04 December 2016

Rose light bulb

This is a vintage Aerolux neon lightbulb, probably from the 1940s.  A video shows it to flicker at a frequency of 60 hz.  More information at Neatorama.

"We can't have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation..."

Resident Rick Ligthart read from a prepared statement the changes he wanted in the school district’s policy.

“Regardless of the books, I’m recommending to the board that no literature whatsoever be inclusive of literal metaphorical, figurative or allegorical words for male or female genitals,” said Ligthart, who described himself as a former tenured high school teacher. “English classes should not be involved in sexuality in literature for our kids. It shouldn’t be in any books — no books.”

We can’t have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues, regardless of the literature,” he added. “I don’t care if it’s from Dickens or who else.”
*sigh*  I'll defer commentary, although I will note that his recommendation would also ban the Bible.


A kronkåsa (Swedish: crown cup, plural kronkåsor) is a drinking vessel where the handles are exaggeratedly long and elaborate, thus forming a kind of crown above the cup, hence the name. The crown cups made during the Renaissance were carved from a single root of spruce trees. Later copies from the 19th century were made using other types of wood. The decoration of the crown is likely derived from forms found in the woodwork details of imported late Gothic altarpieces. Many of the cups were painted brightly red.

Why you can't swim in molasses - updated

Most readers here are probably at least vaguely aware of Boston's Great Molasses Flood of 1919.  This week I found an article at Scientific American discussing the relevant physics:
A wave of molasses does not behave like a wave of water. Molasses is a non-Newtonian fluid, which means that its viscosity depends on the forces applied to it, as measured by shear rate. Consider non-Newtonian fluids such as toothpaste, ketchup and whipped cream. In a stationary bottle, these fluids are thick and goopy and do not shift much if you tilt the container this way and that. When you squeeze or smack the bottle, however, applying stress and increasing the shear rate, the fluids suddenly flow. Because of this physical property, a wave of molasses is even more devastating than a typical tsunami. In 1919 the dense wall of syrup surging from its collapsed tank initially moved fast enough to sweep people up and demolish buildings, only to settle into a more gelatinous state that kept people trapped...

At least two researchers have directly investigated how people swim in a low Reynolds number environment. Their 2004 study is candidly titled "Will Humans Swim Faster or Slower in Syrup?" Brian Gettelfinger and Edward Cussler, both engineers at the University of Minnesota, asked 16 volunteers—including a few people training for the Olympics—to swim 25 yards (22.5 meters) in a swimming pool filled with plain water and in one filled with water and guar gum...

Depending on the way it is made, molasses is between 5,000 to 10,000 times more viscous than water. The Reynolds number for an adult man in water is around one million; the Reynolds number for the same man in molasses is about 130. To make matters worse, a man immersed in molasses will not get anywhere with the kinds of symmetric swimming strokes that would propel him in water. Each repetitive stroke would only undo what was done before. Pulling his arm towards himself would move molasses away from his head, but reaching up to repeat the stroke would push the molasses back where it was before. He would stay in place, like a gnat trapped in tree sap. Even burly men struggled to tread molasses in the wake of the Boston Molasses Disaster... 
The article goes on to address the physics of bacterial propulsion in a variety of fluids.

Addendum:  Reposted from 2013 to add the photo and some excerpts from a nice article in the New York Times.
The students performed experiments in a walk-in refrigerator to model how corn syrup, standing in for the molasses, would behave in cold temperatures. With that data in hand, they applied the results to a full-scale flood, projecting it over a map of the North End. Their results, Ms. Sharp said, generally matched the accounts from the time. “The historical record says that the initial wave of molasses moved at 35 miles per hour,” Ms. Sharp said, “which sounds outrageously fast.”...

In the winter, however, after the initial burst — which lasted between 30 seconds and a few minutes, Ms. Sharp said — the cooler temperature of the outside air raised the viscosity of the molasses, essentially trapping people who had not been able to escape the wave...

A firefighter who survived the initial wave managed to stay alive for nearly two hours while he waited to be rescued, they said, but he drowned.

Do you know someone with Parkinsons?

Or any other intention tremor or arm weakness?  Consider gifting them a "self-leveling spoon" for Christmas.

This product and similar items are made by Liftware.

"Bycatch" explained

"Bycatch, in the fishing industry, is a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while catching certain target species and target sizes of fish, crabs etc. Bycatch is either of a different species, the wrong sex, or is undersized or juvenile individuals of the target species. The term "bycatch" is also sometimes used for untargeted catch in other forms of animal harvesting or collecting."
More at the link.  Here's an example, described by Bill Bryson in The Road to Little Dribbling:
"... in his book, [Callum] Roberts gives a list of all the aquatic life incidentally killed - the bycatch, as it is known - by a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean in the process of legally catching just 211 Mahi-mahi. Among the aquatic animals hauled aboard and tossed back dead in a single sweep were:
488 Turtles
455 Stingrays and devil Rays
460 sharks
68 Sailfish
34 Marlin
32 Tuna
11 Wahoo
8 Swordfish
4 giant sunfish.
This was legal under international protocols. The hooks on the longlines were certified "Turtle Friendly."  All this to give 211 people a dinner of Mahi Mahi.
Photo credit for the shrimp bycatch to NOAA's Fisheries Collection.

01 December 2016

Chechen wedding

What a lovely photo.  Credit Valery Sharifulin/Tass, via a gallery at The Guardian.

"They" as a replacement for "he or she"

That's how today's headline in The Telegraph was phrased.  I know there are several copyeditors who follow this blog.  I'd appreciate your comments.

Offered without comment

A tongue-in-cheek poster from Scarfolk, via Replaces and cancels the previous Johnnythehorse..

Democracy is not an inherently stable form of government

Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure.

For decades, global events seemed to support that idea. Data from Freedom House, a watchdog organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, shows that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Many Latin American countries transitioned from military rule to democracy; after the end of the Cold War, much of Eastern Europe followed suit. And longstanding liberal democracies in North America, Western Europe and Australia seemed more secure than ever.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year...  
According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.

Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations...

Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen to 1 in 6 in 2014, compared with 1 in 16 in 1995.

That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43 percent of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19 percent of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53 percent of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36 percent of millennials agreed...
More at the New York Times.

1938 Alfa

Image via The Age of Diesel.

Bullets from the Battle of Gallipoli

An evocative image of war, though not quite a case of res ipsa loquitur, as explained at the source.  I believe similar artifacts have been found at American Civil War battlegrounds.

If a retailer sends you too much stuff...

... you don't have to return it.
To put it simply: you can keep it. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you have a legal right to keep unordered merchandise and consider it a free gift. That’s because federal law prohibits mailing unordered merchandise to consumers and then demanding payment...

In general, though you’re not legally obligated to tell the seller, if your conscience is pushing you in that direction, the FTC suggests that you notify the seller and offer to return the merchandise, so long as the seller is the one who will pay for all of the return shipping.


As the top commentor at Reddit Pics said, "At what point does it stop being "cake" and just become "a sculpture made of fondant?"

Can someone tell me how long a creation like this would "keep"?  And would it be... edible?

Water can freeze at 100 degrees Celsius

If it's inside a carbon nanotube:
"... a team at MIT has found a completely unexpected set of changes: Inside the tiniest of spaces — in carbon nanotubes whose inner dimensions are not much bigger than a few water molecules — water can freeze solid even at high temperatures that would normally set it boiling.

The discovery illustrates how even very familiar materials can drastically change their behavior when trapped inside structures measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. And the finding might lead to new applications — such as, essentially, ice-filled wires — that take advantage of the unique electrical and thermal properties of ice while remaining stable at room temperature.
Abstract at Nature Nanotechnology.  Discussion thread at the New Reddit Journal of Science.
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