Aug. 13th, 2010 07:38 am
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Squid can fly.

Not that far, mind you. And it doesn't happen often. But that's probably what they said about the ancestors of Archeopteryx.
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You might think that the topic of baby names would only be of interest to you if you are actively in the process of deciding what to name a baby. You would be wrong. As the Baby Name Wizard, Laura Wattenberg uses the statistical study of baby names as a lens to look at a fascinating array of topics, from a three-part series on the racial context of baby-naming urban legends to a discussion of romance author pen names to an analysis of the New England Patriots' influence on the popularity of the name Brady.

If you find statistical analysis at all interesting (and I would give odds you've spent some time reading fivethirtyeight.com), her blog is highly recommended.
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It's official canon that a lightsaber is a short beam of very powerful destructive force, like a chainsaw or a blowtorch. Only Jedi (or Sith) can use them because you need the skills of a Jedi not to injure yourself or someone else with such a powerful weapon.

But what if it's the opposite?

It actually makes more sense to me if the blade of a lightsaber is an extraordinarily weak, but extremely precise force. The Jedi are so attuned to the Force that they can find the spaces between individual atoms and sever the bonds holding a wall or an arm together. Similarly, they can find the force of another lightsaber and block its passage. But a non-Jedi like me or Admiral Ackbar would find it easier to injure someone with a laser pointer.

This idea is based on the Taoist text Cutting Up an Ox in which a butcher explains that his skill at ox-dividing is due to the Way. He sees the "spaces in the joints" and makes so little effort that his blade is still sharp after 19 years of use.
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So there's a new study that finds that animals that look different from their fellows are less likely to get munched by predators. It's interesting enough, but I'm mainly posting because of the headline at LiveScience:

Freaks Survive Because They Are Strange

And don't you forget it!

via BoingBoing
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A small octopus at the Santa Monica Pier aquarium disassembled the recycling system valve at the top of her tank and flooded the building with 200 gallons of seawater.

The tiny octopus, which is about the size of a human forearm when its appendages are extended, floated lazily in the water that remained in its tank.

It watched intently through glass walls and portholes as workers struggled to dry the place out in time for the day's first busload of schoolchildren to arrive on a 9:30 a.m. field trip.

The only significant damage was to new flooring in some offices.

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WETA Workshops (the LoTR folks) built a beautiful and functional mermaid tail for a swimmer, Nadya Vessey, who lost both legs below the knee as a child.
The Stuff article talks about her "frolic[ing] in the harbour". A little posthuman, but definitely neat.

ETA: http://www.stuff.co.nz/4203291a6442.html has more from Ms. Vessey's point of view.

via [livejournal.com profile] jwz
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Scientists discover first-ever single-element ionic crystal. It is made entirely of boron.

The future

Nov. 12th, 2008 11:09 am
cnoocy: green a-e ligature (Default)
We live in the future. There are changes in politics, technology, and culture that were relegated to the far future in science fiction stories half a century ago. And yet, whenever people think about the future, many say, "if we live in the future, where are the flying cars?"

We live in the future.
(via Boing Boing)
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Cuttlefish embryos learn how to recognize prey visually

Remarkably, cuttlefish embryos not exposed to crabs preferred to hunt shrimp once they were born.

But those embryos exposed to crabs much preferred to hunt crabs after hatching. And the clearer the view of the crabs they were given, the greater their taste for it.
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You've all probably seen this, but I wanted to point out that the object formerly known as Xena has received the official name Eris. What's more, Eris's satellite has been named Dysnomia, after the daimon of (Lucy) Lawlessness.

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