Posts Tagged ‘syria’

I Love the Smell of Engineering in the Morning!

January 3, 2014

The Science (and social ‘dos’ of) building better Syrian barrel bombs. The Al-Assad regime’s campaign of ‘barrel bombs’ gets Brown Moses interested, so he’s providing in-depth commentary, box scores.  Should I be sad or happy that all these equations are ‘canonical’ in the trade? “Based on this equation, the optimum fragment mass can be computed to increase barrel bomb performance”:

Gun suicides kill the equivalent of two Sandy Hook shootings a day. But it’s just so goddamn depressing to talk about, so we just … don’t.

These New-Fangled Books Will Doom Us All! “New Media” has been controversial for going on 600 years.

Bill, watch out for that ‘Gish Gallop’! I fear this may not end well.

Hey, guys? I brought the hacky sack! : Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.

On the Established Origins of Particular Beasts from the Monster Manual.


As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer!

September 13, 2013

Why Isn’t the Sky Blue?“, from Radiolab, takes on the language of color. Were the ancient Greeks color-blind, or what? And meet the bugs we smoosh to make natural red dye. 

There’s a nice piece by Cory over at BoingBoing explaining why fingerprints make lousy authentication tokens. Just ask German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who had his prints lifted and published by the Chaos Computer Club. They made an informative video of the process. You’ve got some glue and a laser printer, right?

There’s a new tool for finding people trapped under rubble: Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), developed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

So has it or hasn’t it? A new study in the journal Science suggests that Voyager 1 entered the interstellar medium around August 25, 2012. You may have heard other reports before, but Thursday was the first time NASA announced it.

The Voyager 1&2 probes have only about 68 KB of memory on board and their CPU clocks run at only 250 KHz. You can marvel at how modest the CPUs are for other spacecraft here. Most of them make a Furby look like a genius.

Here’s a quaint Babylonian New Year custom we should revive: Akitu and the ritual humiliation of the king. Is once a year enough for this sort of thing?

Slaveholding societies have always lived in fear of the people they kept in bondageThe ancient Spartans declared war on their slaves every year, just to keep them from getting ideas. Here’s Plutarch’s take on the Spartan krypteia.

Some Syria commentary: The main target for Assad’s chemical weapons was always Obama’s red line.

Eat noodles like a boss!

Airships and Exorcists

September 10, 2013

Aeros Corp has received FAA certification of the Aeroscraft rigid frame airship. It utilizes a new buoyancy control system to reduce the need to juggle ballast.

The AfriGadget website is full of ingenious fun! Check out this home-made arc welder made from scrap. It’s jua kali dressed in mitumba!

No, this isn’t from The Onion: Iowa grants gun permits to the blind.

Roger Angel is one of the world’s most brilliant and audacious engineers. Could he design the next energy revolution?

Ancient Roman coins depict sundry sexual acts, but their purpose is unclear (they’ve been found everywhere except brothels).

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”: Philip K. Dick on Reality, Media Manipulation, and Human Heroism.

“If any [further reason] were needed by thoughtful persons …there are no vampires save countries where the dead are buried.” How occultism brought cremation to America.

Armed with bibles and holy water, these empty-headed American teeny-bopper whack-jobs head to England to vanquish the Dark Forces of Harry Potter. So I guess a friendly game of D&D is out of the question?

Obligatory Syria Kvetching –

Evidence from the massacre of civilians in eastern Damascus last month strongly suggests the Syrian government carried out chemical weapons attacks, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Tuesday.

Obama Backs Idea for Syria to Cede Control of Arms. What a graceful “out”, leaving a homicidal maniac still in power! Isn’t that all better?

Exclusive: Does Israel Have Chemical Weapons Too? One secret CIA file may have the answer.

Chemical and Biological Weapons Status at a Glance, from the Arms Control Organization.

‘Dog drones’ and ‘sheepsquatch’

September 6, 2013

In memoriam: All The People Who Have Died From A Marijuana Overdose.

Tragic accident with RC helicopter claims the life of its operator.

And he rode a pale hexapod: the Mantis has arrived.

Half of the American population lives in just 146 counties. Adjust your target coordinates now.

NASA branches played “dueling space stations” in the early days of the U.S. space program.

Shocking! George Zimmerman’s wife says he’s a total butthole.

Speaking of, here’s the Butthole Surfers – Entering Texas.

Here’s a serious contender for the oldest map of Europe ever found.

Electronics package turns a dog into a drone!

Good news on the London ‘Solar Death Ray’ Tower: it almost sets a British reporter’s hair on fire.

The extraordinary story of British WWI captain released by the Kaiser from German prison camp so he could see his dying mother in Kent – on condition that he returned to his cell… and he DID.

When Sheepsquatch attack!

Welcome To ‘Night Vale’ — Watch Out For The Tarantulas! I was just introduced to the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast. It’s a podcast of a “community radio” show from a small desert town with a lot of Lovecraftian weirdness lurking at the edges. Put it on in the background and see if anyone notices, but do not attempt to address the Hooded Figures, visit the Forbidden Dog Park or acknowledge (much less even speak of) that shape in the darkness: it would not be good for you.

Syria’s Greatest Hits –

Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria.

Here’s the specs of the LCD (Light Chemical Detector) 3.3 used by the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors. These babies use Ion Mobility Spectroscopy to identify the nasties.

CW inspectors in Syria offer helpful advice to onlookers:

It’s a Weird History Wednesday

September 4, 2013

Happy Rosh Hashana, by the way!

Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee. Or, to quote Gene Wilder in ‘The Frisco Kid’: “I think we have some Jewish Indians here!”

Let’s not forget the intriguing story of the Bat Creek Stone,  professionally excavated in 1889 from an undisturbed burial mound in Eastern Tennessee by the Smithsonian’s Mound Survey project. The inscription on it is apparently Paleo-Hebrew of approximately the first or second century A.D. Or is that really Welsh?

A long overlooked report made to the King of Spain in 1521 provides an eyewitness account of an Irish province on the coast of South Carolina. The description of its culture seemed so absurd to scholars that it was ignored for centuries.

Might the same people have lived on both sides of the AtlanticWhy do you think identical motifs are carved into boulders on the coast of Ireland… and the coast of Georgia?

Mustang, a former kingdom in north-central Nepal, is home to one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries: the Sky Caves.

A tourist has had a lucky escape after being trapped on a remote Australian island for two weeks by a monster six-metre (20-foot) crocodile, reports said Monday.

Radiation levels around tanks storing contaminated water at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have risen by a fifth to a new high, officials say. Japan to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building an ice wall around it.

Nodoroc and the Wog

A queer old historical reference has come to my attention, and I believe it’s worth sharing: “Nodoroc”, the Hell of the Georgia Creeks. A detailed early reference is found in “The Early History of Jackson County, Georgia“, by Gustavus James Nash Wilson (1914).

Prior to the mid-1800s Nodoroc was a burning mud volcano that covered several acres. The center of the site belched flames and black smoke that could be seen for many miles. The flames and smoke presumably came from burning methane, but this is not known for certain. The lethal heat associated with the Nodoroc suggests that perhaps it was more akin to a true volcano.

Nodoroc was also the hunting ground of a beast called the “Wog”, described as a hairy, misshapen beast with a sweeping tail and a forked tongue, and that it fed on carrion and sacrifices. Creepy stuff to be sure!

There’s always Syria –

President Bashar al-Assad’s former defense minister has fled Syria, opposition figures said on Wednesday, noting that General Ali Habib was the most senior of Assad’s Alawite sect to defect.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee struggled on Wednesday to reach agreement on a resolution authorizing military strikes in Syria, but scheduled a vote for later in the day as Obama administration officials pressed for action in Congress.

The holiday is over, get back to work. Now.

September 3, 2013

A little something to help ease you back into the grind groove:

Police break up ‘drug fueled sex party’ at Masonic Temple in Michigan. And they parted on the Square.

Labor Day’s Secret Society Connections.

Never provoke a passionate teacher by reducing everything to a paycheck.

Stork Held In Egypt On Suspicion Of Spying. The bird was put behind bars after a man fishing in the Nile spotted an electronic device attached to its feathers.

The Smithsonian gives us A Salute to the Wheel. Who knew it was such a Johnny-come-lately?

When buildings attack: architectural solar concentrator vs. Jaguar.

New plastic becomes stronger when stressed. They call this sort of material a ‘mechanophore’. It does a neat trick by cross-linking in response to stress.

An orchid mourns for its extinct bee partner.

Everyone dreams about having a white picket fence… around their eggs.

Nature is so beautiful, totally wonderf…oh my god, kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Everyone’s favorite food: bacon perfected! There is no carnivore’s dilemma!

The Elvises of American foreign policy and the Shatners of American foreign policy.

The Syria Beat –

CIA Vet Bob Baer Talks About Syria: “Would you follow your ophthalmologist into war?”

Clausewitz reminds us in war it is crucial “not to take the first step without considering the last.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria has outraged the world. But it is easy to forget that Britain has used them – and that Winston Churchill was a powerful advocate for them.

The declassified intel report from France has a slightly different take on the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburbs: they think it was a reprisal attack for revenge against a rebel attack on the Alawites.

The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen.

Kids, Ketchup and Space Zombies

August 31, 2013

Sci-fi visionary Charles Stross on why the children of tomorrow are the NSA’s biggest nightmare:

To Generation Z’s eyes, the boomers and their institutions look like parasitic aliens with incomprehensible values who make irrational demands for absolute loyalty without reciprocity. Worse, the foundational mythology and ideals of the United States will look like a bitter joke, a fun house mirror’s distorted reflection of the reality they live with from day to day.

As if the NSA spying on our every move weren’t enough, now kids have to watch what they say online in and out of school. Some 13,000 middle and high school students in Southern California will have their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts scrutinized by social media monitoring service Geo Listening.

The mystery behind a song played in a lifeboat as the Titanic sank has been solved. The tune came from a musical toy pig belonging to one of the passengers who played it repeatedly to comfort the children.

From a 17th-Century fish sauce, ketchup evolved into a patent medicine, a carcinogenic health hazard, and eventually, a non-Newtonian fluid. Here’s how ketchup’s rich history is reflected in the design of a bottle of Heinz.

The search for UVB-76, an enigmatic and long-running numbers station, takes you down the hatch at an abandoned Soviet military base.

Russia’s defense ministry plans to deploy a sophisticated new air missile defense system in 2017  that can hit targets in space, a senior ministry source told Russian news agencies on Friday. The system will reportedly be based on the S-500 “Prometheus” missile.

The “Men in Black” bear striking similarities to vampires and zombies, rather than Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones.

In an attempt to smuggle in drugs, a Washington man fired an arrow wrapped with a bag of weed and an unidentified substance at the second floor screen of the Whatcom County jail’s recreation area on Tuesday morning. The “Green Arrow” he’s not: he missed.

Why is ebola deadlier than other viruses?

Owasso, Okla.– An Owasso man is recovering in the hospital after he chased down some guys breaking into his car and ended up getting shot by a neighbor. Ultimately, holding a gun while wearing nothing but underwear is what made him look so suspicious that his neighbor shot him.

Regarding Syria –

Syrian activists took the YouTube videos that dragged America to the brink of war — and then paid with their lives.

Agent Defeat weapons” aim to neutralize chemical weapons at their source. Let’s hope they got all the math right on that.

Arms-maker Raytheon’s stock surged roughly 10 percent while American war drums for Syria crescendoed over the past two months.

“So, What’s It Going To Be?“, by Bashar Al-Assad (via The Onion)

Assad, Azathoth and what have you

August 30, 2013

A gargoyle on a historic 13th Century abbey has caused a social media sensation with its resemblance to the monster from the Alien films. The prosaic explanation is quite prosaic.

The police, an open door, and probable cause: Seven things Maggie Koerth-Baker and Her Husband Learned at 4 am on a Tuesday.

Earth life ‘may have come from Mars’, New research supports an idea that the Red Planet was a better place to kick-start biology billions of years ago than the early Earth was.

Meet Lisa/S, the world’s smallest UAV autopilot! At $230 each, there’s no excuse to not build your own flying kill-bots!

Here’s some good Oklahoma weirdness! Strange monument mysteriously shows up in front of Paseo area restaurant: “In the year of our lord 2012 Creer Pipi claimed this land for Azathoth“!

True to form, the Texas State Board of Education has nominated several well-known creationists to review high school biology textbooks. The battle against Reality continues.

Poverty and the all-consuming fretting that comes with it require so much mental energy that the Poors have little ‘mental bandwidth’ left to devote to other areas of life, according to the findings of an international study published on Thursday.

Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr., who said he handled debris from the 1947 crash of an unidentified flying object near Roswell, N.M., has died at the age of 76.

Beach’s short list of Totalitarian Bizzarreness. I was let down that he didn’t mention Josef Stalin’s round-up of those decadent saxophones.

All that Syria Jazz-

Reporters for Le Monde spent two months clandestinely in the Damascus area alongside Syrian rebels. On the scene during chemical weapons attacks, they bear witness to the use of toxic arms by the government of Bashar al-Assad.

5 Possible Repercussions of a U.S. military Strike on Syria – ABC News

Analysis: Strike on Syria could trigger retaliatory attacks, cyberwar – Reuters

Alleged CW munitions in Syria fired from Iranian Falaq-2 type launchers, from The Rogue Adventurer, and stills of the launch process from Brown Moses Blog.



It’s a Wonderful World

August 27, 2013

The Onion called it in 2008: Sources Warn Miley Cyrus Will Be Depleted by 2013

Schizophrenia just ain’t what it used to be. ‘For an illness that is often characterized as a break with reality, psychosis keeps remarkably up to date.’

“…There is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter”: How 3 street drugs got their start

“Running of the Bulls” meets “Crashing of the Drones” in Virginia. Only 5 were injured, none of whom were insurgents prior to the event

TooMuchCoffeeMan: “Would you rather work retail or..?“. Wheeler is also selling the original artwork for his “McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit” strip (which is well worth a read)

Terror of the Tokoloshe: The Untold Story of Southern Africa’s Hairy Invisible Ghost Rapist

Beach looks at “Pre-Viking Vikings in the Faroes

Nick Redfern presents an argument against “Flying Triangle” UFOs being mere top-secret aircraft

Missile silo homes are okay I guess, but houses in water towers have better light

Obesity: it’s not just for humans any more. Both wild and domestic animals are putting on the pounds

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money. In fact, they had no marketplaces at all

Roman-era nano-tech that starts out green, turns red

More colorful nano-tech: Peter Dinklage hula-hooping in a gay bar in Canada

All that Syria stuff-

The Supervillain Syndrome: why dictators like Assad just can’t quit while they’re ahead.

Syria strike due in days, West tells opposition – sources

Brown Moses shows how open-source photo interpretation works in “Finding The Exact Location Of An Alleged Chemical Munition, And What It Could Mean

RogueAdventurer Blog has analysis of the delivery systems photographed at the scene of the crimes in Syria.

Planning is everything: “Required Sorties and Weapons to Degrade Syrian Air Force Excluding Integrated Air Defense System (IADS)”, an analysis by Christopher Harmer, Senior Naval Analyst, Institute for the Study of War (31 July 2013). The author has stated elsewhere that punitive strikes that don’t advance policy are “stupid

Mapped: 34 Places In Syria Likely to Get Hit With a U.S. Cruise Missile. Call them ‘neighborhoods in transition’.

Just like a yo-yo, or more like a rolling stone?

August 22, 2013

Happy stuff first today (but don’t ask what got me going on yo-yo lore):

The history of the yo-yo has been considerably revised since I was a lad.

China has laid claim to the original yo-yo (c. 1000 BCE, like they do with everything cool), but there is earlier iconographic evidence (4th-5th century BCE) of the ancient Greeks using the things (in your face, China!). At any rate, they are very old toys: the Mayans had a version, King Louis XVII and Napoleon were known to partake of the yo-yo (called “l’immigret”, “joujou” or a “bandalore”), while in England it was called a “quiz”.

Although he didn’t invent them, it is an established fact that a young Filipino named Pedro Flores jump-started the modern yo-yo market in the U.S. when he founded the Flores Yo-Yo Company in 1928. He later sold this to marketing genius Donald F. Duncan (of Duncan Yo-Yo, Good Humor ice cream, Duncan parking meters and prizes-for-box-tops fame) between 1930 and 1932.

I had always been told that yo-yos were an ancient weapon of Pacific islanders, but apparently the evidence for this is rather thin. Flores had continued to work for Duncan for some years as a travelling sales-pro, and the fact that the early demonstrators for the Duncan company were Filipino, and the story  made a slightly lurid hook for selling more yo-yos is probably where this meme originated.

Here’s a “Boys’ Life” guide on some simple tricks for the yo-yo (wherever they come from). And check out the diabolo, a related, free-flying juggling prop (but don’t call it a “diablo” or you’ll just sound like a noob).

Now all the other stuff-

As one European expert put it “something terrible has happened’’. Somebody in Syria (with the initials “Assad regime”) has set a new 2013 high-score in “Syrian Chemical Weapon Body Count”. Depending on who does the counting, between 400 and 1500 people died when a lethal chemical agent was deployed in the wee small hours of the morning in suburbs east of Damascus. All this with the U.N. chemical weapons investigation team just a few miles up the road. Could it be a sign that the U.N. doesn’t scare anyone in power in Syria?  Even Wonkette got knocked out of snark mode over it. Foreign Policy and The Brown Moses blog have additional analysis.

The uplifting story of “How North Korea got itself hooked on meth“. It a quirky independent ‘rags to running facial sore’ story!

Speaking of cooking, there’s new findings on what was in neolithic spice racks.

There goes another lucrative side business! The first scientific test to authenticate the world’s costliest coffee has been published. You know, the kind that comes out a palm civet’s bottom?

Ever get songs you’ve never heard before stuck in your head? Neurologists report a new type of audio hallucination.

A new drug called SR9009 mimics the beneficial effects of exercise in both in vitro and in animal models.

Will no-one speak out against white on white violence?

Matthew Yglesias agrees with me: “We Should Be Taxing Churches“. Tax them all equally (like the businesses they are) then they can electioneer all they want!

New Super-Fast Transport System Powered By Passengers’ Screams [The Onion]