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Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday links

History of air conditioning: invention, historical reactions, Arthur Miller column on the days before its invention, more.

Want access to someone's home? All you need to do is take a picture of their key with your phone.

Amazon Is Selling Tolkien's One Ring as a Lord's Prayer Ring with Arabic text - check out the reviews.

World's largest—and grossest—aquatic insect discovered in China.

Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires and the Dismal Science. Related: Death and Taxes... and Zombies: Tax implications of the zombie apocalypse.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, including attempts to patent the wheel, the aerodynamics of hummingbirds, contact lens version of Google Glasses, and an answer to the age-old question: Why is your brain in your head instead tucked away safe and warm down with all your other organs?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Compilation: Dogs Confused by Glass Tables

Today's entry in the "Headline Better Than Story" category: Blue tits make home inside pig's head

Prepare to be disappointed - but is that a great headline, or what?

A family of blue tits have made their nest in an unusual spot - inside the nose of a ceramic pig's head.

Married couple Andrew and Lisa Dowden have had the pig's head in their garden for over seven years and it was never intended as a nesting site.

But a pair of blue tits took a fancy to the unusual garden ornament, in Sandown, Isle of Wight, and moved in.

Read the whole thing at Quirkies.

This guy set his uncle’s house on fire because it had goblins

Mike Musiiwa of Mutadzo Village pleaded guilty to arson before Masvingo provincial magistrate Sibonginkosi Mkandla.

He was remanded in custody to today for sentence.

Musiiwa took advantage of his uncle, Alick Malendele’s absence to torch the house resulting in the destruction of property worth about $1,000.

He was spotted torching the thatched house by a fellow villager, Marita Raisi who rushed to alert Malendele.

A report was made at Renco police leading to Musiiwa’s arrest and his subsequent appearance in court. Magistrate Mkandla said Musiiwa had no right to torch his uncle’s house.

“I am a sangoma who has helped a number of people by exorcising evil spirits and destroying witches’ goblins. I went into a mountain and started counting stones, which are the tools I use in carrying my duties. One of the stones helped me identify my tormentor. My uncle had been attempting to cast a bad spell on me and other family members using goblins that I later destroyed when I set his house on fire. I knew that there was no one in the house who could be harmed.

Sangomas greeting each other
“I just wanted to destroy his goblins, which I did,” said Musiiwa showing no signs of remorse.

Fidelicy Nyamukondiwa for the state said Musiiwa took advantage of his uncle’s absence and proceeded to his homestead in the same village where upon arrival he set the house on fire.

Property destroyed included blankets, a 12 volts battery, 50 kg of compound D fertilizer, two wooden doors, 50 kg of wheat, 20 kg of mealie-meal, 40 kg of sorghum, two home theatre speakers, two bibles, seven birth certificates, two monarch bags with various clothing and $412.

Musiiwa had an altercation with Malendele, 40, over the same issue sometime between 2012 and 2013. Chronicle

Amazon Is Selling the One Ring as a Lord's Prayer Ring with Arabic text - check out the reviews

Tolkien fans, check out this listing, which describes this ring as being inscribed with the Lord's Prayer in Arabic. It's not Arabic, of course, but Elvish.

The customer reviews seem to indicate that it is most likely the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings - I've copied a few below but you can see them all here.
Totally awesome, but minor flaw
By Edward Martin III on February 15, 2014
I like that this ring makes me invisible, because finally I can just walk around wearing nothing but sunbeams and frustration.
But on the downside, I've been moody and irritable and murderous lately.
Exactly what I wanted
By Beth Belch on February 15, 2014
Lovely ring. Well made. I'm only giving it a 4, because it is a little uncomfortable. But my plans for world domination are now coming along quite nicely. The included power to command the wraiths has been very convenient.
Not what I expected
By Blue on February 14, 2014
I bought this as a prayer ring for reciting the Lord's Prayer before bed, as you do. But when I put it on and read the words out loud, I found myself standing at the food of a large tower, staring up at a flaming eye. God doesn't look like I thought He would. I'm still giving this three stars though, because the script is pretty.
A great birthday present! 
By NBSteve on February 15, 2014
I bought this ring for my husband and they had it in just his size. I thought he'd love the writing on it, but the writing was very hard to see. When it arrived, on my birthday none-the-less, it looked a bit small, so I tried it on and discovered it fit me perfectly! Well, that meant it would never fit him, so I decided to return it... but because it was a Sunday, I had to wait a day. Well, I'm glad for the delay because I decided to try it on again the next day and I've been wearing it ever since! I love it, and it came to me after all, so why shouldn't I keep it? It's very precious to me.

via Neatorama 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Harry Potter and the Hopefully Benign Colon Polyp, and more middle-aged Harry Potter books

Years ago some comedian had a skit discussing whether or not Romeo and Juliet could have made it long term instead of, you know, dying when they were fourteen. He had a few scenarios wherein they fought over regular people stuff, like taking out the garbage.  This set of Harry Potter titles reminds me of that:

Yelling goats are so last year: here are goats singing the US national anthem

For reference, or just because you want to watch it again, here's the supercut of goats yelling like humans (Turn the sound down but not off):

via Unique Daily

Air Conditioning: invention, historical reactions, Arthur Miller column on the days before air-conditioning, more

From Mental Floss, a set clipped from contemporaneous sources on air conditioning in the early days: Here’s what people thought of “colderizing,” "air chilling," “mechanical weather,” and being “cooled by refrigeration” in its early days.  One of my favorites, on a system installed in the Capitol in 1928:
Though the air undoubtedly increased comfort in the chambers, some still complained that it was too cold. According to Cool Comfort, John E. Rankin, a Democrat from Mississippi lodged the first complaint on May 28, 1929, saying "the atmosphere is too cool in this room. On yesterday it was 75 by thermometer ... and 91 degrees on the outside. Fifteen or twenty degrees difference is too much ... This is regular Republican atmosphere, and it is enough to kill anybody if it continues." His declaration was met with applause.

Here's Ben Stein paying respect to the invention of the air conditioner:

And here's playwright Arthur Miller (wiki), writing in the June 1998 issue of New Yorker:
People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.
Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake.
No surprises here for us older folks, and it's worth remembering that even if the technology existed in the 1930s it was certainly not widespread - I'm 65 years old and was raised in upstate New York; I don't think I ever saw air conditioning in a private home until the 70's, after I moved to the Washington, D.C. area. I'd also never heard of the concept of an air-conditioned car. Here's Miller again:

My first direct contact with an air-conditioner came only in the sixties, when I was living in the Chelsea Hotel. The so-called management sent up a machine on casters which rather aimlessly cooled and sometimes heated the air, relying, as it did, on pitchers of water that one had to pour into it. On the initial filling, it would spray water all over the room, so one had to face it toward the bathroom rather than the bed.
Willis Carrier poses proudly in
 with the first chiller
The origin of air conditioning is disputed, (the first cooling of buildings was engineered by the Romans, who ran aqueducts through the houses of the upper class to cool them), but here's a Wired article on Willis Haviland Carrier's invention that forms the basis of the modern air conditioner - it was originally designed as a humidity controller for a printing company.

Time has a brief history of air conditioning.

10 Cool Engineering Tricks the Romans Taught Us.
Previous posts here:

How to Build a Homemade Air Conditioner for Just $8, charge your phone using Gatorade and an onion.

Friday links

Attempts to patent the wheel: Australia has quietly revoked the patent it granted in 2001.  Kind of related: 25 Useful Inventions That You Never Knew You Needed.

The History of the Egg Cream and How to Make One in the Authentic Brooklyn Style.

Gorgeous illustrations from a book published in 1717 entitled The Miraculous Transformation and Unusual Flower-Food of Caterpillars.

Why is your brain in your head instead tucked away safe and warm down with all your other organs?

After Google Glasses come Smart Contact Lenses.

Science Graphic of the Week: Hummingbird Wing Aerodynamics.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the special effects of 1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon, skills that you great-grandparents had (and you don't), health benefits of fart-smelling, and Mark Twain’s 1865 children’s book. 

Attempts to patent the wheel: Australia has quietly revoked the patent it granted in 2001

Marc Abrahams of the always interesting Improbable Research (home of the IgNoble Prizes) links to this article in Beta Boston:
Despite the warning “Don’t re-invent the wheel”, people continue to reinvent the wheel. Some of those people file patent applications. Patent offices even approve some of those applications.
I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel. The patent office had awarded Innovation Patent #2001100012 to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. Keogh’s application called his invention a “circular transportation facilitation device.” I became aquainted with Mr. Keogh when we awarded him — and the Australian Patent Office — an Ig Nobel Prize, in 2001. Here’s a technical drawing from his patent:

Keogh, unlike most of the other inventors of the wheel, was doing it solely to make a point. He felt that the Australian patent office had loosened its regulations in a way that made patents too easy to obtain. For the Australian government, this was an unexpected side effect of reforming the patent system. 

You can see Keogh in the video below (at 1 hour, 30 minutes), accepting the Ig Nobel Prize and briefly telling his story.

Here are four of the many other 21st century re-inventions of the wheel.

German patent application DE20122871, filed July 3, 2001 by Manfred Wanner and Harald Bartol of Eberdingen, Germany for a “wheel for vehicles, especially two-wheeled vehicles of the high performance type, comprising a provided with a rotational axis of hub, spokes and a rim, which is designed to receive a tire, the wheel having an apparatus for aerodynamic optimization…”. This is what it looks like:

World patent application WO 2014012648, filed June 12, 2013 by Roberto Pisacane of Salerno, Italy. Mr. Pisacante invented “a vehicle wheel that has at least one airfoil mounted thereon, the airfoil being arranged on the wheel body between the wheel rim and the central portion of the wheel…. When airfoil is oriented at a suitable angle, the downforce exerts a torque about the central rotation axis of the wheel can be converted directly into driving force.”

US patent 7980335, granted July 19, 2011 to Stephen D. Potter of Bedford, Massachusetts and assigned to Foster-Miller, Inc., a company that subsequently re-invented its name and now calls itself QinetiQ North America. Mr. Potter invented an “omni-directional wheel includes a hub rotatable about a wheel axis and a first row of angled rollers about the hub each rotatably supported by the hub.” Voila:

These omni-wheels, the patent suggests, can be used to make forklifts and other vehicles more versatile, as this drawing demonstrates:

US patent D690249, granted on September 24, 2013 to Mark Finnie of La Palma, California, for a “Motorcycle wheel with seven bifurcated spokes”.

There are many other newly invented wheels, in many countries.

BONUS (only somewhat related): The beetle that, also, invented the wheel.

BONUS (only somewhat related): “Method for transferring chocolates from conveyor to wheel fitted with grippers comprises second wheel with parallel axle which picks up sweets from belt and presents them top end outwards to grippers”, German patent application DE10155599, filed November 13, 2001.

Previous posts based on Improbable Research articles: