Monthly Archives: November 2011

Her dog was her coauthor

At the start of her career, NIH immunologist Polly Matzinger disliked writing in the passive voice and felt too insecure to adopt the first person. So she listed her dog, Galadriel Mirkwood, as a coauthor.

Their paper was published in 1978 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. When the editor learned Galadriel’s species, he barred Matzinger from his pages for the rest of his life.

From Futility Closet. Also, Wikipedia.

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Cats have tiny spines on their penises

Regarding cat sex:

At first, the female will reject the male, but eventually the female will allow the male to mate. The female will utter a loud yowl as the male pulls out of her. This is because a male cats penis has a band of about 120–150 backwards-pointing spines, which are about one millimeter long; upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the females vagina, which is a trigger for ovulation. This act also occurs to clear the vagina of other sperm in the context of a second or more mating, thus giving the later males a larger chance of conception.

The male cats don’t just get some action. They rake the female clean of any other guys.

From Wikipedia.

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Mark Landis, forger and donor

Mark Landis forges paintings and then shows up in disguise to museums to donate his forgeries. He’s been at it since the 80s, and his most favored disguise is “Father Arthur Scott”, a Jesuit.

He had dressed as a Jesuit priest because he had been taught by one in London, and was amused by the reaction. “I’ve helped out a lot of people. They come up to me at airports and tell me of their problems. There’s not much to being a priest. Some comforting words, that sort of thing. And a blessing.” He donated in the name Helen Mitchell because “it wasn’t mother’s name but it was grandmother’s, and mother would know in heaven, right?”

From The Financial Times, via Kottke.

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Now is the time to make new friends

 Now is the time to make new friends

By Terry Border, via Brain Pickings.

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Life magazine’s 20 worst Covers

Life magazine has chosen their 20 worst covers, and they’re all pretty fun.

 Life magazines 20 worst Covers

Via The Daily Intel.

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If your kid is an atheist, make sure he’s not armed!

 If your kid is an atheist, make sure hes not armed!

From Answers in Genesis, the same people who brought you the thrilling tale of the boy who did what his parents wanted him to.

Via Dangerous Minds.

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Cicadas can avoid predators by emerging in prime numbered intervals

Cicadas emerge from the underground only periodically. Depending on the species, that period will be 7, 13, or 17 years, which are all prime numbers. Why does this make sense?

Suppose there are some predators (like birds, and the Cicada Killer Wasp) that attack cicadas, and that the cicadas emerge every 12 years. Then the predators that come out every two years will attack them, and so will the predators that come out every 3 years, 4 years and 6 years. But according Mario Markus, “if the cicadas mutate to 13-year cycles, they will survive.

The other advantage is that cicada species with different intervals will rarely compete with each other for food.

Via Reddit.

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Quote fight: meaning in life

On Sunday, Andrew Sullivan quoted this from an essay by Jennifer Fulwiler about becoming Catholic:

If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death. And considering that the entire span of homo sapiens’ existence on earth wouldn’t even amount to a blip on the radar screen of a 5-billion-year-old universe, it seemed silly to pretend like the 60-odd-year life of some random organism on one of trillions of planets was something special.

This is a woman who was an atheist until she married a Christian and had a baby. She was always racked with worry about the meaninglessness of life, so she read some Christian books and decided their standard arguments for Christianity were good enough for her.

Then yesterday, I read this post from Matt Haughey. He has a benign brain tumor and recently lost his mom to cancer.

I feel like the tumor scare has taught me to appreciate all the people, experiences, and things in my life and I’ve done my best to live a fuller life while I can. In 2012 I’m going to be doing a lot of things I’ve always wanted to do, and they will mostly involve travel to places all over the world (planning on Hawaii, New Zealand, Belgium, Yosemite, Italy, all in the first six months). A tumor taught me that life can be brutal and short and to relish our time here.

Of all the ways to demolish Fulwiler’s arguments against atheism — and most of them are pretty lame, if you read the whole article — I think this nails it best. If you can’t handle that a lifetime is all you get and that, yes, eventually your accomplishments will be washed away by the vastness of space and time, then I think you ask for too much.

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By Yau Hoong Tang, via Ffffound.

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Duck does not like to be touched

 Duck does not like to be touchedFrom Boing Boing.

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