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Occupy the World

May 1, or May Day, has been observed as a day of action since 1886, when more than 300,000 workers across the country struck for better working conditions:
This year, the Occupy movement has called for a global strike:

Kitten Care

Stella's babies wait for their mom to get better.
When kittens nurse ~ I mean, when they really latch on and are going strong ~ their ears wiggle. Which is even cuter than it sounds, because their foreheads are really big and their ears are on the sides of their head, not on top. I know all this because for the last four days, I have been bottle-feeding six kittens who were born, oddly enough, on Friday, April 13. Their mom, our cat Stella, has abominable mastitis and is now on antibiotics and pain killers.

Chicken for Launch

Camilla the rubber chicken got a true bird's-eye view when she was sent flying into the stratosphere ~ twice ~ by students in Bishop, CA, once before the recent solar storm and once during it, to measure radiation (story and video):

RoboCop, Meet RoboGuard

A robotic prison guard makes its rounds.
South Korea is using robots to patrol its prisons. They are programmed to recognize signs of trouble and alert the human guards (story and video):

Life With "The Simpsons"

D'oh. Simpsons creator cartoonist Matt Groening (he of Life in Hell fame) talks about how he came to create his famous family 25 whole years ago. Hard to believe, no? (audio):

The Tall and Short of It

We have long heard that, because of their poor diets, North Koreans are, on average, 3 inches shorter than their counterparts in the South. Apparently, while it is true that they are shorter, it's not by 3 inches ~ yet:

Life in the Landfill

Rag pickers on a 100-foot-high mountain of trash Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times
As India throws more away (in New Delhi, 50% more now than five years ago), families of "rag pickers" make a kind of living by sorting through the trash and dreaming of making it to the middle class:,0,2692758.story

The Matter of Dark Matter

Back to the drawing board? A survey of our corner of the cosmos suggests that such as thing as dark matter, thought to make up as much as 80% of the mass of the universe, may not exist at all:

The iPhone T-1000

Of the Terminator movies I did see, the scenes that stand out the most to me were those of that morphing robotic cop. Which brings us to liquidmetal, or metallic glass. Whatever it's called, rumor has it that that's what the new iPhone will be made of, probably minus the morphability:

Robert Patrick as T-1000 in Terminator

Earth Day 1970

Sunnyside School

On the first Earth Day, my friend An and I ~ very young then! :-) ~ walked the median strip of the main street in our town picking up trash. We shouted "Happy Earth Day!" to all the motorists, most of whom looked back at us with blank, uncomprehending stares, and a few of whom flashed the peace sign. Here, a (rather depressing) clip from a Walter Cronkite television special that was aired on that day (video):!

Buried Buddhas

Photo by Sun Zifa, Imaginechina/AP Sun zifa
Almost 3,000 1,500-year-old Buddha statues were unearthed in China during a dig near the ancient capital of the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi dynasties (story and slideshow):

Welcome Aboard

Mid-deck  Gigapan by Jon Brack
Take a virtual tour of the Space Shuttle ~ the flight deck, mid-deck, toilet, and its underbelly ~ and learn the history of the Bob switch (story and interactive HD panorama photos):

In a Word

From "hopefully" to "anxious" to "beg the question," certain words and phrases have been misused so much that their new meaning is now getting the official ~ albeit reluctant ~ stamp of approval:

Message to the Muscle

Scientists have found a way to send messages directly from the brain to muscles, bypassing the spinal cord. This can lead to great advances for those paralyzed by spinal cord injuries:

That Was Then, This Is Now

NASA's "State of Flux" gallery contrasts images of Earth taken before and after certain events, like deforestation, tsunamis, glacier melt, etc.:

Deforestation in Bolivia. Photo on left taken in June 1975; photo on right taken in May 2003.

The Kindest Cut

Cut-paper artist Bovey Lee was born in Hong Kong but now lives in Pennsylvania. Her work is awesomely meticulous and delicate:
See more at

Big Building

While it's not as big as Dubai's Burj Khalifa, Japan's Tokyo Sky Tree is the world's tallest freestanding building:
For more details:

A Roman Childhood

They might not have known what aircraft are, but were ancient Romans the first helicopter parents? Ask Quintus Sulpicius Maximus:

Things To Do L.A. ~ April 19-22

April 19 ~ Fowler Out Loud: L.A. BlueGrass Hoppers, free, 6 p.m., Fowler Museum courtyard:
April 19 ~ Shakespeare Salon: Scenes and Sonnets, $55 (non-members), 7 p.m.; reception with light refreshments, 6:30 p.m.:
April 19-22 ~ Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, $20 (one-day adult pass), $10 (one-day child pass):

Eye in the Sky

Screen shot    AJRCLIPS plus
Beautiful time-lapse footage taken of Earth from the International Space Station and put together by photographer, videographer, and PhD in neuroscience Alex Rivest (

Here Comes the Sun

Many of us use sunscreen all year 'round, but summer, especially in places like Southern California, sees a jump in sunscreen use. Perhaps that makes this the perfect time to ask why the FDA doesn't protect us the way Europe's equivalent does:

Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work

Of the $3.6 trillion spent by the federal government in 2011, $2.3 trillion was financed by federal tax revenues. Twenty percent each went to defense and "security-related international activities," to Social Security, and to three health insurance programs. And the rest?:

Hanging Tight Thru the Night

Bored with conventional hotels and looking for a lift this summer? At Waldseilgarten, in Bavaria, you can choose to spend the night hanging from the trees or perched on a cliff-side ledge. There are also tamer versions of those options available:


Hard to imagine, but video games don't have to be violent. Or scary. Or evil. "Alternate reality" game designer Jane McGonigal has an interesting take on games and their potential for doing good. Her new game, SuperBetter, is inspired by her journey from physical illness (a brain injury) to health. There's a link to the game in the article (story and video):


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's talk show, The World Tomorrow, which he has managed to work on despite being under house arrest, will premiere this week (story and video):

To Melt or Not To Melt

While most glaciers around the world, including in the neighboring Himalayas, are shrinking, some in the Karakoram mountain range (home to K2) in Asia are actually getting thicker:

Having Their Pi and Using It, Too

The inexpensive (about $25), bare-bones computer called Raspberry Pi is finally ready to be introduced to its target users ~ schoolchildren who might not otherwise have access to a computer (story and video):

A Study of the Students

By all accounts, the Taliban (Pashto for "students," or "religious students") as a united military force was born during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and rose to power in that country as the Soviets withdrew in the mid-1990s. In 2001, a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country and ousted them from power. Yet we're still hearing about them. They still carry out deadly attacks, and not just in Afghanistan. A brief history of the group:
For a more detailed discussion, written in 2000:
A Frontline report, from Peshawar, Karachi, and villages in and around Swat Valley, Pakistan, in 2009 (story and video):
A profile of the Pakistani Taliban:

Little Cottages, Warm Lights

Silent Night
What made Thomas Kinkade so popular that his work, according to one estimate, can be found in one in twenty American homes? And does that popularity make him a true artist along the generally accepted lines of, say, Picasso or Raphael?:

A Clean Conscience

Hotel soap. You use it three or four, maybe five times and you're done. But there's still at least half a bar left. What a waste, right? 'Cause you know they just throw it away. Or they used to, until Derreck Kayongo started his Global Soap Project:
Last year, Kayongo was named a CNN Hero (story and video):

Bones in Ben's Basement

Bet you didn't know that construction workers in 1998 found human bones in the basement of a house that Ben Franklin lived in ... that dated back to the time when he lived there:

In the Blink of an Eye

Toddlers watching a video of a scene blinked less or not at all during the parts that engaged them. This is not surprising. What's interesting, though, is that this behavior can be used to determine what interests whom. Most toddlers, for example, stopped blinking right before an emotion-filled scene, but autistic toddlers showed no interest there and instead stopped blinking during sudden action:

Walk This Way

Richard Koci Hernandez
By now, we've all heard of Instagram. Some of us not so much because of the app itself, but because Facebook just purchased it for a sum that would make any of us very happy were it ours. Photojournalist Richard Koci Hernandez has been using this app to let loose his more creative side and has gathered quite a following for his photographs of people walking (slideshow):
A review of Instagram:

Internet, Schminternet

Over 20 percent of American adults don't use the Internet, according to a new study, and half of them say it's because they don't find it useful:

Picture the Crew

Barratt, Arthur, 15, Bell Boy
Gold, Katherine, 42, Stewar

Photographs of 250 of the more than 900 crew members of the Titanic, with their name, age, and position:

Scientists aka Misfits

Why is the new Wallace and Gromit movie called "The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists" in the UK but "The Pirates: Band of Misfits" in the US? Hmmmm ... Could it be for the same reason that the first Harry Potter book's title was changed from "Philosopher's Stone" to "Sorcerer's Stone"? (Don't get me started ...):

Area 25

Electrodes implanted in a woman's brain and attached to a battery box in her chest stimulate an area that controls our moods ~ and are allowing her to feel emotions other than the deep, overriding depression she battled all her life (video):

Rocket Man

Elon Musk, he of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and now, SpaceX fame, talks with Jon Stewart about the three areas he has come to believe will affect the future of mankind the most ~ the Internet, sustainable energy, and space exploration (video):

Hair of the Dog ... Or Ant

Scientists now think that ants immunize themselves against a fellow ant's infection by licking their sick comrade:

Artist Observed

How does an artist respond to being watched 24/7 by government cameras? He puts up his own cameras and streams it all live on his website ... until the government makes him take them down (video):

The Sandworm Turns

Marco Casagrande's Sandworm    Screen shot from
There's nothing quite like patterns of light and shadow; nothing quite like the beach; nothing quite like interactive art; and there's certainly nothing quite like a sculpture made from natural elements, on the beach, that one can walk through:


For those who own iPhones (and who doesn't?!), 25 shortcuts and tips ~ and I'm willing to bet there are at least a few you didn't already know about (like drying out a wet phone by putting it in a bag of uncooked white rice overnight):

A Little Light in the Wallet

The newest new coin in Canada is a 25-cent piece that glows in the dark. But wait! That's not all! It's a double portrait! It features the likeness of a dinosaur whose fossils were found in Alberta. In the dark, the creature's skeleton glows. (FYI, the coin will cost a lot more than 25 cents to purchase.):

Happy Birthdays

A look back at life-expectancy statistics over time and in light of contemporaneous world events can be interesting. For example,  "In 1970 Vietnam had a life expectancy of 48, and it is 75 now – it took England and Wales from 1894 to 1986 to make this transition":

Well, why not?

A list of the strangest questions people have asked their IT gurus includes "How do I start the Internet?" Vroom, vroom!:

Supersonic Sushi

It's the perfect wedding gift! The new SushiBot can pump out 1,000 rolls per hour (which translates to 3,600 pieces) and “precisely recreate the handmade taste and technique used by an experienced sushi chef,” according to a previous year's promo (story and videos):

The Times, Are They A-Changin'?

"... as the pernicious effects of instability and inequality become part of daily life, frustration with stale economic ideas is starting to turn into action — at least on the part of some." Does this Op-Ed piece about the old vs. the new in the field of economics signal a sea change in the way we view our world? And if so, how long will it take to trickle down?:,0,6994951.story

Take a Picture on May 15

Inspired by the 1955 exhibit "Family of Man" (and the book, the paperback version of which my parents kept around and which absolutely fascinated me as a child), Swedish book publisher and photographer Jeppe Wikstr├Âm is organizing an international challenge. He is asking us to photograph our lives on May 15 and upload the resulting pictures:

Caine Is Able

Caine Monroy Video screenshot by Bonnie Cha/CNET
Nine-year-old Caine is a busy boy. He built himself an arcade out of cardboard boxes in his dad's auto parts store in East L.A. One dollar will get you two turns, but for $2, you get a Fun Pass, which is for 500 turns! Problem was, in days and days, he'd had only one customer ~ until that special customer invited a flash mob over to play. (Thanks to Caroline, who found this story.) (video):

Wild Shots

Third Place: Wildlife Category Photo by Danny Nestor
The winning photographs in Defenders of Wildlife's 3rd Annual Photo Contest:

Museum Musings

One in a series (I gather) in which well-placed individuals write about their favorite museums (and we thereby learn a little about both), literary critic and emeritus professor of English at Oxford John Carey revisits the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and finds that, while some things have changed, others, thankfully, have not:

In the Name of Fame

The man known for proving that all four of a horse's legs leave the ground at once during a gallop and for inventing the Zoopraxiscope, thus advancing photography, cinematography, and zoology in one fell swoop, was also quite the character:

He's on 2nd

An animated conversation about the elements (thank you, KC!):

Rube Would Be Proud (& Awe-Struck)

Bells and whistles got nothing on this entry! This year's winner of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest takes complexity-for-the-sake-of-complexity-(and-entertainment) to a whole new level (story and video):

A Bridge Runs Through It

The Moses Bridge in The Netherlands. Does human creativity get any more awesome than this?:

Photos courtesy of RO&AD Architecten

Have It Your Way: The National Mall

(Who knew? I didn't.) Our National Mall in Washington, D.C., is in need of a facelift, and a competition has been underway to redesign it. Finalists have been named:
Those of us who can't quite make it to the Smithsonian Castle and National Museum of American History by Sunday to see their plans in person can check out and comment on the finalists' concepts here:

Fun vs. Physics

Setting aside the whimsical yet intriguingly implausible scenario that is the very quiddity of Angry Birds Space ~ fowl and swine zinging through the macrocosm ~ there's the grave matter of gravity vs. matter to consider:

Change of Heart

A British toddler is doing very well, thank you, after getting a new heart. He had been on an artificial heart called a Berlin heart for a record 251 days:

Bigfoot, Bigfools?

"I'm not sold, no," says one investigator.
Bigfoot is "an unidentified hominid or primate that has coexisted with us." So says Charlie Raymond, founder and lead investigator of the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization, as he and his team demonstrate some of the techniques they are using to find the elusive creature (story and video):

The Ghost Ship

Japanese ghost ship Ryou-Un Maru, set adrift by last year's tsunami, is only the latest in a list of derelict ships now residing and rusting on the ocean floor off Alaska's southeastern coast:
The Coast Guard used explosives to sink the Ryou-Un Maru in 6,000 feet of water
U.S. Coast Guard photo

The Waters of the Nile

When a river flows through many countries, to whom does its water belong? Political instability in Egypt is giving neighboring countries an opportunity to grab control of this important resource (story and infographic):

The End of the World As We Know It?

Forty years ago, MIT researchers published the results of an environmental study predicting global collapse in the year 2030 if we humans continued to live as we were then. More recently, an Australian physicist compared that work to current trends and found it to be right on track:

Homework on Hold

Off and on over the years, there has been talk about whether homework helps or hinders children on their journey through our education system. Despite this, most children's homework to-do pile continues to grow. Apparently, that trend isn't ours alone. Although France has officially banned homework in the elementary grades since the 1950s, some teachers ignore that rule. Now, a group of parents is calling for a boycott:

Breathing Easy

So we all know we can make our own air fresheners, but what's interesting in this article is the information about why so many of the commercial ones are to be avoided:

A Titanic Story

In 1912, a young missionary, his wife, and their baby son boarded the Titanic. Decades later, he told his story of the sinking and his survival to his nephew, who recorded it (story and audio):

The first World Happiness Report finds that the four happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe:

On By Accident

I first heard the phrase "on accident" when my son used it. He was about 5, and this was about 15 years ago. I thought it was kind of cute, maybe a childish misunderstanding based on its opposite, "on purpose." Being a mom who loved his innocent "childisms," I didn't correct him at the time.

Then, a couple of days later, I heard the phrase again, this time from a little friend of his. Curiouser and curiouser ...

Since then, I've noticed a LOT of people using "on accident" instead of what I grew up hearing and saying, "by accident." How did this happen? It's been a question at the back of my mind all these years, and I finally decided to look into it. What I found was absolutely fascinating (at least to me):

Here's the original study:

Bird's Eye View

Watch, real time, four recently hatched peregrine falcons and their parents, George and Gracie, in their nest box in San Francisco (webcam):

"The Essential Facts of Life"

U.S. naturalist and author Henry David Thoreau's meticulous notes about the biology in and around 1850s Concord, Mass., are the starting point for a study on the effects of climate change:

"Happy Meal"? So Not.

A Spanish study of almost 9,000 people found that those who eat a lot of fast food and baked goods are 51% more likely to suffer from depression:
My question, which is not answered here, is, Which came first? Not that I'm a fan of fast food, but is it possible that people who tend toward depression tend also to care less about their health or about taking the time to cook for themselves?

Just Like You-oo-oo

Great Ape Trust
The bonobos at Great Ape Trust in Iowa communicate with humans (and vice versa) using a lexicon of almost 400 pictures that is on its way to becoming an app. You can test it out:

Great Snakes!

Fossils unearthed in northern Colombia are evidence that giant reptiles, including a 50-foot-long (that's 14 meters) snake they named titanoboa, once lived on Earth:

Stars Among the Stars

NASA has announced its 2012 Carl Sagan Exoplanet Postdoctoral Fellows. "The six new Sagan fellows selected this year will be pushing the boundaries of exoplanet research in ways that would have made Carl incredibly excited," said Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech:

A Tale of Two Zones

Korea's DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) may be certain death for any humans attempting to enter it, but it is a sanctuary for any number of creatures, including some species that have disappeared from the rest of the peninsula:

Asteroid Aversion

Recent close calls have begged the question, Is there a way to save Earth from an asteroid headed in our direction?:

All About Tea

A brief but comprehensive primer on the most popular drink in the world:

Sands of Time

Andres Amador
San Francisco artist Andres Amador's canvas is the beach at low tide (video):!

This Video Will Blow Up Your Computer

(jk) The ten best April Fools' Day pranks (according to someone) (video):

Running Notes

A student's biology notes ~ and imagination ~ run rampant in this award-winning stop-motion animated video: