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In the Beginning

Using a new paradigm called loop quantum cosmology, scientists say, they are starting to understand, in greater detail, the origin of the universe:

Christmas Kicks

This year is the 85th anniversary of the Radio City Rockettes, and to celebrate, their show is a retrospective of Christmas performances through the years. Dancer Christina Cichra gives some behind-the-scenes facts about what it's like to be a Rockette (practicing six hours a day, six days a week before the season starts, for example):

Touring the Apocalypse

Suggestion #1, La Ruta Maya: The Doomsday Ride Courtesy Tour D'Afrique
In all the excitement about the fiscal cliff, we seem to have forgotten about the real precipice on our horizon: the End Times. Remember 12/21/12? For those who have been concerned about it ~ or who just became concerned ~ a convenient and practical list of the places where you might want to be on that date (slideshow):

The 'Star Trek' Vision

"We [need to] provide every student with the knowledge, the tools, and the motivation to become conscientious choice-makers and engaged change-makers for a restored and healthy and humane world for all." Zoe Weil co-founded and is the president of the Institute for Humane Education. Here, she talks about her vision for education and our children's future ~ which is also the future of the world (video):

Sofa Safety

Something to read and be aware of before you go out to buy a new couch, armchair, carpet padding ... :

Preserving the Native Past

Curtis with some of his subjects   screen shot from BBC video
Author Timothy Egan discusses his new book, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. In the early 1900s, Curtis began to photograph, record, and film Native Americans and their disappearing lifestyle. His quest, supported by President Theodore Roosevelt and funded by J.P. Morgan, resulted in a beautiful, sensitive, and truly priceless collection for the ages (story and video):

'Hello? Who's There?'

The December issue of reason magazine has an interesting article about how the government can use our cell phones to track us and listen to conversations, most often legally and without a warrant. I can't find that article online yet, but I did find this one, about a device the LAPD and a few other police departments use. As explained in this article, "when LAPD fires up a StingRay, it's often the most powerful signal in the area. Instantly, the department's spy equipment becomes the go-to 'tower' for every cellphone and mobile device nearby — not just the phone carried by the suspect they're tracking":

O, Women of Oman

A young woman photographs her grandmother working on a dishdasha Kelsy Wilson
National Geographic gave cameras to some women artisans of Oman so that they can record "the evolution of their living craft heritage in a time of rapid and necessary transition" (story and slideshow):

Alternating Current

France is embarking upon a renewable-energy project that uses tide-driven turbines on the ocean floor just off the coast. The first to benefit from it will be 3,000 homes in Brittany. (And p.s., apparently, the turbines pose no threat to fish) (video):

An American in the Middle East

New Yorker Gershon Baskin is working to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. While his work is mostly behind the scenes (you've never hear of him, right?), he is in touch with some of the most influential and powerful people in the area:

Grading the Work

In the apparel department, Forever 21 got a D-, while H&M got a B+. Skechers earned an F, Walmart a D+, and 7 for all Mankind a C+. American Eagle got a B, and Zara an A-. Free2Work grades companies in several industries on their performance in the area of labor abuse, including child labor and slavery. You can check out their assessment procedure and how they've graded some of the products you use most. They also have a free downloadable phone app:

Toe-Tappin' Types of Tunes

The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys are anything but sleepy and there's not a man among them, but there is one banjo (along with a guitar and fiddle), and they are definitely boys ~ brothers, even ~ and  amazingly talented to boot (video):

Funny Girl, Not-So-Funny Past

From, an excerpt from William Mann's Hello, Gorgeous. In it, the author talks about Barbra Streisand's father, who died when she was almost 2, and the abusive man who became her stepfather seven years later:

Out of the Grave

Ten famous people (besides Yasser Arafat) whose bodies were exhumed for one reason or another:

Oppan Santa Style

Truly the ultimate in holiday lights ~ Gangnam Style (video):!

Don't Get Me Started.

A comparison of countries' literacy and graduation rates and other relevant factors ranks the U.S. number 17 in terms of quality of education. Finland and South Korea took the top two spots. According to the report, “More important than money ... is the level of support for education within the surrounding culture." I am biting my tongue. Hard:

About a Face

For Isabelle Dinoire, the French recipient of the first face transplant, life has not been easy since the operation in 2005. The media hounded her. People stared and still do. She will be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. She has thought many times about giving up, but then she looks in the mirror and thinks about the woman whose face she got. "And I tell myself, I'm not allowed to give up." (CAUTION: the before and after photos may be upsetting to younger children):

Not Your Parents' Classroom

"Smart" desks linked to a smartboard. Sharing. Active problem-solving. A three-year study found that this kind of environment helps children with their math skills:

Carrot, Egg, or Coffee?

How do you react to adversity? Like coffee, which changes the hot water ~ the environment into which it's thrown ~ those who do best go with the flow:

Gimme Shelter

A worker paints the framework of a roof in Wuhan   Reuters/Stringer
Fifty-one fascinating pictures of the architecture of China, old and new (slideshow):

Our House in the Middle of Our Street

Luo Baogen's house is in Wenling Reuters/China Daily

In China, Luo Baogen and his wife refused to move out when their neighbors did, and so the planned road was built around their house. They say the compensation offered by the government was not enough (story and video):

The Day the Imam Died

Shia Muslims are observing Ashura, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in battle in 680 A.D. CAUTION ~ there are a couple of shocking pictures, so this is not for the younger set (slideshow):

Tap-tap ~ It's Fred and Ginger

For those who are too young to know and those who are old enough to remember that classic duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the story behind the story ~ and a great clip of them dancing (story and video):

Big Cities, Bright Lights

from the "Paris and Other Night Views, 2005-2007" series Floriane de Lassée
When I was little and we would visit my uncle and aunt in San Francisco, often, it would be dark as we drove home. I remember sitting in the back seat, looking out at the lighted windows of the multistory homes we passed, trying to imagine what was going on inside. Some had curtains, but others didn't, and I could see vases on tables, posters on walls, and often, the flickering blue light of a TV. The nights were cold, but those windows felt so warm and friendly.
   Floriane de Lassée's intriguing nighttime photos contrast near with far, the home with the city, the personal with the public. The link is to her New York series, but you can check out others as well (slideshows):

The World in Harmony

screen shot from "Lux Aurumque"
An introduction to Eric Whitacre and his amazing Virtual Choir. He is starting his fourth project now and is sending out a call for participants (story and TED video):

Human See, Human Do

Biomimicry, in which researchers get their ideas for new technologies from nature, is a growing field. Witness NBD Nano, which hopes to do the Namib Desert beetle one better. The insect draws moisture from the air, collecting it on its back, and stores it. The company is working on covering a bottle with water-attracting and -repelling material that will allow it to collect up to three liters (a little over three quarts) in an hour:

The Academic Ether

How many physical schools will survive in the age of edX, Udacity, and the like? Or, to quote this BBC story, "As Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and chairman of the One Laptop Per Child foundation, asked in a September article for the MIT Technology Review: 'If kids in Ethiopia learn to read without school, what does that say about kids in New York City who do not learn even with school?' ":

What Is it About the Loafer?

You can get 'em with tassels, put pennies in 'em, dress 'em up, dress 'em down, and wear 'em with or without socks, but did you know that the originals were worn by Norwegian (Weejun ~ get it?) fishermen?:

Building Magnetic Attraction

An engineer named Ayah Bdeir had a goal: to make science and inventing accessible to everyone and, specifically, to every child. So she created littleBits, tiny individual modules that each have either light, sound, power, sensor, etc., and that snap together with magnets. She calls them the next generation LEGOs: (story and videos; I recommend the TED video toward the bottom of the page):

Miss McFeathers Falls in Love

A turkey meant to be sold for Christmas dinner at a shop in Scotland has instead won the hearts of everyone there (and a reprieve) by falling in love with a peacock. It is a mutual attraction, and apparently, the two are inseparable:

Thermostabilized Yams ...

and dehydrated dressing. Just two of the "comfort foods" U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford shared with his Russian counterparts for their Thanksgiving feast aboard the International Space Station (story and video):

'Global Brain'

Entrepreneur and brain scientist Jeff Stibel sees huge, profound, and evolving similarities between our brain and the Internet. "Something special is happening," he says. "We are discovering a new entity, a new life form, in many ways" (story and video):

No More Ninjas

They were Japan's secret spies and assassins, trained in fighting, explosives- and poison-making, and other skills of the trade. And now there are only two left ~ the last ninjas (story and video):

Bypassing the Eye

Using an implanted device called the Argus II, researchers sent information directly to a blind man's retina ~ and he was able to read simple words. Other patients who have the device can see color, movement, and objects:

Truman Capote's Thanksgiving

From, which emails out excerpts of interesting books. This one is from A Christmas Memory: One Christmas, and the Thanksgiving Visitor:
   In today's selection -- a memory of a Thanksgiving dinner, deep in the Great Depression on an isolated farm in Alabama. The memory is from Truman Capote of his second-grade year, when his relatives, though poor, opened their house to far-flung neighbors who lived in "lonesome places hard to get away from." For Capote these were lonely years too, except for his friendship with his ancient and slightly addled cousin Miss Sook -- his divorced parents had abandoned him to those relatives.
   "A lively day, that Thanksgiving. Lively with on-and-off showers and abrupt sky clearings accompanied by thrusts of raw sun and sudden bandit winds snatching autumn's leftover leaves.
"The noises of the house were lovely, too: pots and pans and Uncle B.'s unused and rusty voice as he stood in the hall in his creaking Sunday suit, greeting our guests as they arrived. A few came by horseback or mule-drawn wagon, the majority in shined-up farm trucks and rackety flivvers. Mr. and Mrs. Conklin and their four beautiful daughters drove up in a mint-green 1932 Chevrolet (Mr. Conklin was well off; he owned several

A Turkey's Life

Joe Hutto and one of his "children."
A charming 50-minute Emmy-winning film about a man who raises a rafter (yes, that's what it's called ~ I looked it up!) of wild turkeys (story and video):

Going Where No Human Can

Toshiba has created a radiation-sensing, camera-equipped walking robot that can climb stairs and over debris, but not without some glitches. Still, the hope is that it will be able to enter damaged areas that humans can't, for example, in the crippled Fukushima power plant:


In a second-hand-book store in Toronto sits a unique homemade vending machine. For $2, you get a random used book (story and video):

Cards for Good

A company called Paperless Post will donate 15 cents to charities including Amnesty International and the ASPCA for every card you send through them. And it's free to us. Happy Holidays indeed!:


The simple magnet and power transfer technology are in a race to become the latest and greatest way to charge electric vehicles wirelessly:

The Politics of Holiday Survival

Ten very realistic and practical suggestions for how to get through the holidays with your conservative relatives. And, except for the first one, they work equally well for conservatives trying to survive get-togethers with their liberal kin:

Geography Quiz

How well do you know the Middle East? (Admission of ignorance: I got a 74% ...):

Between Bombs and Storms

An American journalist in Syria learns the value of news and pop culture:

(Secret) Comings and Goings

Five of the more intriguing secret hotel entrances in the U.S. and why they're there (story and slideshow):

Riding the Rails

Photographs of Tokyo's crowded subway commuters pressed up against the trains' windows (slideshow):
   You can see more on the photographer's website:

Steady As a Gamer's Hand

A new study finds that, when it comes to the surgery of the future, gamers have the upper hand:

Rallying 'Round Malala

While it is unfortunate in the extreme that it took a child being shot to focus attention on the plight of girls in so many parts of the world, we are all fortunate that something did. Sometimes a movement needs a symbol around which to coalesce, and our little friend Malala Yousafzai is that symbol.
   And may I add, while we're on the subject, that this little girl's courage, intelligence, and dignity didn't come from nowhere. Her father's love and devotion are a huge part of what has allowed her to continue being the amazing person she was born as (video):
   P.S., It is perhaps doubly unfortunate that the radicals who backed this attack on a child are vowing to finish what they started:

Rock Your iPad

A German company has designed a rocking chair that will charge your iPad as you rock. It also has a docking station on one of the arms and built-in speakers in the backrest:

Cover the Planet With People

Train in India
As of December 2011, the world's most populous nation was China, with a population of 1,347,350,000. The second most populous nation was India, with a population of 1,210,193,422. The US Census Bureau estimated that India's population would overtake China's in 2025.
   More about population:
  • As of July 2012, the Pitcairn Islands, a territory of the United Kingdom, had just 48 residents.
  • As of September 2012, the United States had a population of about 314,289,000, making it the third most populous nation.
  • Singapore's land area is 271.8 square miles (704 km2), and it had a population of 5,183,700 as of 2011, making it the world's most population-dense country. 
    ~ from

Season's Treatings

Ideas for projects and volunteer opportunities to help those in need during the holidays:

Talking Turkey

Ben Franklin suggested this guy's ancestor should be the national bird. Doug Mills - AP
The famous presidential pardoning of a turkey at Thanksgiving may not be as old a tradition as we think:

Nanoparticle, Huge Breakthrough

Scientists have found a nanoparticle to deliver an antigen that halts a kind of multiple sclerosis in mice:

Buildings for People

Among the many advances the MRI machine has made possible is a new way of viewing architecture. There is no doubt that one's environment can influence one's mood. It can also stimulate or depress the intellectual process. This is the intersection of neuroscience and architecture:

Sniffing Out Solutions

This is amazing! Scientists at Cambridge University worked with actual pets whose injuries had left them paralyzed. They transplanted cells from the dogs' nose to the site of their injury, and the dogs showed great improvement and were able to walk with the support of a harness (story and video):

It's All in the Curves

Whether you like Coca-Cola or not, you have to admit that its bottle is unmistakable and, really, quite shapely. Who came up with that design, and how? (story and video):

Home, Sweet (Ancient) Home

Sometimes, new construction can help us find old construction. Such is the case in a field in Echline, Scotland, where archaeologists working ahead of the building of a new crossing unearthed the remains of a Mesolithic dwelling, the oldest of its type found in that country:

Birds Do It

Don't know about the bees. (For those who may be too young to understand this allusion: There's an old Cole Porter song that goes, "Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it; let's do it, let's fall in love.")
   We know that many species of birds have altered their songs to be heard above human-made ambient noise. Some have also come to mimic some of the sounds they hear around them. A new study has found that grasshoppers, too, are changing their tune so that they can hear each other:
   Ella Fitzgerald singing about the birds, bees, and fleas (video):

Brain Activity

What has 86 billion neurons, 10 trillion synapses, and 0 pain receptors? (graphic):

'Altogether Fitting and Proper'

Only known picture of Lincoln (center, hatless) at Gettysburg Brady-Handy Collection, Library of Congress
It was on November 19, 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln delivered what he called his "little speech," otherwise known as the Gettysburg Address:

Mini Me, Mini You

A pop-up photo studio in Tokyo will make a practically perfect 3D plastic miniature of you for $264 to $528 (less if you buy in bulk), depending on the size you want:

He's Working on It

Max Schrems's university paper is a year overdue, but his professor knows it's worth waiting for. And from the publicity his work has generated, the university knows he hasn't forgotten about it. Much to its chagrin, Facebook knows that, too:

Six Things About 'Lincoln'

Interesting background about the making of the movie Lincoln:

The Farmer President

The president of Uruguay lives on an old farm with his wife and three-legged dog and gives away about 90 percent of his salary ~ and this is the way he likes it (story and video):

Ding-Dong, the Twinkie's Dead

©Keystone USA-ZUMA/Rex Features
Well, it may be. For now, though, it's doing pretty well as gourmands rush to buy them off the shelves and the Internet. In its honor, an ode to an American icon, the Twinkie, including its history and ingredients:

Simple Synopses

His description of The Wizard of Oz (“Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”) is pretty well-known. It was written in 1998 for my hometown paper, the Marin Independent Journal. Here's a link to Rick Polito's blog, where he continues that proud tradition:

Dissecting Sandy

Superstorm Sandy came and went, and there are many whose lives it changed forever. The cleanup continues. Where does such a storm come from? How does it become so formidable and treacherous?:

Portrait of an Empire

Prince Dara Shikoh ©The British Library Board

The British Library has put on exhibit its treasures from India's Mughal Dynasty (1526-1707 ~ actually, it struggled on until 1857, when the British defeated the last emperor), most of which were collected by discerning representatives of the British East India Company in the mid-1700s. At its height, the Muslim rulers of this dynasty reigned over an empire that included most of modern-day India as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and parts of Afghanistan and Iran:
   Photographs of some of the items on exhibit (slideshow) :

Taxis and Anchors and Tanks

Abandoned fishing boats, Monyak, Uzbekistan
Oh, my! All those "things" we don't want anymore. You and I have trash cans, recycling bins, even toxic-waste centers. World governments and large corporations have "object graveyards," and they make for great, even artistic, photographs (slideshow):

Just Because: 'Zelda: a Biography'

This book, by Nancy Milford, captivated me when I read it many, many moons ago. I was (and still am) a fervent Fitzgerald fan, and that's what drew me to it in the first place. I soon learned that F. Scott's wife was every bit as fascinating as he was ~ if not just a bit more so ~ and also very talented.


WHEN I WAS YOUNG in the Midwest and had dreams of my own, it seemed to me a fine thing to live as the Fitzgeralds had, where every gesture had a special flair that marked it as one's own. Together they personified the immense lure of the East, of young fame, of dissolution and early death—their sepia-tinted photographs in rotogravure sections across the country: Scott, in an immaculate Norfolk jacket, gesturing nervously with a cigarette, Zelda brightly at his side, her clean wild hair brushed back from her face. But it was not her beauty that was arresting. It was her style, a sort of insolence toward life, her total lack of caution, her fearless and abundant pride. If the Fitzgeralds were ghostly figures out of an era that was gone, they had nevertheless made an impact on the American imagination that reverberated into my own generation. I wanted to know why.
   In the spring of 1963, when I had just turned twenty-five, I began to gather reminiscences from people who had known the Fitzgeralds well, people who had shared a summer house, or a childhood. I remember Gerald Murphy turning to me once and saying suddenly, "Zelda was an American value!" He said it almost in fury, as if she had eluded him until that very moment. For she was an elusive woman. She was also vulnerable and willful and in deep hiding. Sara Murphy caught something of it in her letter to Scott written after Zelda's first breakdown, "I think of her face so often, & so wish it had been drawn. ... It is rather like a young Indian's face, except for the smouldering eyes. At night, I remember, if she was excited, they turned black—& impenetrable—but always full of impatience—at

A School Afloat

The boats have libraries and Internet-linked PCs.     Abir Abdullah
More than 1,600 children in Bangladesh who might otherwise not have been able to go to school ~ especially during the monsoon season ~ are picked up from their riverside villages by a convoy of 20 solar-powered boats run by a local nonprofit (slideshow):

The Castle the Beatles Built

The Library John Burcham for the New York Times

... along with the Animals and the Stones and a little help from Mr. Ortega.
   In 1984, Isabro Ortega started building a house on some land his parents had left him in Truchas, New Mexico. With the music of the British invasion bands to keep him company, the self-taught woodcarver created ~ and continues to create ~ unique ceilings, floors, furniture, and rosettes of beaten copper for his Casa de las Nubes (story and slideshow):

Coastal Crusade

Fishermen with a sea turtle they caught accidentally.  © Marcos Pereira
Mozambique has created Africa's largest coastal marine reserve. At more than 4,000 square miles, it contains a large coral community and five of the world's seven sea turtle species:

Bridging the Meghalaya

Some of the bridges are double-deckers.
In the very, very rainy northeastern Indian province of Meghalaya (which means Abode of the Clouds), the bridges are woven from the living roots of the rubber trees on the banks of the rivers. Living on for hundreds of years, they bridge not only the valleys but the generations (slideshow and video):
   To learn more about bridges in general:

That'll Learn Ya

How's this for an idea: a free, quality education available to everyone. Sounds like the vision behind our public school system, doesn't it? Only it's not, and by all accounts, this version really works ~ and that's only one of the differences between it and our public schools (story and videos):

Max Headroom & the Humachine

Inventor and author Ray Kurzweil suggests we all accept our future as humachines (my term, not his). By 2045, he says, humans and machines will be integrated and there'll be no turning back:
   All of which reminds me of a great and all-too-short-lived TV series from the '80s called Max Headroom, in which a young genius downloads a reporter's mind and creates his computerized alter ego, Max. This part of the first episode, "Blipverts," shows the birth of Max Headroom (N.B.: maybe not so much for the very junior set) (video):

A Rose Is a Rose Is ...

a candy that, when eaten, exudes an oil through the pores that make someone smell like roses for about six hours. Ah, science!:

Coca-Cola, 5¢

A bottle of Coke once cost five cents. It was that way for a very long time, and the story behind that low price has to do, like most things, with profit and advertising (story and audio):

This Is Your Brain on Rap

Oh, the things the fabulous fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan can show us. In this particular study, scientists observed that improvisation, whether in rapping or playing jazz, involves the parts of the brain most active in motivation, language, action and emotion:

Church to Mosque to Museum

Copyright 2011 © Hagia Sophia Museum
On the Islamic New Year (Nov. 15), a peek inside Istanbul's amazing Hagia Sophia:

A Brief History of Eating

We didn't always eat "three squares" a day. In fact, the Romans ate only one meal, in the middle of the day. Then came religion, the social ladder, and the Industrial Revolution:


istock photo
Ever thought about raising chickens? If you're a good poultry parent, it's one way of cutting down on the carbon footprint (eggs from farm to store to home) and making sure you're eating and serving only the best (from healthy, happy, well-fed hens):

A New Helping Hand

Occupy volunteers dispose of mold-infested possessions in a storm-ravaged home.
Remember the Occupy movement? While it may not be getting much media coverage these days, it is far from moribund. In fact, members of its offshoot Occupy Sandy Relief NYC have been working hard to fill the needs of those left homeless or without power by the storm. It's an example of what is being called "social entrepreneurship," a model that seems to be growing throughout the world. It is, according to author David Bornstein, "people spreading new approaches — through nonprofits and businesses, or within government — to address problems more successfully than in the past":
   For more information about Occupy's relief efforts on the East Coast:

To Sleep: Perchance To Dream

This changes everything.
   Scott Routley has been in what was thought to be a vegetative state since a car accident 12 years ago. By watching brain activity via an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine, British neuroscientist Prof. Adrian Owen was able to deduce that Routley, responding to a question, is telling us he's not in pain (story and videos):
   For more detailed information about the vegetative state, which is different from the coma:

Darkness at Noon

screen shot 12:31 p.m. PST ~ just minutes away from totality!
totality! 12:36 PST
The total solar eclipse, happening (depending on where in the world you are) Nov. 13 and 14, is being live-streamed for those of us who don't live in northern Australia (story, slideshow, live video streaming with audio):

Buck Duke and the Cigarette

In the 1880s, a 20-something cigar smoker named James Buchanan ("Buck") Duke took over a small cigarette factory in North Carolina. And the rest is history. Not only did he mechanize the cigarette-rolling process, but, via advertising that included equating the cigarette with freedom for women, saw the number of smokers in the U.S. quadruple in 15 years:

How Do You Gif an Omnishambles?

Oxford University Press has released its Word of the Year ~ for the UK and the U.S. In Britain, it's omnishambles, from omni, meaning all, and shambles, meaning, well, shambles! The U.S. word is gif ~ you know, an image on the Internet. The thing about gif is that it is now becoming a verb, too:|newswell|text|Frontpage|p

When Sponges Attack

A new kind of sponge has been found off the coast of Monterey County, Calif. It's delicate-looking, it's carnivorous, and it snags its prey with velcro-like hooks (story and video):

I, Battery

A new cochlear implant joins other recent inventions that are self-powering. In this case, the implant uses electrical signals from the inner ear itself:

The Gift of Giftedness

A monograph on giftedness and the importance ~ for the individual and for society ~ of recognizing and nurturing special abilities and talents:
The authors speak about giftedness from the psychological-science perspective (video):

'Harmony and Understanding'?

Back in 1967, a musical called Hair hit the stage. One of the songs, "Aquarius," foresaw the dawning of a new age with its lyrics "When the moon is in the Seventh House/And Jupiter aligns with Mars/Then peace will guide the planets/And love will steer the stars." Is it possible that we are actually nearing that time? Harvard psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker thinks yes (video):

The Girl Who Lived

Backers of the ruling Pakistan People's Party support Malala. AFP
Nov. 10 was Malala Day in Pakistan in honor of the 14-year-old shot by the Taliban for speaking up in support of girls' right to an education. Speaking of his daughter a couple of weeks ago, Ziauddin Yusafzai said, "When she fell, Pakistan stood" (slideshow):

It's All Over Now

Whether you like it or not, the election is over. Here's how we know for sure:

If I Could Save Time in a Photo

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, New York         Stephen Wilkes
How does one capture the passage of time in a still shot? Photographer Stephen Wilkes, who has taken a series of portraits of New York City that he calls Day to Night, shows us how he does it (video):;mostpopvideo


Did April Fool's Day come early this year? Exhibit A: the Baby Mop, a product inspired by a spoof of a Japanese commercial. (Note the word spoof!) (story and video):

Now You See It ...

Ever wanted to be invisible? Scientists have apparently gotten one step closer to helping you out. Of course, there are still a couple of glitches:

Coral Care

We all have our own ways of communicating. Between a certain kind of coral and a certain fish, it's a chemical thing. In this particular case, the Acropora nasuta coral sends out a signal to the goby fish when it's being touched by a seaweed that is dangerous to it. This causes the fish to find and nibble away at the seaweed:

They All Live for the Sun

The tiny New Zealand territory of Tokelau, pop. around 1,500, has become the first territory-nation to go completely solar:

Listen Up

The neurological, sociological, and emotional difference between hearing and listening and paying attention:

Shine a Light

October and November are the months of Diwali, or Deepavali, or Deepawali, or ... (transliteration can be so confusing!). It means "row of lamps," and this holiday is known as the Festival of Lights, celebrating as it does the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. It is also the beginning of the Hindu New Year. It is a four- or five-day festival (depending on which source you read; one site says Deepavali is four days long and Diwali is five, that the former is celebrated mostly in South India and the latter in North India and in the U.S., Canada, and the UK, whose Indian populations mostly hail from the north). Its exact dates are decided by the position of the moon. This year, the main day, which is the middle day, is Nov. 13: and

On the Fringe

The Victorians did it ~ they made decorations, like wreaths, from human hair. Some were quite ornate (see ). The idea of hair as decoration seems to be making a kind of comeback, at least with one designer, who is making accessories out of human hair (story and slideshow):

A Day 'To Perpetuate Peace'

This year, Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, falls on a Sunday, so it will be observed on Monday. This holiday started life as Armistice Day, and the resolution that created it declared that the date "should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations":

The Coolness Factor


It took a bunch of self-described social scientist geeks to isolate the characteristics that the rest of us see, quite simply, as "cool":,0,6730428.story

The Boy Who Lived on Hitler's Street

Hitler lived on the second floor of Prinzregentenplatz 16
When Adolf Hitler moved to an apartment on Edgar Feuchtwanger's street in Munich, the little boy "was just curious to see him there." Now, 80 years later, the man looks back on that time and muses that "it's so difficult to think that people you saw almost on a daily basis were responsible for turning the world upside down":

Kindness in the Air

Apparently, Lady Macbeth was right to distrust the milk of human kindness. As it turns out, it's bread, or the scent thereof, that triggers acts of compassion. Studies have also found specific odors to stimulate other responses:

For Your Eyes Only

Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale
OK, I'll admit it. I've been a James Bond movie fan ever since Daniel Craig took over as the main man. On the assumption that I'm not the only one, here's an interesting collection of trivia about the latest, Skyfall:

The Button of Your Belly

Contenders for the Ig Nobel Prize abound (see "It's the Ig Nobels!," Sept. 21, 2012, and "A New Ig Nobel Winner?," Nov. 2, 2012)! Meet Rob Dunn, who somehow found himself transplanted from the perfectly defensible study of rain forests into exploring the dark, humid, and sometimes overgrown depths of the human umbilicus:

Christmas in November

screen shot
Paris's Galleries Lafayette officially opened its sparkly 2012 Christmas display, featuring Cinderella's carriage, above, and lots and lots of animals (video):

The Numbers Pain

If you're a number-phobe who finds the mere thought of math painful, you're not alone ~ and your pain is real. Whether you find that consoling is a whole other story!:

The Princess Spied

Not many know of her, but she is getting a statue in London's Gordon Square Gardens. Noor Inayat Khan was born in 1914 to an Indian father (a descendant of Indian royalty) and American mother and raised in Britain and France. Despite her fervent belief in non-violence, she became a spy during World War II and was the first female wireless operator to be dropped behind enemy lines, in France. She died before a Nazi firing squad in the Dachau concentration camp in 1944:

¿Whither Puerto Rico?

 On Nov. 6, Puerto Ricans had the opportunity to vote on their future status. It was a two-part question, the first asking whether the voter approved of the island's current status as a U.S. territory. To this, 54% of those who voted said No. The second part gave voters three choices: statehood, sovereign free association, and independence. Of those responding to this question, 61% chose statehood. Still, the message is not as clear as the numbers would imply:

Fancy Free

From people who ought to know what's good, the best free software programs ~ and the links to get them (check out Prey!):

Sight and Sound

Neurologists in Israel have developed a way for the blind to "see" using sound. The intriguing thing, besides watching it work, is that the process activated the test subjects' visual cortex even though none had ever used his/her eyes (story and video):

Building on China's Past

The amazing architect Wang Shu, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and named architecture Innovator of the Year by the Wall Street Journal, creates buildings that synthesize China's past and present into a style that is unique, inspired, and visionary:
above, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Phase II © Lv Hengzhong; right, Vertical Courtyard Apartments © Lu Wenyu, both courtesy Amateur Architecture Studio

The Courage of One's Convictions

What do American nuns, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Pussy Riot have in common? They're all on the Atlantic's list of Brave Thinkers of 2012. You can rate them by their risk factor, view others' ratings, and read a short history of brave thinking, which includes the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, and John Dewey:

Dangerous Moves

Now, I don't normally post this kind of story, but in this particular case, I just had to make an exception. It seems that a group of parents in a town in California is protesting their children's schools' addition of yoga to the fitness regimen. On religious grounds. Tell me that doesn't belong in the category of Interesting Things!:,0,6809683.story

Ni Hao, Mis Przyjaciele!

When my son was in kindergarten, a little boy joined the class partway through the year. He had come from Hong Kong and spoke not one word of English. Still, his parents dropped him off in the morning, watched for a while, and left him to his own devices. The rest of us parents watched with concern as this little guy sat there quietly, day after day, obviously not understanding a word that was being said, unable to communicate with teachers or fellow students.
   And then, in about week three, he started talking, haltingly at first, and by the end of two months, a stranger would have been hard-pressed to distinguish him from any of the other children in the class. No hesitation, no accent.
   There have been many theories over the years about how we learn ~ and how we learn foreign languages, in particular. Research into short- and long-term memory is changing teaching techniques both online and in the classroom (and btw, ni hao is Chinese for "hello," mis Spanish for "my," and przyjaciele is Polish for "friends"):

Memory Upgrade

In a development that promises to spare many the misery and heartache of Alzheimer's, researchers can now spot signs of the disease up to 20 years before the symptoms actually show up:

Constructing a Theory of Everything

Physicist David Deutsch has come out with his long-awaited theory of the nature of reality, and it could be the beginning of a new branch of physics. He calls it the Constructor Theory. (Of personal interest is where the number 42 fits in.):

The Night Life of Todd Hido

Todd Hido

American photographer Todd Hido's sleepy houses and streets. (The French text reads "Todd Hido is an American photographer who made a whole series of nighttime photographs of suburban houses; more recently, he photographed landscapes on the road from the inside of his car. His website is very comprehensive" (photographs):

A Tale of Two Men

One in Hawaii, the other in Detroit                    right pic: AP
The lives of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in photographs (slideshow):

The World Weighs In

Headline in an Argentinian newspaper: "The US chooses between the lottery and the devil they know." Here's what newspapers around the world are saying about our election:

Climbing Mormon Mountain

© 2005, Kyle Dahl
Have you ever been curious about it? In a timely column, Amy Ephron describes her tour of the Los Angeles Mormon Temple Visitors' Center, which is as far as a nonmember can usually go: