The budget for toilet paper at the state's 280 parks is $250,000 every year, and the allocation of that money is one of the key ways that department heads in Sacramento measure a park's popularity.
Convincing somebody to follow your advice can be a grueling task. Though it may often seem like the only thing to do is continue stating your spectacularly rational argument and hope they eventually see the light, some new research suggests a counter-intuitive twist on that strategy: Initially recommending what you don’t want them to do and then contradicting yourself. [peer-reviewed by my neurons]
One of the increasingly famous paradoxes in science is named after the German mathematician Dietrich Braess who noted that adding extra roads to a network can lead to greater congestion. Similarly, removing roads can improve travel times. […] Krzysztof Apt at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands and a couple of pals reveal an entirely new version of this paradox that occurs in social networks in which people choose products based on the decisions made by their friends. They show mathematically that adding extra products can reduce the outcome for everyone and that reducing product choice can lead to better outcomes for all. That’s a formal equivalent to Braess’ paradox for consumers. [The Physics arXiv Blog]
South Koreans enjoy Internet access today at speeds that run well over 100 times faster what most Americans can get — at half the monthly cost Americans typically pay. What do we have that South Koreans don't? We have high-tech corporate execs routinely pulling in mega millions for delivering second-rate technology. The latest sign of the immense fortunes our high-tech titans are raking in: News reports last week revealed the late November sale of a Silicon Valley home for $117.5 million, the second-highest price ever paid for a U.S. residence. […] The world's wealthy once again gathered in the Alps last week to discuss how to 'solve' the world's problems. Their wealth, suggests a top global anti-poverty outfit, has become the problem. Apologists for inequality have a standard retort to anyone who calls for a more equal distribution of the world’s treasure. If you took all the wealth of the wealthy and divvied it up equally among the poor, the retort goes, no one would gain nearly enough to accomplish much of anything. Oxfam International, one of the world’s premiere anti-poverty charitable organizations, would beg to differ. The world’s top 100 billionaires now hold so much wealth, says a new Oxfam report, that just the increase in their net worth last year would be “enough to make extreme poverty history four times over.” [Too Much]
Don’t think of arid expanses like the Sahara as desolate wastelands. Think of them as near-infinite sources of clean power. In six daylight hours, Earth’s deserts soak up more energy than humanity uses in a year. Now an unlikely consortium of politicians, scientists, and economists from around the Mediterranean has a plan to harness it. “Desertec” would involve hundreds of square miles of wind and solar plants in the world’s deserts, hooked into electrical grids to funnel reliable, renewable, and affordable power to more sun-challenged regions. Planners are hoping to get solar power flowing from North Africa to Europe first. An estimated 1,300 square miles of North African desert could handle 20 percent of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. [Wired]
Two generations on, the 1946-1947 Moldovan famine remains a highly contentious and emotive issue in Moldova itself. […] One aspect of the Moldovan famine that makes its memory more fraught is the gruesome suggestion that ‘the eating of corpses took place on a large scale.’ The authorities were aware of the practice— they even showed Alexei Kosygin, then a candidate politburo member and sent from Moscow to investigate, a corpse that had been prepared for eating—and sought to stamp it out. There were stories of murder-cannibalism, including one of ‘a peasant woman from the village of Tambula’, who had ‘killed two of her four children, a girl of six and a boy of five, with a view to eating them’, and ‘another peasant from the village of Cajba’ who had‘ killed his 12-year-old grandson who had come to visit and ate him’. Cannibalism is famine’s darkest secret, a taboo topic. How common was it in the past? [SSRN]
Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of an existing or previously existing human. The term is generally used to refer to artificial human cloning; human clones in the form of identical twins are commonplace, with their cloning occurring during the natural process of reproduction. There are two commonly discussed types of human cloning: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning adult cells for use in medicine and is an active area of research. Reproductive cloning would involve making cloned humans. A third type of cloning called replacement cloning is a theoretical possibility, and would be a combination of therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Replacement cloning would entail the replacement of an extensively damaged, failed, or failing body through cloning followed by whole or partial brain transplant. [Wikipedia]
The biodesign movement builds on ideas in Janine Benyus’ trailblazing 1997 book Biomimicry, which urges designers to look to nature for inspiration. But instead of copying living things biodesigners make use of them. [...] Alberto Estévez, an architect based in Barcelona, wants to replace streetlights with glowing trees created by inserting a bioluminescent jellyfish gene into the plants’ DNA. [Smithsonian]
There was Alba, an albino bunny that glowed green under a black light. Kac had commissioned scientists in France to insert a fluorescent protein from Aequoria victoria, a bioluminescent jellyfish, into a rabbit egg. The startling creature, born in 2000, was not publicly exhibited, but the announcement caused a stir, with some scientists and animal rights activists suggesting it was unethical. […] Then came Edunia, a petunia that harbors one of Kac’s own genes. [Smithsonian]
Since the early 1980s, artist Hubert Duprat has been utilizing insects to construct some of his "sculptures." By removing caddis fly larvae from their natural habitat and providing them with precious materials, he prompts them to manufacture cases that resemble jewelers' creations. [Leonardo]
I came upon twin fawns in the display case of a mom and pop toy and science store in Kansas city, Missouri. It took me two years to win the trust of the shop owner and save the money to buy them.
Evolution Nature Corp. has been issued a special license by the New York State Department of Health, as a Nontransplant Anatomic Bank. This authorizes Evolution to store and distribute human skulls, human skeletons, and individual human bones, for medical research and/or health professional education. To comply with New York State regulations, prior to the purchase of any human skulls, skeletons or individual bones, Evolution requires all customers to complete a simple form verifying their medical affiliation. [Evolution]
Blinking is a spontaneous action that serves an important role: it spreads tears across the surface of the eye, keeping it moist and clean so that it can work properly. Yet most of us blink every three or four seconds, far more frequent than is needed for lubrication and cleaning, and exactly why is unknown. New research now suggests that blinking may also play an active role in brain function – it may “reset” our attention mechanism, enabling us to switch our focus from one thing to another. [Neurophilosophy]
One in four of us will struggle with a mental illness this year, the most common being depression and anxiety. The upcoming publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) will expand the list of psychiatric classifications, further increasing the number of people who meet criteria for disorder. But will this increase in diagnoses really mean more people are getting the help they need? And to what extent are we pathologising normal human behaviours, reactions and mood swings? The revamping of the DSM – an essential tool for mental health practitioners and researchers alike, often referred to as the ‘psychiatry bible’ – is long overdue; the previous version was published in 1994. This revision provides an excellent opportunity to scrutinise what qualifies as psychiatric illness and the criteria used to make these diagnoses. But will the experts make the right calls? The complete list of new diagnoses was released recently and included controversial disorders such as ‘excessive bereavement after a loss’ and ‘internet use gaming disorder’. The inclusion of these syndromes raises the important question of what actually qualifies as pathology. [King's Review]
One big problem with “go pills”? After taking them, soldiers need a way to come down, and fast. Which explains why military doctors dole out “no-go pills,” like Ambien. The Pentagon doesn’t have specific figures, but in 2007 Time magazine estimated 10,000 soldiers overseas were authorized to take sleeping pills. [The New Republic]
Phelps said it was alarming that the swimmers had taken the pills as a "party drug." The Australian swimming team's sleeping-pill debacle.
More than three-quarters of the food consumed in the United States today is processed, packaged, shipped, stored, and sold under artificial refrigeration. […] Despite the efforts of industry bodies, government agencies, and industrial archaeologists, this vast, distributed artificial winter that has reshaped our entire food system remains, for the most part, unmapped. What’s more, the varied forms of these cold spaces remain a mystery to most. This guide provides an introduction to a handful of the strange spatial typologies found within the “cold chain,” that linked network of atmospheric regulation on which our entire way of life depends. […] A given piece of meat typically spends twenty-one days there, where it shrinks in size by 15 percent while increasing in value by 20 percent. In addition to its preferred temperature, prime steak’s environmental requirements include 80 percent humidity levels. [Cabinet]
By now, the diamond thieves who pulled off a brazen $50 million heist on the tarmac of Brussels Airport are the most wanted men in Europe. They’re most likely lying low somewhere, waiting for the heat to die down. Soon enough, though, they’ll want to turn that loot into cash. But how does one actually go about fencing $50 million in stolen diamonds? In fact, it’s easier than you might think. Clearly, these guys planned their Feb. 18 heist well — it was fast and efficient, and it employed minimal violence in intercepting the diamonds at a moment of vulnerability. Given their professionalism, it’s quite likely that they planned just as carefully what to do with the loot. [Foreign Policy]
U.S. Postal Service to launch new clothing line in 2014. “The main focus will be to produce Rain Heat & Snow apparel and accessories using technology to create ‘smart apparel’ — also known as wearable electronics.”
The Apple Shop, in Norfolk, UK is a little corner store that sells apple products. Not Apple products, but apple products, in this case, cider. However, it's been forced to change its name to the Norfolk Cider Shop.
Can you fake your personality on Facebook? A new study says yes, but there are limits.
Sayre's law: In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.
The Most Dangerous Driving Day & Time. (Friday, 5-7 PM)