Category:
Science

The Cow Whisperer

I suspect cows are going to become a theme here at WU. They're ubiquitous and silly and important. Those are three good criteria for inclusion here. Hey, if cows were good enough for Gary Larson humor, they're good enough for us!

The latest news is that they're demanding headphones as they graze! Not sure if iPods are included. Read the article here.

Then watch the video of "The Cow Whisperer" here.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jul 23, 2008 - Comments (5)
Category: Agriculture, Animals, Food, Science, Experiments, Technology

How many megabytes is your brain?


Hitachi recently announced that in 2010 they plan to unveil a 5TB hard drive. This led them to note that, "By 2010, just two disks will suffice to provide the same storage capacity as the human brain."

So, according to Hitachi, the brain has a 10TB storage capacity. But how did they arrive at this number?

There's been a lot of speculation about the brain's storage capacity. The most popular method of arriving at an answer is to estimate the number of synapses in the brain and extrapolate from there. This has led researchers to come up with numbers ranging anywhere from 3TB to 1000TB. Hitachi evidently was using this method.

But there's a second method (noted on the Of Two Minds blog). Psychologists have conducted experiments to measure how much information people are actually able to memorize. This produces much smaller numbers. They've concluded that it's only about two bits per second, or a few hundred megabytes averaged over an entire lifetime.

Of course, until scientists figure out a way to allow us to download our brains to computers, all these numbers are just useless trivia. And when that happens, we can all plug into the Matrix and live happily ever after.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 21, 2008 - Comments (0)
Category: Science, Psychology, Technology

Follies of the Mad Men #4

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[From Good Housekeeping for October 1939.]

Here's a great example of Madison Avenue trying to a) make a problem that doesn't exist or is minimal into an overwhelming burden that only their product can alleviate and b) bring the vaunted "miraculous" power of scientists and scientific imagery into the marketing mix.

Did women in 1939--or ever--really ask their friends for a hygienic crotch alert?

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jul 18, 2008 - Comments (5)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Fashion, Hygiene, Science, Gender, Women, 1930s

Radiation Cookery Book

Back in March I wrote an article for Smithsonian magazine about pseudo-scientific terms that have gone out of fashion. For instance, it used to be all the rage to affix "electro-" to everything, as in "electro-lumps" (one marketers inspired term for coal).

A term I definitely could have included in my article is "radiation." Once upon a time it didn't have the negative connotations it does today. Witness the "Radiation Cookery Book" from 1934. It didn't actually use radiation for the cooking (except in so far as heat itself is a form of radiation). Instead "Radiation" was the name of the company that made the gas cooker for which the recipes were designed.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jul 16, 2008 - Comments (2)
Category: Fads, Food, Science, Weird Names

Unsolved Mysteries: The Fermilab Puzzle

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The Chicago Tribune reports on a mysterious cryptogram received by Fermilab:

The enigma began last year when a plain envelope with no return address arrived at the world-famous physics laboratory outside Chicago, addressed simply to "Fermilab." Inside was a single sheet marked by pen with a bizarre series of hash marks, numbers and alien-looking symbols. No one at the lab could make sense of the letter. Was it a joke? A threat? A hint at some exotic new theory?

The lab eventually posted the puzzle on its website, and the online community within days had partially solved it. The first part says, "FRANK SHOEMAKER WOULD CALL THIS NOISE." (referring, apparently, to a physicist who used to work at Fermilab). The bottom part reads: "EMPLOYEE NUMBER BASSE SIXTEEN." The middle section remains unsolved.

Unfortunately, these messages are as cryptic as the code itself. If you like puzzles, see if you can be the one to shed light on this enigma.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 14, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Science, Unsolved Mysteries

Amazonian Miracle for Sale!

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If only you had been reading Popular Mechanics magazine for February 1929! Then you could have purchased the same Purple Ray healing device that Wonder Woman uses! Okay, so it was a "Violet Ray." Same difference, right?

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jul 14, 2008 - Comments (15)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, History, Inventions, Medicine, Science, Technology, Comics, 1920s

Sperm from teeth?

New Scientist reports that Brazilian researchers are attempting to help infertile men by finding a way to turn teeth cells into sperm cells via mouse testicles:
Irina Kerkis of the Butantan Institute in São Paulo and her colleagues injected stem cells from the dental pulp of human teeth into the testes of live mice. The cells seemed to migrate to the tubules where sperm usually mature and differentiate into cells resembling human sperm.

Just one problem: "some of the human cells fused with mouse cells." Well, at least the kids would be a shoo-in for the Mouseketeers.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 11, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Science

Simulated S**t Happens

Alex's Jesus Toilet post reminded me of this great WIRED article from a few years ago, about toilet technology.

It so happens that toilet engineers need to simulate excrement for testing purposes. Here's just a couple of the things they use:

image image

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jul 09, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Bathrooms, Domestic, Food, Hygiene, Inventions, Scatology, Science, Technology

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
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.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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