Archive for the 'humor' Category

Did I accidentally kill Robert McNamara?

July 6, 2009

[I wrote this in as an update to my self-love post, but really it’s a stand-alone post, so I reproduce it here, slightly modified.]

If ever there was a guy who needed to calibrate his self-love, it was Robert McNamara, the much-vilified defense secretary who was forever tarnished by his role in the Vietnam War. This weekend I re-watched The Fog of War, the Errol Morris documentary in which McNamara very nearly breaks down with regret for his mistakes (see video below).

Today I learn that McNamara has died. By Jenny McCarthy’s logic, I am partially responsible for the death. I regret my involvement. To atone, I will practice forgiveness, starting with McCarthy and McNamara.

Full video here.

Advertisements

North Korea finally cooperating

July 5, 2009

Pyongyang wants to help us test our missile defense system, says the L.A. Times. Their Jedi training is almost complete!

Though military officials said a clash between missiles of opposing nations was unlikely, preparations for possible action are at the most advanced stage yet. That is in part because of fears that a North Korean test as early as this weekend could involve a missile directed toward Hawaii.

Pff, “unlikely.” Let’s blow shit up!

Citing a potential threat to Hawaii, the U.S. last month deployed a gigantic sea-based radar system that officials say can guide underground interceptor missiles in Alaska and California toward long-range missiles in flight. The military also has intermediate-range land-based missiles, as well as specially equipped ships from which interceptors could be launched.

Wow, this is like reading Tom Clancy.

The system is known as sea-based X-band radar, a reference to the electromagnetic frequency at which it operates.

Now this is some Death Star looking shit right here:

Developed at a cost of about $900 million, the system looks like a giant white ball mounted atop a modified oil-drilling platform that can be moved around. The X-band system is based in Alaska and has made previous trips to Hawaii.

Ok, already, I want to blow shit up!

Still, many experts and critics of the missile defense system think the confidence is misplaced. “It is completely unwarranted, and it is a wild speculation based on assumptions that are almost certainly untrue,” said Theodore Postol, an MIT professor who has studied the system.

Wait, what?

Despite Pentagon claims of technological advances, for example, Postol argued that the U.S. interceptors would have a difficult time telling a missile warhead from “countermeasures” — decoys or other debris meant to fool the interceptors.

Um.

Critics also consider the North Korean threat overstated, especially given the long-standing inaccuracy of Pyongyang’s missiles and the fact that they are not equipped during test launches with any kind of warhead, nuclear or nonnuclear.

Whatever, L.A. Times writer person. The first part of your article was way cooler.

“Why would you want to shoot at it? It is not armed with a nuclear weapon, and it is going to land in the ocean,” Postol said. “What we are talking about is shooting at a missile that is not a threat with a missile that can’t intercept it.”

Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Blow. Shit. UP!!

Psst, hey you guys.

June 25, 2009

© CERN

© CERN

There’s a new way… to possibly study THE HIGGS BOSON OMFG!!!!

In 2007, CDF researchers observed hints of exclusive, virtual gluon reactions in the form of high-energy photons radiating from colliding protons and antiprotons. Now the team has sifted through nearly 500 muon-antimuon pairs, identifying 65 that must have come from the decay of the Χc–very close to the rate predicted in 2005 by a team at Durham University in England [1]. Because the Χc has similar particle properties to the much heavier Higgs boson, the same basic reaction should produce the Higgs at the higher collision energies provided by the LHC, says Albrow. “It’s the strongest evidence that the Higgs boson must be produced this way, if it does exist.”

Physical Review Focus | A Higgs Boson without the Mess

The crimes of Lee “Lightning” Murray

June 25, 2009

Lee Murray may go down in the books as the most successful bank robber in mixed martial arts history.

I'm sorry, what $40 million are you referring to?

"Right. Do you think if I had $40 million hidden away I'd be here talking to you?"

A middleweight with an 8-2 record, “Lightning” Lee was arrested in June 2006 in the Morroccan capital, Rabat, for allegedly master-minding a $92-million cash heist — there’s no other word for it — from a Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent. (I don’t know what that means either.)

Seven masked men with automatic weapons were involved in the 2006 heist, which began when two of the robbers abducted the bank’s manager. After the assailants forced their way into the high-security warehouse, they loaded the cash into three waiting trucks. Much of the loot was recovered, but approximately $40 million is still missing. [ESPN The Magazine]

News accounts say it was the biggest cash robbery in history.

Murray’s arrest, on charges of cocaine possession, came after he fled to Morrocco to escape extradition for his suspected role the Securitas job. His father was Morroccan (his mom’s English), so he had citizenship, and apparently Morrocco don’t extradite for nuthin.

I am telling you all this because yesterday Lightning Lee was unexpectedly released from prison and then arrested again! Methinks Scotland Yard has worked out a deal with the Morroccans.

Time Inc. has optioned a movie based on a 2008 Sports Illustrated story chronicling Murray’s exploits. Guy Ritchie* is going to have a hell of a time in the editing room:

  • Supposedly Murray TKO’d and punted the head of Tito Ortiz (the one married to Jenna Jameson) outside of a London nightclub in July 2002.
  • Three years later, in September 2005, he was stabbed in a brawl outside of what I assume was a different London nightclub. Doctors had to resuscitate him multiple times.
  • He was planning to break out of prison — with tiny saws:

Last month, the Wrestling Observer newsletter reported that the fighter tried to break out of his cell by using tiny saws that were hidden in his food. According to the publication, [he] was thwarted when another prisoner broke into his cell, found the saws and informed prison officials.

Oh yeah, he also did some MMA fighting, including an interesting 2004 bout with Anderson Silva, the dominant UFC middleweight champ, where the English commentators want their boy to win so bad you wouldn’t believe it. Watch the second round:

I like to imagine that when Murray and Silva are clinched together, heads side by side, Murray is secretly whispering his criminal plans to Anderson, who’s like, “Whatever, Lee. As soon as we stand up, I’m going to kick you in the head again.” Except in Portuguese.

*Guy Ritchie was Jake Rossen’s joke. (I also ganked Sherdog’s head shot.)

How to tell Ray Kurzweil and Suzanne Somers apart?

June 2, 2009

Easy: Ray Kurzweil doesn’t inject hormones into his vagina.

From Newsweek‘s Oprah takedown:

In addition, she [Somers] wears “nanotechnology patches” to help her sleep, lose weight and promote “overall detoxification.” If she drinks wine, she goes to her doctor to rejuvenate her liver with an intravenous drip of vitamin C. If she’s exposed to cigarette smoke, she has her blood chemically cleaned with chelation therapy. In the time that’s left over, she eats right and exercises, and relieves stress by standing on her head. Somers makes astounding claims about the ability of hormones to treat almost anything that ails the female body. She believes they block disease and will double her life span. “I know I look like some kind of freak and fanatic,” she said. “But I want to be there until I’m 110, and I’m going to do what I have to do to get there.”

Compare with Wired‘s profile of Ray Kurzweil:

Though both Grossman and Kurzweil respect science, their approach is necessarily improvisational. If a therapy has some scientific promise and little risk, they’ll try it. Kurzweil gets phosphatidylcholine intravenously, on the theory that this will rejuvenate all his body’s tissues. He takes DHEA and testosterone. Both men use special filters to produce alkaline water, which they drink between meals in the hope that negatively charged ions in the water will scavenge free radicals and produce a variety of health benefits. […] Kurzweil and Grossman justify it not so much with scientific citations — though they have a few — but with a tinkerer’s shrug. “Life is not a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study,” Grossman explains. “We don’t have that luxury. We are operating with incomplete information. The best we can do is experiment with ourselves.”

I respect Seth Roberts. Kurzweil and Somers? Oy. Have some grace.

Sea lamprey to U.S. cybersecurity: Yes we can!

May 31, 2009

Remember how U.S. cybersecurity sucks?

Here’s Ars Technica‘s John Timmer on the new cybersecurity report [pdf]:

Perhaps the most striking thing about the report, however, is that it suggests that the US may be facing the prospect of being left as a technological backwater when it comes to security, and a national effort will be required to avoid that fate. The authors suggest a historic analog: “similar to the period after the launch of the Sputnik satellite in October, 1957, the United States is in a global race that depends on mathematics and science skills.” In response, it suggests that the new office develop a research and development framework, and accompany it with a public information campaign that will stress the importance of security considerations. If necessary, the government should incentivize the use of secure practices and equipment by private industry through programs like targeted tax breaks.

From Digits, the WSJ tech blog, here’s one expert’s reaction:

“They’re suggesting in this paper that if you don’t have good security, that you’ll be punished for it. The problem is that this is an evolving threat,” he said. “They seem to be waving the stick around a lot without having any serious carrots.”

I have absolutely no expertise in this area, so I’ll just point to some cool ideas for modeling computer security on the immune system.

While I’m at it, did you know sea lampreys have an unexpectedly sophisticated immune system?

lamprey240

From Science magazine’s Origins blog:

These eel-like creatures are often called “living fossils” because they are thought to have changed little since they arose 450 million to 500 million years ago, as part of a branch of jawless creatures that split off early from the rest of the vertebrate tree. Lampreys and hagfish are the only survivors of that jawless branch, and accumulating evidence indicates that the animals have developed an immune system far different from that of other vertebrates, including people. Today, in Nature, a team led by Max Cooper of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, unveils the latest chapter in this emerging evolutionary tale, providing data indicating that the sea lamprey has its own versions of B and T cells, the two cell types central to the so-called adaptive immune response found in people.

It’s not clear yet if the lamprey evolved its immune powers independently of the rest of us vertebrates, but if so, Holy convergent evolution, Lamprey-man!

I guess the lesson for us is this: if a living fossil can evolve itself an adaptive immune system, then surely the U.S. can find a way to keep the free world safe from even the wiliest of Chinese and Russian Lawnmower Men.

Update: NYTimesContractors Vie for Plum Work, Hacking for U.S.

Pepsi or Oprah — who’s more indulgent of bullshit?

May 22, 2009

pepsi

Compare this 27-page Pepsi branding document, which comes to us via Gawker (courtesy of John Pavlus), to “It Is Not Too Late,” a recent installment of Marianne Williamson’s Oprah-sponsored podcast, Miracle Thought (courtesy of Aaron Fagan). Disclosure: I really, really enjoyed Da Vinci Code the movie.

What’s awesome this week: Let them eat dog food

May 15, 2009

1. How Torture Helped the Allies in WWII

Whatever role the bombings played in hastening Japan’s unconditional surrender, it was probably enhanced by the testimony of captured Air Force First Lieutenant Marcus McDilda. Though he initially professed to know nothing about the Manhattan Project or the atomic bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima—because he didn’t—under torture he “confessed” that, contrary to Japanese hopes that the Americans could not possibly have produced more than a few, the United States had hundreds ready for deployment, with Tokyo and Kyoto next on the list of targets.

 

A distant Shaftoe relative, no doubt.

 

2. Can People Distinguish Pâté from Dog Food?

 

As seen on Colbert:

To prevent bias, Newman’s Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with five unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the five was dog food.

 

One of the researchers keeps a blog, Blind Taste.

 

3. Rules for Time Travelers: #5 — Black holes are not time machines.

Sadly, if you fell into a black hole, it would not spit you out at some other time. It wouldn’t spit you out at all — it would gobble you up and grow slightly more corpulent in the process. If the black hole were big enough, you might not even notice when you crossed the point of no return defined by the event horizon. But once you got close to the center of the hole, tidal forces would tug at you — gently at first, but eventually tearing you apart. The technical term is spaghettification. Not a recommended strategy for would-be time adventurers.

4. Neuroeconomics has failed Americans in 5 key ways

The type of punditry I aspire to.

What is their promise? Very simple: Neuroeconomists promise that if investors, taxpayers and voters simply follow the advice of neuroeconomists, they’ll get rich. Your 401(k) and your retirement portfolios will prosper because neuroeconomics promises to make you “less irrational,” in control of your brain, and therefore, a successful investor.

 

Sorry, but that’ll never happen. Never. The human brain is, and always will be, irrational.

5. Free radicals after exercise are good, okay?

Forty men took part in a four-week training program. Half the group also received daily doses of Vitamins C and E. The researchers discovered that exercise on its own improves insulin sensitivity, which keeps diabetes at bay. But taking the vitamins erased that gain—findings that appear in the May 12th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

 

6. The challenge of proving a negative: woman struck by meteorite

 

SylacaugaHulittHodgesW

[T]he Hodges Meteorite […] blasted through the roof of a home in Sylacauga, Ala., in 1954. It bounced off a radio and hit Ann Elizabeth Hodges, badly bruising her hand and hip.

If you’re not reading Marginal Revolution, may I ask why not?

April 24, 2009

I’d taken a break from it myself for a couple years. It used to be the one blog I read religiously. It’s still wicked good.

Timothy Geithner: a study in facial micro-expressions

Stoney McGee time: humor as (reverse?) d*ck measuring contest

March 30, 2009

when men trade jokes back and forth, it’s like a reverse dick measuring contest in that the point is to come up wit the shortest or most efficient possible joke. the one who made the last joke in effect said “i’m better than you.”** i guess it’s more like the game where everybody’s holding a baseball bat and the next person tries to reach a tiny bit higher. the one at the end is holding the knob (whatever it’s name is; i’m sure it has one) – he’s got the weak joke, the one that doesn’t quite fit, i.e., the failed comeback, the “yeah, well, suck it.” it’s like the uncertainty principle. the difference between the information content of the words uttered and the information content of the words implied can’t vary too widely from round to round. the information content  of the words implied increases in a certain way because the added implied words are to the effect of, “oh yeah, well i know that you know that i know …” (huh. so i guess it’s straightforward d*ck measuring after all. anyway:) hence (or something) the pleasure of getting a joke after a time. you walk around under the illusion you won – or fear you may not have. and then – bzzht! – you hadn’t won at all! HE’S keyser soeze.

**I’m being wildly uncharitable to myself and Others. There are (at least) two ways to take an interaction like understand a comic back-and-forth interpret comic sparring. One is negatively, as adversaries. The other positively, as creative partners. “I’m better than you” becomes “you’re all right – no YOU’RE all right” and so on.