Category Archives: Curiosities

Not So Fast

From our reader Henry, here’s an interesting item: geneticists studying the rate at which biological complexity has increased over time have arrived at a provocative extrapolation.

Consider The Following

We’re having a busy weekend — among other things, our daughter just flew in from China to stay with us for the Christmas week — and so I haven’t had the time to sit at the computer brooding and writing. For tonight, then, a logical curiosity you may not be familiar with: Newcomb’s paradox. Here’s […]

Gold Leaf

In this article from Science Daily, we learn that eucalyptus trees are pumping gold out of the ground.

It’s A Bug, That Will Eat Your Features

It’s the flesh-eating beetle, genus Dermestes. See these hungry little guys in action, here.

Project Westford

Here’s a Cold War scheme I’d never heard about, until our own JK sent me this link: a Saturn-like ring around the Earth, made of little copper wires.

This Thing All Things Devours

OK, enough about Syria. Here’s the video we’ve all been watching, a frame a day, in the mirror. Fantastic.

Ice-Nine

That’s what prions are: ice-nine for the brain.

Skywhale

I pass this along without comment.

They All Look Alike To Me

If you’ve ever wondered about just how subjective human notions of beauty really are (or aren’t), here’s an interesting item: Korean beauty-pageant contestants go for plastic surgery, and all end up with the same face.

Convergent Evolution

This one’s been making the rounds: the fish with “human teeth”.

A Compelling Natural Force

I’m working late tonight, so here’s a strange item for you to mull over: the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Read about it on Wikipedia, here, or for a more detailed account, have a look here. Strangest of all: the missing tongue.

Flying Squid

That’s right, flying squid. And as fast as Usain Bolt, if flying isn’t enough. Here. (“Fast ‘n’ bulbous”, as I think a wise man once said.)

Two Scents Worth

If you’re like me, you’ve been wondering whether there are any critters out there that can locate food by way of odor gradients. Well, meet the Eastern mole: the mammal that smells in stereo.

Competition For Excrement Is Fierce

If you’re like me (of course you are!), you’ve been lying awake at night, asking yourself: “How the hell do South African dung beetles roll their balls in a straight line? Sure, polarized light from the Sun works fine during the day (duh!), but what about at night, when many of them do their best […]

Proto-Synth

The composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett died this past Christmas Eve, and tonight WQXR played a selection of his works. One of them was from his score for the 1967 film Billion Dollar Brain, and it featured an eerie, flute-like instrument. At first I thought it was a Theremin, but then I realized it must […]

Penitentes

There’s no shortage lately of the sort of topics I’d normally be commenting on. The ongoing Second Amendment “debate” is certainly one (this Vanity Fair piece deserves a good going over, for example, and I’ve piled up a lot of related material that needs organizing into a post). The eternal and stupendously useless budget war […]

Vomiting Larry

Here.

Better Late Than Never

Best Christmas song ever. Sorry I wasn’t able to post this before the Big Day.

Santa, Shamanta

If you’ve seen Walt Disney’s Fantasia, which featured an animation of Tchaikovsky’s Christmas suite The Nutcracker, you’ll likely remember the fairy-circle of mushrooms performing the Chinese Dance. The mushrooms have white stalks, with red caps that are also speckled with white. Such mushrooms are a common theme at Christmas, as we see in the assortment […]

Testa di Cazzo!

Here. Also, as an “extra added bonus”, a new word: ctenactinium.

Food For Thought

Here’s something I didn’t know until just now: squids have doughnut-shaped brains, with the esophagus going right through the hole. See for yourself.

Whizky

Blogger Ellison calls our attention to a potable that might be better left in the pot. Here.

The Loyal Opposition

If I asked you to name the holiest of America’s founding documents, there’s a good chance you’d pick the Declaration of Independence. (The only other one even remotely in the running would be the Constitution.) How well do you know the Declaration? We all remember those reverberant passages about self-evident truths (despite their being, if […]

Sunset

We lost. I don’t know quite what to say about that just yet. I thought that just maybe this nation could pull the nose up before it was too late, but I guess it wasn’t to be. Brace for impact. Nothing to be ashamed of, though. We had a couple of pretty good centuries there. […]

There It Is Again!

Recent events remind us, once again (with a hat tip to James Taranto), of the enduring mystery of the number 47. More here.

Whence The Moss Piglet?

Six years ago I scribed a breezy little item about the tardigrade, one of our planet’s commonest, yet most exotic, microfauna. I haven’t thought much about them since, I’ll confess, but I just ran across a charming short video about the tim’rous wee beasties, featuring an affable philotard by the name of Mike Shaw. Here.

A Hard Rain Gonna Fall?

Interesting item here: as calls to disarm the citizenry grow louder, why is the National Weather Service stocking up on .40-caliber jacketed hollow-point amunition?

Slo-Mo

Here’s something worth having a look at: a lightning strike at 7,207 frames per second. See also here.

A Remarkable Coincidence

One thing connects to another in unexpected ways. Last Friday I had lunch with a well-known conservative blogger. We didn’t meet to talk about politics, though: I had noticed, in some of this writer’s posts, references to the “Fourth Way” teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff and his pupil, P.D. Ouspensky — and having both a personal […]

Brooklyn’s Premium Community For the Previously Living

I live not far from Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery (which, as mentioned in this breezy and highly informative little post from 2006, contains Brooklyn’s highest point, Battle Hill). It’s a beautiful cemetery, and a lot of notable folks are buried there. Who, exactly? Well, I’ve just found a list, courtesy of the fantastic website FindAGrave.com. Have […]

That Which Survives

From Letters of Note: an exchange between Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry that began when Asimov wrote an item for TV Guide criticizing inaccuracies in televised science fiction. The first letter in the series, from Roddenberry to Asimov, contained the following: In the specific comment you made about Star Trek, the mysterious cloud being “one-half […]

Cheap Date

Here’s a remarkable critter: a plant-animal chimera called Elysia chlorotica. Once it has dined on enough algae to prime its photosynthetic pump, it lives on nothing but sunlight, and never needs to eat again. Amazing. More photos here.

One Damn Thing After Another

I’m still sweating bullets this weekend trying to solve a baffling work-related technical problem, so here’s a new site for you to have a look at: Lists of Note. I’ll start you off with this list of predictions for the year 2000, made in 1949 by Robert Heinlein. You can take it from there. Heinlein […]

Facemasks

We’re all familiar with the importance, in Oriental cultures, of “saving face”. Now a Japanese outfit offers consumers a new way to do so. Note: the linked page is in Japanese; you may want to have Google translate it for you.

Fireflies

Here.

Benthic Bafflement in the Baltic

Here’s a curious item: a strange, roughly circular object, about the size of a 747, found last July at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It even comes with what some are calling “drag marks”, hundreds of feet long. It looks like this: What is it? A UFO? Kvenland? I’m dead boring when it comes […]

The Deprong Mori

Here’s a curious item for you: the only recorded capture, in the Tripiscum Plateau of the Circum-Caribbean region of Northern South America, of the exotic Piercing Devil.

Tower Of Babel

Here’s a page that shows a live stream of Wikipedia edits. You can filter the stream by language version and edit size. It’s curiously fascinating, for a minute or two at least.

Shadow Portrait

Here’s a clever idea.

The Sound Of Mucus

I was looking at this website’s administrative “dashboard” yesterday, and noticed that I’ve accumulated 438 entries in the “Drafts” folder. I suppose it’s not uncommon for daily bloggers to build up a back-log in there; we’re always on the lookout for something to write about, and tend to become packrats. Whenever I get the germ […]

UVB-76

Among the more interesting feeds to follow on Twitter is @GreatDismal, which belongs to William Gibson, the visionary sci-fi author and founder of “cyberpunk”. Today he linked to a story in Wired about something I’d never heard of: the enigmatic Soviet-era short-wave transmitter known to aficionados as “The Buzzer”. Learn more here.