2) 
Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland!
(Long live our sacred Germany!)
~ Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (wiki) (last words before a firing squad, 21 July 1944) 

Stauffenberg's bomb failed to kill Hitler after a general moved 
the briefcase containing the device; as a result the Nazi leader 
was shielded by a heavy oak table
Today is the anniversary of the denouement of the nearly-forgotten "20th of July" plot (wiki) in 1944, when a courageous, but incredibly quixotic, group of old-fashioned German patriots under the leadership of Army officer Count Claus von Stauffenberg (wiki) (1907-1944)* sought to achieve a compromise end to World War II in Europe by assassinating Adolf Hitler in his headquarters at Rastenburg, East Prussia, preparatory to opening peace negotiations with the western allies (i.e., excluding Russia). The conspiracy involved a number of high-ranking officers, including Generals Ludwig Beck and Friedrich Obert, but collapsed when a bomb placed by Stauffenberg himself failed to kill Hitler, and plans to seize Berlin fell through.  

Within a day Stauffenberg and the other ringleaders had been executed, but thousands of known opponents of the regime were killed also, and Field Marshals Erwin Rommel, Erwin von Witzleben, and Günther von Kluge were implicated and forced to commit suicide**. Ironically, within a year, the Third Reich had collapsed and Hitler was dead. English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) once wrote,
"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die."
* N.B. Stauffenberg, a devout Roman Catholic, was born to a Bavarian noble family, entered a traditional cavalry regiment in 1926, and became an officer in the German Army in 1930. Despite growing misgivings about Nazi policies, he fought loyally in Poland, France, Russia, and Tunisia until he was seriously wounded in the latter, losing an eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. Subsequently, he served in several staff positions. Throughout his career, Stauffenberg seems to have been drawn to various anti-Nazi movements, and his war experiences, especially in Russia, intensified his feelings of unease with the regime. The 2008 motion picture Valkyrie presents a somewhat fictionalized version of the 20 July plot. 

** Stauffenberg got off easy. Eight of those executed were hanged with piano wire from meat-hooks and their executions filmed and shown to senior members of the Nazi Party and the armed forces.

British Pathe has a newsreel which includes footage of the aftermath of the bomb:

And an additional newsreel, apparently from shortly after the end of the war:

Related posts:

The Herd Reich? Brit farmer turned Nazi super cows into sausage because they were too aggressive.

January 27, 1945 - the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz

Further reading:

The definitive source: Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich.

Parts of the text above are adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday links

The Physics of How Lawn Mower Blades Cut Grass (at 50K frames per second).

On July 16, 1945 the atomic age began with the Trinity nuclear test. Related: 1954 film: How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Survive the Atomic Bomb

Kazakhstan tax dollars at work: this 40 foot tall squirrel statue is part of an art project commissioned by city authorities.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky, the history of trial by combat, Bastille Day, Mozart's less family-friendly works, and how local authorities are surveilling U. S. citizens.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Physics of How Lawn Mower Blades Cut Grass (at 50K frames per second)

Interesting Engineering on Smarter Every Day's super slow motion video (below) of a lawnmower: ordinary lawnmower sucks air up into the mower body causing the grass to stand vertically, which allows the blade to slice evenly at the bottom of the grass.
To demonstrate this in another way, a vacuum hair clipper does the same thing. It sucks hair into it before it is cut so that a really precise cut can be made. The lifting of the grass is actually caused by the tab on the back of the mower blade which causes air lift and raises the grass up.
By filming a lawn mower in action with a super fast camera, that in turn gives wonderful slow motion, you can see the blades of grass being lifted up just before being cut.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Paraskavedekatriaphobia: Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?

In case you were trying to work it out for yourself, the name of this phobia in Pig Latin is araskavedekatriaphobiapay.

Superstition, bigotry, and prejudice, ghosts though they are, cling tenaciously to life: they are shades armed with tooth and claw. They must be grappled with unceasingly, for it is a fateful part of human destiny that it is condemned to wage perpetual war against ghosts. A shade is not easily taken by the throat and destroyed. 

~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Today is Friday, the 13th, which superstition holds is a day for bad luck. According to folklorists, there is no written reference to this belief before the 19th century. The earliest known reference in English occurred in an 1869 biography of composer Gioacchino Rossini, which described the irony of his dying on an "unlucky" Friday, the 13th. 

The basis for the superstition may lie in the fact that 13 has long been held to be an unlucky number and Friday an unlucky day - hence the combination. It has been estimated that something like 20 million people are affected by this belief in the United States, many of them changing their normal routines on this day to avoid "the curse." The Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics claims that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of a month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home." This seems to be confirmed by Dutch auto accident data.

This Nat Geo article discusses the phobia with Donald Dossey, founder of a Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina (and also a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun): he says that fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient, separate bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day.

Dossey traces the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

"Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day," said Dossey. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.

There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware in Newark, said the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12.

According to Fernsler, numerologists consider 12 a "complete" number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus.

In exceeding 12 by 1, Fernsler said 13's association with bad luck "has to do with just being a little beyond completeness. The number becomes restless or squirmy."

Judas, the apostle w­ho betrayed Jesus, was the 13th person to arrive at The Last Supper
This fear of 13 is strong in today's world. According to Dossey, more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.

On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half. In France socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.

As for Friday, it is well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th.

Related: 13 Reasons People Think the Number 13 is Unlucky.

Friday links

Apocalypse alert: supermoon, solar eclipse and Friday the 13th. Paraskavedekatriaphobia: Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?

July 14 is Bastille Day. Here's Jonah Goldberg's classic article on the subject: The French are Revolting.

A Brief History of Trial by Combat.

Supercut: 100 Greatest One-Liners Before The Kill.

Mozart’s Much Less Family Friendly Works (Some NSFW language - apparently his sense of humor had a scatological component).

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include the 19th century fight over Sunday mail delivery, the art and science of creating ice in the desert 2,000 years ago, sporting pastimes from the Georgian era, and some male contraceptive advice (just wear a polyester sling, and let the heat and electrostatics do all the work), with bonus Monty Python.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thursday links

The massive 19th century fight over Sunday mail delivery.

The U.S. Air Force Learned to Code and Saved the Pentagon Millions.

Male contraceptive advice: just wear a polyester sling, and let the heat and the electrostatics do all the work, with bonus Monty Python.

Skittles and Nine Holes, or Bumble Puppy: sporting pastimes in the Georgian era.

The Cutting-Edge Science That Can Turn Everyday Objects, Like a Bag of Chips, Into a Listening Device.

How People Created Ice in the Desert 2,000 Years Ago: the ancient art of "night-sky cooling."

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include Nikola Tesla's birthday, the U. S. Navy's 1920's ice cream barge, how alcohol and caffeine helped create civilization, and eye-searing fashion ads from the 1970's.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Male contraceptive advice: just wear a polyester sling, and let the heat and the electrostatics do all the work

Hey, it's science! 

So, is birth control just a women’s issue? Men are equally involved in producing a baby, and there are a few male-centric birth control options (i.e., condoms) available. But there’s definitely room for new male contraceptives–especially ones that aren’t permanent and don’t require last-minute application. And that’s where the polyester comes in. 

No, not this kind of sling, dummy.
Apparently, simply wearing a polyester sling (I suppose you could get one that isn't polyester, and line it yourself) around the scrotum can produce sperm-free semen (azoospermia), presumably from the heat (what’s sweatier than polyester?) and the electrostatics. The sling must be worn for months before it’s effective, and it takes another couple of months, after removal, to reverse the effects.

This makes sense, if you give it any thought (which I never have) because your balls hang low for more than one reason, and one of those reasons is temperature regulation. In order for sperm to mature successfully, they need to be kept a few degrees lower than normal body temperature, so keeping them below the body is a good way to keep things cool. 

Related stuff: 

Swinging high and low: Why do the testes hang at different levels? A theory on surface area and thermoregulation. 

and this:

Scrotal Asymmetry In Man And Ancient Sculpture which discusses the fact (?) that the left side generally seems to hang lower. 

Previous studies in dogs wearing polyester underpants showed that the dogs had reduced sperm count under those conditions:
"A recent study has shown that dogs, while wearing polyester underpants, had a diminished sperm count which was reversible when the pants were removed. In contrast, dogs wearing cotton pants showed insignificant semen changes.”
Here's the abstract from the paper on humans mentioned back at the beginning of this post (I don't, unfortunately, have a link to the dog paper), which, by the way, also fits into the "tax dollars at work" category, since it's from the NIH:

"Every 2 weeks, a physician at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in Egypt examined 14 32-47 year old male volunteers wearing a polyester scrotal sling day and night for 12 months to determine if polyester fabrics can act as a contraceptive in men. 

They changed the sling only when it became dirty. None of the men dropped out of the study. The sling did not cause any complications or reactions. Their partners took an oral contraceptive until 3 sperm samples proved the men to be azoospermic. The men became azoospermic from 120-160 days (mean 139.6 days) after 1st putting on the sling. They remained azoospermic throughout the study. None of the partners became pregnant during the study. All 5 couples who wanted a pregnancy after the study period did indeed conceive. 4 had normal live births and 1 a miscarriage. The volume of their testicles fell greatly from 22.2-18.6 sd ml during the 12 months (p.05), but returned to pretest levels 75-135 days after removal. Further the mean rectal-testicular temperature difference was lower 3 months after wearing the sling than it was before they wore it (1.3-3 degrees Celsius; p.001). 3 months after they stopped wearing the sling, the mean rectal-testicular temperature difference reverted to normal. 

The polyester in the sling generated greater electrostatic potentials during the day than at night (326-395 volt/sq. cm. vs. 142-188 volt/sq. cm.; p.01). This was a result of the friction between the scrotum and the polyester sling. Germ cells of the seminiferous tubules still exhibited degenerative changes 6 months after removal of the sling. Within 140-170 days after removal, sperm concentration levels returned to pretest levels (40 million/ml). Apparently the electrostatic field effect and the disordered thermoregulatory effect of the polyester sling produced azoospermia. In conclusion, the sling is a safe, acceptable, inexpensive, and reversible method of contraception in men.”

Borat's mankini might work

 for this purpose
Somewhere in reading about this stuff I ran across this (read the whole thing), on the dangers of blogging (if you're male, that is):
When bloggers write, with laptops, seated,
Bits of them get overheated—
Sitting in their rooms, retreated
To their hidden cloisters.
If I should hear “Well done! Well done!”
I hope they mean my writing’s fun
And not some cruel and heartless pun
About my mountain oysters.
That reminded me of the Family Guy episode "Hell Comes to Quahog" (I couldn't find it on youtube), which is the episode in which Superstore comes to town. It's just after Peter gets a job at Superstore :
Peter: Boy Meg, I am so looking forward to this job. 
Brian: Peter, I can't believe you're working for Superstore USA. How could you sell out like that? 
Peter: Because Brian, they have industrial sized air conditioning. And I'm tired of sitting in ball soup.
And, of course, it's impossible to touch on this subject without including Monty Python's classic Every Sperm is Sacred skit from The Meaning Of Life: