Fish Gotta Eat, Same as Worms


IN OUR LEAD STORY, the 1978 motion picture “Piranha” depicts, after much unnecessary explication, a climactic scene of genetically engineered piranhas swarming a riverside resort and nearby summer camp. We bring this up because the same thing is happening right now — in Brazil. (It really is.) About 100 sun-loving Brazilian beachgoers had to be treated at local hospitals over the weekend after being nibbled on in Piaui state. Now, in the movie, the authorities dumped industrial waste into the water in a desperate (and transparently political) effort to stop the attacks. But in Brazil they tried a different approach: the authorities have been dumping tilapia in the water, so that the beach-combing piranhas are not so hungry. (They really are!) This seems less like an effective deterrent to us, and more like a reward. The only question that remains unanswered is, Which will run out first, the tilapia or the toes? — Piranhas Attacking Beachgoers in Brazil : Discovery News

IN THE DEPARTMENT of Did You Ever Have a Girl Tell You That Department, researchers are scrambling to save the northern white rhino, a species that has been pushed to the brink of extinction because the only two remaining females show no interest in mating with any of the five remaining males. (The last time either of them made whoopee was 2000.) So, Scientists are cobbling together the workaround of all workarounds, creating rhino stem cells from skin in a MacGyver-like attempt to some day make sperm and egg. One researcher said, “It wasn’t easy — we had to do a lot of fiddling to make it work, but it did work.” — Stem cells may save rhinos from extinction – New Scientist

YOU’VE READ ABOUT supermice, make room for rat cyborgs. Unconsciously evoking images of a darkly clouded dystopian future, scientists in Israel have replaced the cerebellum of laboratory rats with a computer chip that mimics its functions, demonstrating the potential for repairing the brain with stuff you can buy at RadioShack. The chip was not implanted inside the head, but one researcher called the breakthrough a “proof of concept.” It also sounds like a scenario for an awesome movie. Either way, get ready for real life to be weirder than your imagination: Another scientist guessed that spare brain parts will be commonplace by the end of the century. — Rat cyborg gets digital cerebellum – tech – 27 September 2011 – New Scientist


Scatology, Not Escatology

[3:46 PM] Bob : Hey …what’s your aerobic threshhold these days


[4:00 PM] Me: Don’t know my aerobic threshold. What is that?


[4:19 PM] Me: Your threshold is probably super human.


[4:50 PM] Bob : Do come up short of breath when you poop?


[5:27 PM] Me: No. is that aerobic threshold? Am I pooping wrong?


[5:37 PM] Me: Seriously, am I pooping wrong?!


[5:58 PM] Bob : So your not out of breathe when your are pooping…what about beads of sweat…first on you forehead…then forming up and dripping …no…leaping from your brow


[6:00 PM] Me: Gad. No sweat either. What should I do? See a doctor? See a surgeon?


[6:00 PM] Bob : Do you ever see stars…when you’re pooping….kinda go gray to black…then bright star like burst of color…


[6:00 PM] Bob : No, no…remain calm…everything is perfectly normal.


[6:01 PM] Me: Shit. I don’t see stars either!


[6:02 PM] Bob : In a few days you will receive a package containing Benefiber single serving sticks the first few days enjoy 5-7 per day…spread out through the day…you’ll be fine…


[6:08 PM] Me: These will make me sweat, breathe heavily and see stars?


[6:13 PM] Me: Please don’t send them.


[6:13 PM] Me: THEY sound awful.


The Trouble With Numbers

BBC – Football Tactics: Goal-shy QPR in need of formation revamp?: “Wright-Phillips, Taarabt and Barton are all accomplished players, but the problem for Warnock is that their strengths lie in creating chances for others. It is also open to question whether Bothroyd on his own is the right man to take advantage of those opportunities.”

It is, to be sure, premature to make conclusions from the queer math of only six games, just three of which were played with the Tony Fernandes-reinforced roster. But the excerpt above, and the probably dubious statistic that Rangers has near-the-bottom-of-the-table “shooting accuracy” of 35 percent both seem to reflect the reality of what happened in the first half of Sunday’s game. Q.P.R. controlled possession for most of the half, with a scant-few clearances and weak counterattacks by Aston Villa quickly and nimbly reversed, but it really posed no threat to score.

TV announcers, proving that the British have made no more progress in this area than we have, called it a dominant performance, but you see what it got Rangers: They required rescue from a sure defeat by the leg of the Premier League’s leading scorer of own goals.

Q.P.R. 1, Aston Villa 1

Rangers squeaked by at home after a disastrous own goal by Richard Dunne — the ninth of his career —  in stoppage time salvaged a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.

Q.P.R. showed flashes of technical brilliance in the first half, which I am guessing most will describe as a dominant performance. Rangers held the ball in Villa’s half for most of the half, spoiling any semblance of a counterattack. But they flubbed nearly all their scoring chances — the most obvious was a vanity strike by Adel Taarabt from 30 yards that narrowly slipped past the post.

The second half was much more back and forth, and more physical (Aston Villa collected six yellow cards). But Villa’s goal came on a penalty kick by Barry Bannan in the 58th minute. The referee had whistled Armand Traore for gently — and we mean gently —  tugging the jersey of Gabriel Agbonlahor as he tried to meet a crossing pass from Stephen Warnock (no relation). The dubious call made the 26-year-old referee Mike Oliver a minor story line, as he also chose to ignore an obvious hand ball in the 71st minute by Alan Hutton and tossed Traore in the 89th after a thuggish, I’m-not-even-trying tackle.

Manager Neil Warnock, who nearly sloshed sports drink on himself after Dunne’s own goal, was not willing to give the young referee a pass. “Mike Oliver is a young referee and you have got to ask certain questions of him,” he said. “Referees should be seen and not heard and the official made it all about him today, which is a shame because he took away from what was a good performance from us.”


  • BBC Sport – QPR 1-1 Aston Villa “…once QPR boss Neil Warnock has congratulated his players for earning a late draw, he will still be concerned that it was Dunne who scored his team’s first goal at Loftus Road this season. Much like the goalless draw against Newcastle in their last home game, Rangers were full of enterprising play, despite the number of new recruits, but they failed to turn their superiority into goals. Jay Bothroyd was guilty on a couple of occasions as he failed to direct Joey Barton’s free-kick on target early on, while the former Newcastle United midfielder also went close from a right-wing cross. Taarabt’s curling effort was the pick of the bunch in a first half where QPR swarmed all over their visitors and showed how to make a five-man midfield function.”
  • QPR rescue point after late own goal: “Richard Dunne’s injury-time own goal gave QPR a point – and their first goal at Loftus Road since returning to the Premier League. Rangers, down to 10 men after the 90th-minute sending-off of Armand Traore, looked set to suffer a controversial defeat until Stephen Warnock’s clearance from Heidar Helguson’s low cross hit Dunne and went in.”
  • QPR 1-1 Aston Villa | Premier League match report | Football | The Guardian: “Neil Warnock stated in the programme for this contest a desire to be ‘ultra careful’ with his comments to the media having, in his opinion, created too many controversial headlines already this year. Well, that lasted long. The QPR manager’s tongue was at its acidic best here, unleashing a stream of rage and ridicule towards the referee, Michael Oliver, for the decisions which livened up this otherwise underwhelming stalemate.”
  • Queens Park Rangers 1 Aston Villa 1: match report – Telegraph: “If only Neil Warnock’s attack had the cutting edge of his tongue. Queens Park Rangers manager rarely beats around the bush, Shepherd’s or otherwise, and he was typically forthright after this draw. Warnock criticised some “embarrassing” decision-making by the referee Michael Oliver and even calling his left-back Armand Traoré “a disgrace” for getting himself sent off. At 62, Warnock is not mellowing with age. Peering through all the post-match cordite, it needs stressing that the game was far from a classic, the 26-year-old Oliver is actually a decent referee, and the sharing of the points was a fair result.”
  • BBC Sport – QPR boss Neil Warnock calls Armand Traore ‘a disgrace’: “Queens Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock described Armand Traore as “an absolute disgrace” after his dismissal in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. The left-back was shown a late second yellow card for a lunge at Marc Albrighton, though QPR recovered to snatch an equaliser in injury time. “I just thought he was a disgrace,” said Warnock. “I will fine him as much as I possibly can.” … “I said to him ‘when we’re playing at Fulham next week what are you going to be doing?’ But he is learning. He is a good player and will be an even better one after that.”
  • QPR Ties 1-1 Against Aston Villa in Premier League on Injury-Time Own Goal – Bloomberg Queens Park Rangers rescued a draw against Aston Villa in English soccer’s Premier League yesterday on an own goal from Richard Dunne deep into injury time. … QPR had most of the possession in the first half, but a crowd including England coach Fabio Capello and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron saw few shots on target. Adel Taarabt came close for the home team after only five minutes with a 30-yard shot that crashed against a post, while close-range efforts from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Taarabt were blocked in the 14th minute.

Don’t Bet on It


Neutrino stories move faster than the speed of science | by Martin Robbins @mjrobbins | Science | “A little before six last night, Reuters tweeted a report stating that Italian scientists had detected tiny particles called ‘neutrinos’ moving faster than the speed of light (paper). If true, they have witnessed a phenomenon that, according to established theory, should be impossible. If. Within hours of Reuters’ tweet, a chorus of physicists had expressed their reservations, culminating this morning in Professor Jim Al-Khalili bravely threatening to eat his boxer shorts live on television if the findings are correct. Science; red in tooth, claw and underpants.”

If, as this neutrino experiment’s results suggest, time travel is possible, where are all the fortune hunters from the future? Or are they already here, gliding silently along the halls of Wall Street hedge funds, surreptitiously placing winning bets on World Series after World Series?

The Fickle Fate of the Frozen


The science of cryonics – by Katerina Nikolas – Helium: “There are no guarantees that if you choose to have your freshly deceased body frozen that you will ever be brought back to life, but it is an exciting gamble to contemplate and research is moving forward at a fast rate in related fields which may one day make it a possibility.”

There is a hopefulness in the idea of cryonics that I do not think is obvious. I mean, clearly the people who pay thousands of dollars to be frozen are hopeful, mainly, that technology will someday rise to meet their icebound selves. But are they not also being hopeful, perhaps unreasonably so, that they will actually benefit from such a medical miracle?

I surprise myself, but I do not believe the underlying principle of cryonics is “that” far-fetched. Advancements in technology occur in increasingly shorter time frames, and many of these have beneficial, cascading effects. If you tell me that, with some small probability, scientists will eventually be able to create sentient beings that derive some part of their character from long-frozen people, I will not be surprised.

I am compelled to add that the whole operation seems gruesome to me, and not just because Ted Williams’s head is cracked. The technologies likely to be necessary for such a scheme (e.g., fitting laboratory-created flesh around thawed bits) are going to require a sea change in ethics and attitudes among ordinary people, to say the least.

More to the point, decades and decades hence, who is to say that the frozen masses will ever be revived? Will a cryonics company be able to resist the profit inherent in consigning to eternity its earliest, probably poorly preserved, clients?

Ted Williams is sure to be revived, if it is at all possible. The publicity from that alone would prove  tremendously lucrative. But ordinary, if eccentric, people? It seems to me that the “exciting gamble” is not that cryonics becomes a science, but that it is not just a chilling (sorry!) Ponzi scheme.

‘I Don’t Dial 911’

IN OUR LEAD STORY, a man in North Knoxville, Tenn., who The News Sentinel said regularly “wears a shirt proudly displaying the words ‘I don’t dial 911,’ ” did not dial 911 recently as he his house burned to the ground. In fact, he apparently tried to put out the fire by firing a gun into the flames. “At first I didn’t even notice the fire,” a neighbor told the newspaper. “I heard gunshots coming from across the street.” Firefighters limited the damage to the gunman’s house, though he had to be restrained before they could do so. The gun-happy, now-homeless man reportedly attempted the same tactic to relieve himself of chest pains in 2004, but a relative took the gun away from him before he could fire. — Tenn. man who doesn’t dial 911 loses home to inferno

JUST AS FUTILE IS THE effort by the American Family Association’s initiative to organize a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor, Schweddy Balls. One glance at Americans’ swollen waist bands will tell you that this is going to be a tough row to hoe. But the A.F.A.’s miffed and mordant mothers seem dedicated to scooping up and tossing out the “vulgar new flavor.” The sweetest part of the story is, to make their point on the Web and in an e-mail campaign, they were forced to summarize the sophomoric Saturday Night Live sketch that the ice cream is based on. To wit, after several explicatory sentences, someone at the A.F.A. had to type, “No one can resist my Schweddy Balls.” The moms urge those peers not too doubled over in tittering laughter to send an e-mail to Ben & Jerry’s and ask that they stop making Schweddy Balls or “any other offensive” flavors. — One Million – Issue details

MORE GALLING STILL are the results of an online survey that seem to show that early risers are happier and healthier than people who sleep in. This is probably more a function of the kind of busybody jerk who is apt to wake early than any benefit from doing so. But that did not stop surveyors from reporting their results (e.g. the confusing, and not revealing, “fact” that early risers get up, on average, at about 7 a.m. and lazy fatties snooze until two hours later) or drawing conclusions. “Maybe morning types are just better suited to this industrial world we are in than late risers,” one researcher said. Late risers do have some advantages, researchers found: namely being suited for working nights and weekends. — Early risers get ahead of the game – Telegraph