Weird Universe Archive

August 2023

August 21, 2023

August 20, 2023

Atomic Mittens

"Here is your complete shield against the dangers of atomic attack."

Super Science Stories - Aug 1951

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 20, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Fashion, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950s

Humorous Songs of Abe Burrows

His Wikipedia page.




Posted By: Paul - Sun Aug 20, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Humor, Music, 1940s

August 19, 2023

Liquid Cremation

Aquagreen Dispositions LLC is one of the few companies that offers body disposal by alkaline hydrolysis. This involves using a highly alkaline solution to break down a corpse into its chemical components. The company argues it's an eco-friendly alternative to cremation. It refers to it as flameless or liquid cremation.

On its website, the company states that after the process is complete the remains "are returned to the family in the same manner as with flame cremation, however, the cremated remains are lighter in color because it is clean and without carbon discoloration."

What it doesn't mention is that this is only the skeletal remains, which have been ground up into a powder. The rest of the chemical soup gets flushed into the sewer system — and this is why the process remains controversial. From wikipedia:

the Catholic Church in the United States does not approve of alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposal of human remains. In 2011, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and then chairman of the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), determined it "unnecessarily disrespectful of the human body." The Archdiocese of St. Louis explained that it was considered this way because the Church took concern with the final disposal of the liquid solution, which is typically to the sewer system. This was considered disrespectful of the sanctity of the human body. Additionally, when alkaline hydrolysis was proposed in New York state in 2012, the New York State Catholic Conference condemned the practice, stating that hydrolysis does not show sufficient respect for the teaching of the intrinsic dignity of the human body.

More info: cbc.ca

Posted By: Alex - Sat Aug 19, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Death

The Zip Code Boardgame

Trains children for future careers in snailmail.

Entry at Board Game Geek is here.



Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 19, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Games, 1960s, Postal Services

August 18, 2023

The Holocene Calendar

In Dec 1993, the geologist Cesare Emiliani submitted a letter to the journal Nature in which he proposed that the BC/AD calendar be scrapped and replaced with a calendar that would set year 1 at the beginning of the Holocene geological epoch, approximately 12,000 years ago. This, he argued, was when the "human era" in the history of the world began, and so was a date that had significance to all world civilizations.

In his scheme, all existing AD years would be changed by simply adding 10,000 to them. So 2023 would become 12,023.



His proposal makes a lot of sense. Not least because it would eliminate all the weirdness with BC dates, such as the oddity that even though the BC years are counted backwards, their days and months run forwards.

More info: wikipedia

Posted By: Alex - Fri Aug 18, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Centuries

Instant Yiddish

Don't be a schmuck! Use the player below to bone up on your Yiddish.









Posted By: Paul - Fri Aug 18, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Ethnic Groupings, Languages, Vinyl Albums and Other Media Recordings, 1960s

August 17, 2023

AI and the ruler

I've seen this cautionary tale about putting too much faith in AI referred to in several places. It involves an AI program that had seemed to have "reached a level of accuracy comparable to human dermatologists at diagnosing malignant skin lesions." Venturebeat.com tells the rest:

However, a closer examination of the model’s saliency methods revealed that the single most influential thing this model was looking for in a picture of someone’s skin was the presence of a ruler. Because medical images of cancerous lesions include a ruler for scale, the model learned to identify the presence of a ruler as a marker of malignancy, because that’s much easier than telling the difference between different kinds of lesions.

I tracked down the original source of this story to an Oct 2018 article in the
Journal of Investigative Dermatology: "Automated Classification of Skin Lesions: From Pixels to Practice":

Dermatology images are the easiest to capture of all medical images, but also the least standardized. Standardization of images is difficult, even with dermoscopic images, as shown in Figure 1. Variability must be incorporated into training algorithms to create capacity to handle noisy data. This includes multiple camera angles, different orientations, blurry photos, multiple skin backgrounds, pen markings or rulers included in the photo, or variations in lighting. Otherwise, the algorithm will use features of nonstandardized photos to guide decision making. For instance, in our work, we noted that the algorithm appeared more likely to interpret images with rulers as malignant. Why? In our dataset, images with rulers were more likely to be malignant; thus the algorithm inadvertently “learned” that rulers are malignant. These biases in AI models are inherent unless specific attention is paid to address inputs with variability.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Aug 17, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Medicine, AI, Robots and Other Automatons

Bank Robber Immobilizing Vestibule

So near as I can interpret this patent, in front of every bank teller's window is erected a revolving-door chamber. The customer--or robber--must enter the chamber, which revolves shut behind him. A good customer is allowed by the clerk's pressing of a switch to exit. The robber is held in place. What could go wrong?



Posted By: Paul - Thu Aug 17, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Crime, Inventions, Patents, Money, Innocent Bystanders, Passersby, Witnesses and Accidental Victims, 1940s

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

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