Friday, March 30, 2007

Weird science v.2

Yeah, I know we haven't posted anything in a while - sorry 'bout that. It's a lame excuse, but things really have been busy lately. Regular posting will begin again soon, but for now, put the needle on the record for ... SCIENCE!!!

France opens secret UFO files covering 50 years

by Marlowe Hood PARIS (AFP) - France became the first country to open its files on UFOs Thursday when the national space agency unveiled a website documenting more than 1,600 sightings spanning five decades.

The online archives, which will be updated as new cases are reported, catalogues in minute detail cases ranging from the easily dismissed to a handful that continue to perplex even hard-nosed scientists.


"Cases such as the lady who reported seeing an object that looked like a flying roll of toilet paper" are clearly not worth investigating, said Patenet.

But many others involving multiple sightings -- in at least one case involving thousands of people across France -- and evidence such as burn marks and radar trackings showing flight patterns or accelerations that defy the laws of physics are taken very seriously.

I saw an object that looked like a flying roll of toilet paper once, but it was after eating some bad Thai (thank you - tip your waitresses, folks!)

Conclusive proof: Vampires do not exist

The Huffington Post

Apparently some smarty-pants scientists have proven conclusively that vampires conclusively do not exist. Here's why: Each time a vampire bites someone to feed, they turn that person into a vampire, creating a cycle that doubles and doubles and doubles again, like that famous "and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on" Faberge Organics commercial from the 80's, and also like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and mitosis, kind of.

It's explained more smarter here:

If a single vampire fed on a single human in the first month, this would create two vampires -- and decrease the human population by one, leaving it at 536,870,911 - 1 = 536,870,910. In the second month, those two vampires would each feed, transforming two people into vampires -- so you get four vampires and a human population of 536,870,911 - 3 = 536,870,908. So you can see where this is headed. The vampire population is increasing in a geometric progression, and the population of humans is similarly decreasing -- and at that rate, the authors calculate, the entire human population would be transformed into vampires in only 30 months. QED!

So it isn't wooden stakes, sunlight or even Slayers that kill vampires - it's math. And Latin.

Bizarre hexagon spotted in Saturn’s clouds

One of the most bizarre weather patterns in the solar system has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole.

Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.


The hexagon is nearly 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it. The thermal imagery shows that the hexagon extends about 60 miles (100 kilometers) down into the clouds.

This is simultaneously the most disconcerting and the most awesome thing I've ever seen. I don't know what's going on with Saturn, but between this and the Eye, I think it might be a good idea to watch the skies.

Smaller Inflatable Exoskeleton

- This tiny girl is wearing what's called a "Power Jacket," which is an inflatable exokeleton that weighs only four pounds.

Japanese electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial unveils the prototype model for a "power jacket" to help patients recover from partial paralysis during rehabilitation, at the Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo.

This is cool on so, so many levels.

Scientists discover 'shadow person'

by Erica Harrison Cosmos Online

SYDNEY: Ever feel as though you're being followed? As if someone is behind you, shadowing your every move? It might be your ‘shadow person,' created by unusual activity in a specific brain region, a new study shows.

The paper, published in the British journal Nature, describes the case of a 22-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric problems who was being evaluated for treatment of epilepsy. When a region of her brain called the left temporoparietal junction was electrically stimulated, the woman described encounters with a ‘shadow person' who mimicked her bodily movements.

When the patient was lying down, stimulation of this brain region caused her to feel that someone was behind her. … When the patient sat up, leaned forward and clasped her knees, she felt that the figure was also sitting, embracing her in its arms - a feeling she described as "unpleasant."

Do you ever get the feeling scientists just dig the idea of poking people in the brain? Just to see what happens?

Class dismissed!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


We got this text message last night, which automatically became the best text message ever:

From: Tom

Baby Amelie is 8 lb 10 oz!! All ok.

9:08P Tue Mar13

Congratulations, Tom and Nina! We're so happy for you both, and we can't wait to meet the little piece of heaven. We love you guys, and we already love your daughter.

Hooray for Tom and Nina! Yay for Amelie!!

Friday, March 02, 2007

El Paso agents - activate!

It was during a visit with some friends from El Paso that we heard the news: People's Emporium had shut down.

Apparently this happened a while ago, but it was news to me. I think it was also more of a shock to me than to Lopez! because it had been one of my El Paso touchstones, one of those things that was so "El Paso," but at the same time almost out of step with the city just out of its sheer weirdness.

Imagine being a young kid, living in a part of the city that makes trips to the Downtown area seem like a rare treat. For me, this is where the action was: the main library branch, which for me always had the same spiritual vibe as a Gothic church; my aunt's bookstore; the medical building where Mom worked; the bars my dad frequented and where my sister and I would pretend to play shuffleboard and pool. And of course, People's Emporium.

It wasn't until later that I was really aware of A-1 Costumes on the second floor, with its wonderfully creaky wooden stairway and musty, heigh-ceilinged area crammed with spirit gum, latex masks and cheap bald-caps. For me, it was all about the enormous first floor, an odd cramming together of a used bookstore, a novelty shop and an occult back-room.

My parents practically had to drag me out of there every single time.

It didn't hurt that the building itself was unique. Square in the heart of the Five Points neighborhood, People's Emporium occupied a large wedge of brick painted a red that bordered on lurid, at least in my imagination.

Maybe that's what I loved so much about the place; it was somewhere my imagination could run wild, snatching up sci-fi paperbacks with one hand and fingering smoothly polished gemstones with the other, magic crackling in the grip of both. If I could steal a peek at a half-dressed woman preserved forever at the bottom of a glass ashtray, my trip could be considered a complete success.

When I heard that the Emporium had closed down, I have to admit my heart broke a little. It was one of those things a person just assumed, naively, would always be there. I still made periodic trips as an adult, either to prowl the aisles of the bookstore or to pick up some face-paint for that year's Halloween costume. It never occured to me that my last trip there would also be my final trip ever to what I considered a local landmark.

I can't help feeling as if we - me and El Paso - have lost something. Maybe not something particularly important, but certainly something special.

So here's a special request to my pals in El Paso: Does anyone have any information about the closing? Did it make the paper? Is there any chance anybody out there has a photo of the building? And while you're at it, do you have any memories you'd like to share?

For myself, I know I'll be taking a lot of pictures around town the next time I'm in El Paso - just in case.