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Blue Bloods 

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

It’s likely you will learn at least two things from this article on blood and horseshoe crabs. First, horseshoe crab blood is harvested in massive quantities for use in medical tests. And second, that blood is blue.

Horseshoe Crab Blue Blood
Crazy.

Things Are Looking Up Already 

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Though the Winter solstice isn’t for another 11 days, many of us in the Northern Hemisphere have already experienced our earliest sunset of the year. How can that be? The Atlantic explains, with science.

Women Smiling With Turkeys 

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

The Atlantic is doing fine work this Thanksgiving.

Where US Currency Goes to Die 

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Rottin’ in Denmark has an interesting look at where some tattered American currency winds up: Zimbabwe. I was unable to find more information on this, but I did stumble upon this post detailing how the US generally disposes of worn-out currency.

A Soggy Dutch Dog 

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

A satellite image looked like two people looking over a bloody scene, and the Internet was all over it.

Speaking of the poor efficacy of crowdsourcing, The Atlantic covers the anatomy of a misinformation disaster from last week’s hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, while the Washington Post has in-depth coverage of exactly how expert analysis is carried out.

That’s How to Defeat Terrorists 

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

The always-reasonable Bruce Schneier’s piece following the Boston Marathon Bombing is well-worth a read.

Don’t glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a “war on terror”. Wars involve two legitimate sides. There’s only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we’re scared.

Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable — and support leaders who are as well. That’s how to defeat terrorists.

Keep calm and carry on.

Don’t Lie to Your Readers

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The Atlantic is a generally well-respected news magazine, with a popular website to which this very site often links. On Monday, however, TheAtlantic.com published “sponsor content” which very clearly ran afoul of journalistic ethics. Specifically, the website featured a post extolling the many great accomplishments of Scientology in 2012, a screenshot of which can be seen below1:

The Atlantic screenshot
How fake does that background look?

Readers around the world were taken aback by this page, in no small part due to Scientology’s extremely checkered history, particularly when it comes to the Internet. The content of the “post” was little more then a press release for Scientology wrapped up in the guise of an Atlantic article, and the indication of “Sponsor Content” was far from large. Far worse than the text of the post itself, however, was the comments section. Though they had an identical appearance to the comments seen on all other (non-sponsor) pages on TheAtlantic.com, these comments were heavily moderated, with only pro-Scientology comments being allowed. Simply put, the entire thing was an affront to everything for which journalism stands.

One can only hope that this does not represent a new trend in otherwise-quality sources of journalism. Thankfully, writer and editor Erin Kissane has done yeoman’s work in spelling out just why this whole thing is so deeply troubling. Her entire post is well worth reading, but here she is on the aforementioned comments:

But this all pales in comparison to the simple betrayal of the reader’s trust. When you fail to explicitly state that you’re blocking and deleting comments critical of your subject and your publication, you imply that you aren’t—especially when every other comments section on your website allows negative comments. You are presenting a tiny selection of comments by supporters of your client as the entire conversation. You are telling a lie

Of course, with a simple spoof, The Onion has nailed it as usual.


Footnotes:

  1. The full content of that post is archived here, via the excellent Poynter.org. Unfortunately, it seems the comments were not captured.

Finally, Some Bipartisanship 

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Back in July, The Atlantic ran a profile on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, focusing on his unrequited love for Bruce Springsteen. Yesterday, in the spirit of bipartisanship, President Obama got Christie and Springsteen in touch. And all it took was a hurricane to make it happen.

I’m off to vote, but on this election day, I’m still hoping for an answer to this question from two years ago.

Olympic Medal Miscellanea

Monday, August 13th, 2012

The Olympics have ended, which means we’ll all have to find something other than NBC’s atrocious coverage to gripe about. Before we move on to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi though, there are a few things from 2012 worth noting, particular with regards to the medals.

First up, the Olympic gold medals aren’t really gold. In fact, this year’s “golds” are 92.5% silver, 6.16% copper, and just 1.34% gold, and they’re worth around $650 or so. The silver medals can fairly be called silver, with the same 92.5% silver composition, along with 7.5% copper creating a value of around $375. The bronze medals, however, are perhaps the saddest of all. They’re 97% copper and the rest tin and zinc, which means they’re worth less than $5.

Small wonder, then, that the IOC was willing to replace Brazilian Judo competitor Felipe Kitadai’s bronze, after his country claimed he dented it in truly implausible fashion.

He wore the medal into the shower as a joke and then bit it because he didn’t want to get water on it and then the strap broke? Why not just say his dog ate it?

Of course, the prizes at the Olympics have a value well beyond their component metals. For instance, you can find a 1956 bronze medal for soccer for $12,000 on eBay. If that is indeed what the medal is for (its provenance does not seem well established), some Bulgarian will be 19090 Lev richer after the sale.

According to this post, medals have also been sold for charity.

Anthony Ervin sold his gold medal from the 2000 Olympics for $17,100, saying that it was just a symbol. He then donated the money to tsunami relief. Ukrainian boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko auctioned off his 1996 gold medal for $1 million for charity, but [it] was then returned to him by the winning bidder.

It’s rather amusing that Wladimir Klitschko is noted for his generosity here, yet the name of the even-more-generous benefactor who bought the medal and then returned it, is unknown.

Not all champions are quite so charitable, however. Some have blown all sorts of money on ridiculous things, like swimmer Ryan Lochte, seen here wearing his absurd $25,000 American flag grill.

Ryan Lochte's Idiotic Grill

As Lochte explained in an MTV article, “[f]or those who don’t know what a grill is, it’s basically a retainer filled with diamonds”. Grill designer1 Paul Wall was also quoted as saying “For mainstream America, grills went out of style, but for the hood, grills have always been in style. So grills have come around full circle, they back in style now.“

I don’t know if Wall has ever been to any part of what might reasonably be considered “mainstream America”, but grills were never in style, period. Of course, the same article indicated the grill cost “cost approximately $1,000 per tooth”, which leaves me wondering just how goddamned many upper teeth Ryan Lochte has.2

If you think there’s some chance you could ever win an Olympic medal, just know this: the speed of sound is too slow for Olympic athletes.

The electronic “pistol” of this summer’s Games was designed to overcome an astonishing problem: The speed of sound is too slow for Olympic athletes. That is to say, athletes far away from the starting pistol were delayed by the time it took for the sound to travel to them, and differences so tiny can matter in races in which the margins are so small.

You can read read the full story at The Atlantic.

Finally, here’s something only tangentially Olympics-related to close things out: a double-decker bus doing pushups.

London Booster


Footnotes:

  1. I cannot believe that’s a real job.

  2. Given Lochte’s swimming prowess, I suppose it’s possible he’s part-shark, and has multiple rows of teeth. Alternately, his grill could be for both the top and the bottom, and he may actually have an absurdly low number of teeth. Perhaps most likely, however, is that some or all of those involved just can’t do math.

Sonic Fiction 

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The Atlantic has an interesting piece on the blurred lines between reality and creation, as it pertains to televising the Olympic games. While placing microphones in unusual places is interesting, faking sounds entirely seems beyond the pale.