Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New World Plant Extravaganza!

All of these plants are originally from North or South America.  The exchange of plants, animals, and diseases between the "new" and "old" worlds that happened beginning in the late 1400s is known as the Columbian Exchange.  None of these plants existed in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia prior to then.

yes, that includes popcorn, which believe it or not, does grow on a cob

no Irish potato famine without these bad boys.  also, imagine potato-less pierogi's!?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Of Mousers and Men

This is my cat, Chairman Mao (RIP). Mao (猫) means cat in Chinese. Funny, right?
What else is funny about this cat? 1) He's in a bag, isn't that cute? and 2) He has thumbs! Most cats have four toes on their front paws. Chairman had five toes and at least six claws (one between toes). Many people are surprised to learn that cats with extra digits are fairly common. They are known variously as polydactyl cats, mitten cats, and sometimes Hemingway cats. Apparently Ernest Hemingway was a big fan. Many Hemingway cats still reside at the Hemingway estate in Key West. They are especially common in port towns because sailors thought they were good luck, or at least very good mousers. They can come in a few varieties:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where does "toxic red sludge" come from???

As you may know, on October 4th a reservoir retaining wall collapsed near Kolontar Hungary, releasing over 180 million gallons of what is being called "toxic red sludge".  Before we delve into the nature of this sludge and why it is produced, here is an insane video of the sludge flowing through Kolontar:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gamepocalypse is coming

Jesse Schell, an assistant professor at carnegie mellon university gave a mind-melting seminar entitled "Visions of the Gamepocalypse" at the Long Now Foundation's SALT series. I highly recommend listening to this podcast (and all other SALT podcasts for that matter), as he is a really energetic speaker and lays out a pretty convincing description about how games are going to become integrated into every part of our lives. The seminar is a bit long though (still highly recommended), so for those ADHD folks out there, here is a snippet of a different talk that gives a decent summary of his basic idea:

In case you're not interested in watching or listening to either, his basic point is that wi-fi and sensors of all kinds are becoming extremely cheap and abundant, and that combination allows you to turn everything into a game. In this case everything mainly involves things related to a consumer society, though the government could get involved as well. I don't think he talked about the possibility for your parents/spouse/family to turn your life into a game, but that seems plausible..."mow the lawn and you'll get a power-up" "wash the dishes or I'll cast a level three polymorph spell on you".