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From “Findings” in the August 2009 Harper’s.
Scientists made graduate students provoke spitting cobras into attacking them, coordinated assaults on humans by mockingbirds, induced regret in monkeys, and tickled five young bonobos, four young chimpanzees, five young gorillas, seven young orangutans, and one young siamang. They cured floppy-baby syndrome in mice, prevented honeybees from forming long-term memories, and punished with quinine bees who made bad choices. They inaugurated a $2.6 million U.S. government study to see whether Chinese prostitutes can be less drunk while working, and reported that female ducks and geese acquire “wonderfully devious” vaginas, which include forbidding spirals and culs-de-sac, only if a species’ males have penises large enough for rape. They determined that spiderwebs have just the right amount of stickiness, but they still did not know why giraffes have long necks or what fingerprints are for. After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, they found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to. They made plans to suppress fire-ant populations by spreading parasitic flies whose larvae take control of and eventually eat the ants’ brains. They found that 34 percent of scientists admitted to questionable research practices.
Model Liskula Cohen sued Google in January in the hope of forcing the company to reveal the person responsible for allegedly defamatory comments on a blog called Skanks in NYC, which was hosted by Google’s Blogger service. “I would have to say the first-place award for ‘Skankiest in NYC’ would have to go to Liskula Gentile Cohen,” the anonymous blogger wrote. “How old is this skank? 40 something? She’s a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank.” Cohen, who is actually 37, believed the posts were defamatory but was forced to take action against Google in order to unmask the blogger’s identity before she could take further action. –“Model Forces Google to Reveal ‘Skank’ Blogger’s Identity,” Asher Moses, the Sydney Morning Herald (via)
In some respects, a zombie “plague” resembles a lethal, rapidly spreading infection. The researchers say the exercise could help scientists model the spread of unfamiliar diseases through human populations. In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win? Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: “We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies. We introduce a basic model for zombie infection and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions.” –“Science Ponders ‘Zombie Attack’,” Pallab Ghosh, BBC News
Silver pocketwatch found 130 years later (via);
“it is estimated that between 95-99% of all Japanese silent films are lost (with almost none before 1923 owing to the destruction of the Nikkatsu film store in the Tokyo earthquake)”;
Roman punch, the summer refreshment of Popes
The ornate pharaonic tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings are doomed to disappear within 150 to 500 years if they remain open to tourists, the head of antiquities has warned. Zahi Hawass said humidity and fungus are eating into the walls of the royal tombs in the huge necropolis on the west bank of the Nile across from Luxor, which is swamped daily by several thousand tourists. Poor ventilation and the breath of the hordes of visitors are causing damage to the carvings and painted decorations inside the tombs, he told journalists on a tour of the royal necropolis yesterday. –“Pharaohs’ Tombs ‘Could Disappear’,” The Australian
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Number of Turkish college students detained in the last year for requesting Kurdish-language classes:
Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”