A ‘Finally Friday!’ linkstew

Phil Plait shares these images of the Curiosity rover on Mars taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As he notes: “the bar for ‘amazing’ is set pretty high when you have a 1-ton laser-eyed nuclear-powered mobile chemistry lab on another world in the first place”.

In 1818, almost 200 years ago yesterday, eccentric would-be explorer John Cleves Symmes, Jr. addressed this circular to the city of Wilmington, Del., seeking a fellowship of 100 like-minded “brave souls” to come with him on a polar journey to discover the center of the Earth, which he declared was “hollow, and habitable within.” Symmes circular makes reference to “Doctor Darwin’s Golden Secret”, apparently a reference to Dr. Erasmus Darwin; more on that can be found here.

Aeon Magazine has a wonderful piece on humanity’s fascination with stories of submerged civilizations, and the surprising ‘modern’ discovery that ancient peoples did once walk the plains beneath our seas.

“…But there is no doubt that the classical tradition is: the curse of boils, bats, frogs, the curse of blood, the curse of rats, hail, of beasts, the locusts, of course, the death of the first-born, and then, finally, of darkness”.

A nice retrospective on the “Dr. Phibes” movie series and one of Vincent Price’s most flamboyant and memorable roles. It felt just like a Hammer film, but many American International Pictures usually did.

Is it just too much to believe? I was cynically skeptical of the news that Trayvon Martin’s killer had rescued a family from an overturned SUV just days after his not guilty verdict myself, but “‘Truther‘ fatigue” must be setting in.

The peacock’s tail gave Darwin fits. How could evolution possibly favor such cumbersome and conspicuous accoutrement? What really matters, of course, is what the peahen he’s trying to impress makes of it. In a new study, scientists mounted tiny eye-tracking cameras on the heads of peahens to try to get inside their minds as they watched males’ courtship displays.

“Weiners of the World” is a pretty elite group.

Katie Barnett says all her possessions in her Vinton County, Ohio, home disappeared when Wellston First National Bank confused her home with the house across the street, foreclosed on it, changed the locks, and then sold or trashed everything. “It wouldn’t be a big deal if they would step up and say ‘I’m sorry, we will replace your stuff.’ Instead, I’m getting attitude from them. They’re sarcastic when they talk to me. They make it sound like I’m trying to rip the bank off. All I want is my stuff back.”

Tall women have higher cancer risk; are smoking, drinking to blame?

Health officials in Los Angeles County announced yesterday that a squirrel found covered in fleas has tested positive for bubonic plague.

According to a study conducted at the University of South Florida, low doses of psilocybin (psychedelic) mushrooms erase the conditioned fear response in mice—which, the researchers suggest, may lead to the potential treatment of PTSD.

Aeon Magazine has a wonderful piece on humanity’s fascination with stories of submerged civilizations, and the surprising ‘modern’ discovery that ancient peoples did once walk the plains beneath our seas.

China plans to invest 1.7 trillion yuan to combat air pollution over the next five years, as the new government’s seeks to address a key source of growing social discontent.

Vulnerable Sam: Inflatable Child Substitute” (1972): This educational product went on the market in late 1972 and was targeted at prospective parents, nursery school teachers and church staff. It afforded them the opportunity to practice their corporal punishment techniques before inflicting them on an actual child.

Kooky new conspiracy theory explains how Kate Middleton’s baby is an Illuminati hoax.

Switched at birth?”, wherein a certain Mrs. Kent claimed she was Queen Victoria’s daughter.

Want a squishy toy fetus with your corn dog? If you’re visiting the North Dakota State Fair, you’re in luck! Last weekend, Minot Right to Life slipped soft fetal models into kids’ candy bags. “The Precious One” fetal models are manufactured by Heritage House, a “pro-life supply store,” for $1.50 a pop — cheaper if you buy in bulk.  “It was really disturbing watching children run around with them,” one parent recalled.

An animated history of every known drone strike in Pakistan.

Brechensbuaer envisions the Peace Drone flying over rural areas, honing in on enemies so it can administer a dose of calming, violence-abating Oxycontin. “Imagine how highly addicted enemy combatants will gather around it, like kids around the ice cream truck,” he says. “The peace drone will hover above them, nice and evil at the same time. Playing music and smiling.”

Danger Room reports: “As the U.S. prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the government watchdog charged with overseeing nearly $100 billion in contracts to reconstruct the country has found almost $2 billion in potential waste, fraud and abuse in the last three months alone”.

On a much happier note, the U.S. Air Force has a contingent of “bronies”. The recent “BronyCon Summer 2012” in New Jersey even had a special lunch for service members that got a visit from Tara Strong, who voices the magical pony “Twilight Sparkle”. The cognitive dissonance between this reality and entrenched military machismo has prompted some hostile commentary, usually along these lines-

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