Archive for August, 2012

“Like… dude!”

Face it, we all know people who are living, walking, potheaded proof of this:

Cannabis smoking ‘permanently lowers IQ’

Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis are putting themselves at risk of permanently damaging their intelligence, according to a landmark study.

Researchers found persistent users of the drug, who started smoking it at school, had lower IQ scores as adults.

They were also significantly more likely to have attention and memory problems in later life, than their peers who abstained.

Furthermore, those who started as teenagers and used it heavily, but quit as adults, did not regain their full mental powers, found academics at King’s College London and Duke University in the US.

They looked at data from over 1,000 people from Dunedin in New Zealand, who have been followed through their lives since being born in 1972 or 1973.

Alternate subhead: “Reason Magazine* staff writers hardest hit.”

*(Much as I like the mag, they do seem to obsess over their legalize marijuana crusade.)

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Sounds like the title of a science fiction story, doesn’t it? Except, in this case, it’s real:

As a doomed star spirals closer and closer to a black hole that’s about to gobble it up, it lets out periodic bursts of light that scientists liken to dying screams, scientists say.

The star is falling into a gigantic black hole in the center of a distant galaxy that lies 3.9 billion light-years away in the direction of the constellation Draco. As the remains of the star get pulled in, it releases blips of light about every 200 seconds, with occasional lags.

“You can think of it as hearing the star scream as it gets devoured, if you like,” Jon Miller, a University of Michigan astronomer, said in a statement. Miller was part of a team that detected the light blips using two orbiting X-ray telescopes: NASA and Japan’s Suzaku, and Europe’s XMM-Newton.


Though the dying star’s signal comes to us in the form of light, the researchers liken it to sound because it comes at a characteristic frequency that, if converted to sound, would make an ultra-low D-sharp.

Apparently the black hole is shredding the star (or “has shredded” given the time it take light to travel from there to here) and capturing its remains in a disk around itself, from which it “feeds.” A video at the site illustrates what they think is happening. You also see it in the artist’s conception, above, which shows one of the light bursts that’s been likened to a scream. “Awesome,” in it’s most neutral sense, comes to mind.

I hope there were no inhabited planets around that star before it encountered the black hole, or, if there were, the inhabitants were advanced enough to get the Hell our of there in time.  Talk about an apocalyptic ending.  What was it Hamlet said?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


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My own secret submarine base? Oh, I am so there:

The Royal Norwegian Navy has put up a secret, mountainside submarine base for sale… and judging by what it looks like, it would work both as a superhero hideout and as a supervillain lair.

Officially called the Olavsvern Naval Base, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) spent $494 million building it back in 1967.

But don’t let that amount deter you from dreaming about owning this clandestine base, superheroes- and supervillains-wannabe: the Navy is selling it for the low, low price of $17.3 million.

Then all I’ll need are nuclear missiles… AND THE WORLD SHALL REGRET LAUGHING AT ME!!!

(Sorry. Got a bit excited there.)

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How Roman Emperors died

Augustus. He died of natural causes, lucky guy.

I love Roman History, from it’s beginnings with the foundation of the city in the 8th century BC, to its end with the fall of Constantinople in 1453*. With a history that long, you can imagine that, somewhere along the line, some of it rulers met some odd –and grisly– ends.

At The Awl, Josh Fruhlinger provides a “how they died” list for the emperors from Augustus Caesar through Romulus Augustulus, in what we classically think of as “The Roman Empire, 27 BC to 476 AD. The whole list is worth browsing (if you’re a Rome-geek like me), but here are a couple of my favorites:

Tiberius (37): His entourage thought he died of old age, announced his death, then smothered him in a panic when he suddenly regained consciousness. (“I’m not dead yet!”)

Carinus (285): Assassinated by an officer whose wife he had seduced. (That’ll teach him to keep it zipped.)

Leo II (474): Poisoned by his own mother so her husband could become emperor. (Mommie Dearest.)

Valerian (sometime after 260): Captured by the Persians and died in captivity; rumored to have been used as a human footstool by the Persian king, killed by having molten gold poured down his throat, then taxidermied. (Dude…)

*Yep, I count the Byzantine Empire as part of the Roman Empire. The political continuity was there, and “Romans” was how they referred to themselves to the bitter end. So there.

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..you see this rising from the sea:

Cue the weird music as teens flee in terror…

According to The Retronaut, this is a Carmagnolle Diving Suit, circa 1882. To me, though, it looks like Robbie the Robot’s creepy grandfather.

BTW, The Retronaut is a great site.

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