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Moon Shot

NASA's twin spacecraft, launched in September, should be in position around the moon by New Year's Day, ready to give us the most detailed information we'll have about any celestial object, including our own planet:

Standing the World on Its Head

How to create your own camera obscura (video):

What's Your EQ? ... What IS EQ?

A quiz that might help you determine whether you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur ~ and shares some interesting statistics and facts along the way (from Northwestern Mutual Life). N.B., Don't click where it says to. The quiz is just below that, on the same page:

Remember Your Omega 3s

U.S. researchers have found preliminary but compelling evidence that diet can influence one's chances of developing Alzheimer's. Among those studied, people with high levels of vitamins ~ specifically B, C, D, and E ~ and omega 3 in their blood had a larger brain volume than those with high levels of trans fat:

Knitly News

Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy
A woman in France knits scenes from the news for her website, Delit Maille (slideshow):

Good and Clean

A list of some of the most interesting ~ and promising ~ clean-technology developments of the last year (story and videos):

Switching Gears

Not only does the Prius X Parlee bike, or PXP, read your mind (with the help of a special helmet and app), but it remembers where on your route you shifted gears:

Hot Foods

Even though it's sponsored by (*shiver*) Monsanto, this column predicting the top food trends of 2012 is interesting and probably pretty right-on:


We should be together/Like the walls and ceiling/Like a door and doorknob/Like the hat on your nob ~ so sang the charming little Shirley Temple many moons ago. While those pairings seem fairly obvious, here's one that doesn't but still makes sense, in a useless-and-yet-vaguely-entertaining kind of way:

An A for IQ

Between 1955 and 1972, Norway increased the amount of time its children spent in school from seven to nine years. This coincided with an increase in their average IQ. Coincidence?:

Meet Anthony Knivet

English sailor, pirate, shipwreck victim, slave, slave trader, tribal guest, and autobiographer, Anthony Knivet (1591-1649) was among the first to describe pre-colonial Brazil:

Listen to Your Mütter

Welcome to Philadelphia's Mütter Museum, home to preserved fetuses, dried skin, and other fascinations, including part of Einstein's brain. Be sure to check out the "Guess What's on the Curator's Desk" and "Mütter Minute" videos (plus, at the online store, you can get an umlaut button and a replica of Dr. Koop's bow tie)!:

Beethoven's ear

Ludwig van Beethoven's compositions have always been divided into three periods. Now researchers at the University of Amsterdam have shown that those periods coincide with the deterioration of his hearing:

Next Wave in Christmas Cards

British marine scientist Dr. Richard Kirby used his photos of plankton, starfish larva, and other oceanic creatures to create a unique and beautiful Christmas card:

Less Water, Water All Around

New satellite data show just how much less groundwater there is in many areas around the world, especially California, India, the Middle East, and China:

Deus as Machina

The illustrations of Gvozdariki (what would Gregor Samsa think?):

Just the Facts

Another rant against standardized testing ~ valid, but the real issue (IMHO) is the "teaching to the test" it engenders:

Crop Tops

California Academy of Sciences
 ©Tim Griffith
Grassy roofs and the ground-breaking buildings that sport them:

The Ones to Watch

Forbes's list of "30 Under 30" includes Ronan Farrow, the only biological child of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, now a humanitarian activist:

It's a Stalled World After All

David Gray, Reuters

Ten years ago, a Thai company started building WonderLand, a kind of Disneyland, in a village about 20 miles from Beijing. The deal fell apart, and the hulls of the buildings were left to rust and decay ~ and provide photographers with bizarre, ghostly images:

Like a Rolling Stone

One question answered begets another, just as puzzling. Some of Stonehenge's stones, weighing 3 to 5 tons, came from 160 miles (257 kilometers) away:

Light Up the Holidays

A tram in Milan
Photos of holiday dazzle around the world:
Also, check out New York's window displays!:

The 99%'s (average) 2.5%

Hey! Here's a holiday gift idea! Let the folks over at 23andMe ( ) test your DNA for the Neanderthal gene. FYI, the average carried by modern humans is 2.5%:

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

NASA scientists are looking at a galaxy as it was 12.9 billion light years ago, almost at what we think was the beginning of time. Even though it's 100 times less massive than our Milky Way, it's creating about 30 times as many stars every year:

Superb Secret Santas

Some true Samaritans have been going into stores like Kmart and paying off the layaway bills of total strangers. To borrow a line from Tiny Tim, God bless them, every one:

Stress? What Stress? :P

A few ideas/reminders that may help make the season calmer and more enjoyable for everyone:

Dear Country

A few years ago, VICE founder Shane Smith managed to get into North Korea and even film bits of it. Herewith, The VICE Guide to North Korea (video):

Cloud vs. Black Hole

A distant battle with a predetermined end will take place, probably in the year 2013, when a giant gas cloud spirals ever closer to the massive black hole at the center of our galaxy ~ and we'll be there to watch the decimation:

Stealing Banksy

Yes, it's true!: A hotel group in Australia is putting up a $15,000 Banksy somewhere in its hotels and challenging guests to steal it. Whoever succeeds in snatching it without getting caught gets to keep it:

Trashy Cruise

What could be more exciting, more adventurous, more romantic than a cruise to the lovely, the fascinating, the inspirational ocean garbage patch, now featuring debris from Japan's tsunami?:

Occupy Dickens

The Occupy movement is alive, to begin with, and its message has been melded with Charles Dickens's in a new Christmas Carol. Makes absolute sense, when you think about it:,0,2712360.story

Angel in Disguise

A profile of Paris's Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore in the truest sense of the concept, where writers hung out, composed, and palavered, written in the wake of its owner's recent passing:

Imagine Peace

Harvard professor Steven Pinker has written a new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, in which he argues that, far from what we may believe after viewing the evening news, we are actually living in a very peaceful era (video):

Influential as the Dickens

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.   ~ from A Tale of Two Cities
A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House. Was there ever an author more prolific, more influential, more esteemed than Charles Dickens? With his 200th birthday in plain sight (Feb. 7, 2012), the BBC lists "Six Things He Gave the Modern World":

The More Things Change ...

Predicted percentage of ecological landscape being driven
toward changes in plant species by 2100. NASA/JPL-Caltech
... the more they force other things to change. A new report out from NASA and Caltech, based on computer modeling, predicts the biome and species shifts that will take place in the next centuries as a result of climate change.
"Our study introduces a new view of climate change, exploring the ecological implications of a few degrees of global warming," said study leader Jon Bergengren. "While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it's the ecological consequences that matter most."

Before Steve Jobs ...

... before Bill Gates, there was Robert Noyce, who turned 84 on Dec. 12. Who is he? Just the co-inventor of the humble microchip, among other things, and mentor to many of Silicon Valley's finest (ignore the typos and grammatical errors):

How To Pack a ひるごはん

In the competitive world that is Japan, moms are taking classes on how to pack an artistic lunch for their progeny. Be the first on your block to construct stars' faces out of rice and seaweed (it only takes two hours):

'You're a Rat.' 'Why, thank you!'

And we thought we were the only ones with empathy and a moral code. Rats will free a trapped rat and even leave food for him/her:

Time for Bed

Envious of those who can get by on four hours' sleep? Just tinker with your ABCC9 gene, and you can join that vivacious group (but seriously now, do you really want to?):

No Longer Left Behind

More research has been done recently on left-handedness, and the results are fascinating. New theories as to why 10% of the population is left-handed and 1% is mixed-handed confirm some traditional theories but dispel others. One interesting fact ~ Six of our last twelve presidents, including Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush, have been lefties:

And Justice for All

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948:

Young Talent

Meet the winners of this year's Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, headed by 17-year-old Angela Zhang, who came up with a nanosystem for the treatment of cancer stem cells:

App, App, Baby!

BBC's review of some great websites and apps (video):

Sugar ... Ah, Honey, Honey

One cup of Honey Smacks, Golden Crisp, or Wheaties Fuel has more sugar in it than a Twinkie, according to a list by the Environmental Working Group. Check out the rest of the tested cereals:

Total Lunar Eclipse Dec. 10

... and we on the West Coast will get the best view! It all starts at 4:45 a.m. and ends at around 8 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 10:

FWIW: Pun of the Day

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

Beijing is No. 1

And you thought L.A. was bad: Beijing is suffering through its third day of some of the worst smog ever (video):

Last Supper, New Threat

Da Vinci's masterpiece is well protected from theft and outdoor air pollution, but a new threat has surfaced, and it has to do with you and me:

The Hottest Hot Chocolate

It IS that season! The results of a taste test of 15 hot chocolate brands reveal the very best:

Beneath the Ice

It took ships, planes, satellites, and dog-drawn sleds, but scientists have put together an updated, very detailed map of the rock bed under all that ice and snow in the Antarctic (story, video, and animation):

A Model Model Train

The Miniatur Wunderland, in Hamburg, Germany, has more than 800 trains crossing countries like Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, the United States, and of course Germany, for the edification of the Wunderland's over 200,000 inhabitants (video):