Scientists discover that giraffes "hum" at night


Giraffes aren't known for their vocalizations, a limitation thought to be caused by their long necks, but biologists have know determined that they do "hum" at night. According to cognitive biologist Angela Stöger at the University of Vienna, the animals produce a low frequency hum with "a complex acoustic structure." Hear it below!

"It could be passively produced – like snoring – or produced during a dream-like state – like humans talking or dogs barking in their sleep,” Stöger told New Scientist.

Stöger adds that the hum could also be how giraffes communicate with each other when it's too dark to see.

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Ice Cube to star as Ebenezer Scrooge in new film

Rapper and business mogul Ice Cube will play Ebenezer Scrooge in "Humbug," another reboot of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol." Tim Story, director of "Ride Along" (2014) and "Fantastic Four" (2005), is at the helm. Cube's Scrooge is a real estate tycoon who faces the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.


Below, watch "Scrooge (Or Marley's Ghost)," the first film adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" from 1901!

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How a World War II German sub captain used the toilet wrong and sunk his vessel

On April 14, 1945, German captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt took a fancy U-1206 submarine into combat patrol for the first time. The sub had a new high-tech toilet that, according to the War Is Boring blog, "directed human waste through a series of chambers to a pressurized airlock" and "then blasted it into the sea with compressed air, sort of like a poop torpedo." After using the new-fangled crapper Schlitt apparently turned the wrong valve, allowing a backflow of waste and seawater into the sub, and it only got worse from there:

The unpleasant liquid filled the toilet compartment and began to stream down onto the submarine’s giant internal batteries — located directly beneath the bathroom — which reacted chemically and began producing chlorine gas.

As the poisonous gas filled the submarine, Schlitt frantically ordered the boat to the surface. The crew blew the ballast tanks and fired their torpedoes in an effort to improve the flooded vessel’s buoyancy.

Somehow, it got worse when the submarine reached the surface. “At this point in time British planes and patrols discovered us,” Schlitt wrote in his official account.

After taking damage from an air attack, the only option was to scuttle the sub and order the sailors overboard.

"The High-Tech Toilet That Sank a Submarine" Read the rest

Priest built LEGO model of Vatican

Father Bob Simon spent nearly a year of his free time building this intricate LEGO model of the Vatican, now on display at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute adjacent to the "Vatican Splendors" exhibit and "The Art of the Brick" LEGO sculpture exhibit currently on view at the museum. Apparently, Simon built a smaller version of the LEGO Vatican while in junior high school. The current model consists of approximately half a million parts and includes a LEGO pope on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. (Associated Press)

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Wondering if someone is a narcissist? Just ask them.


This new video from New York Magazine's "The Science of Us" series is based on scientific research conducted at Indiana University and Ohio State University that resulted in the Single-Item Narcissism Scale. From a 2014 news release about that research:

In a series of 11 experiments involving more than 2,200 people of all ages, the researchers found they could reliably identify narcissistic people by asking them this exact question (including the note):

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What mentally ill animals can teach humans

An increasing amount of scientific evidence suggests that animals, from chimpanzees to coyotes to parrots, can suffer from the same mental illnesses as humans. Understanding the biology behind animal depression, OCD, and PTSD could provide insight into why people suffer from mental illness and how these conditions evolved. From BBC Earth:

In a 2011 study, scientists found signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in chimpanzees that had been used in laboratory research, orphaned, trapped by snares, or been part of illegal trade.

Stressful events can even leave marks on animals' genes. In 2014, researchers found that African grey parrots that were housed alone suffered more genetic damage than parrots that were housed in pairs...

"All you can do with animals is to observe them," says (University of Mississippi neurogenetics researcher Eric) Vallender. "Imagine if you could study mental disorders in humans only by observing them. It would be really hard to tell what's going on in their brain."

Faced with these obstacles, scientists have begun looking at animals' genes.

"A lot of mental disorders can be quite different. But what we do know is that they have a very, very strong genetic component to them," says Jess Nithianantharajah of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, Australia.

All mental disorders, from depression to schizophrenia, involve abnormal behaviours. Those behaviours are influenced by genes just like other behaviours.

So the idea is to identify genes that can cause abnormal behaviours in humans and other animals. By tracing the origins of these genes, we can trace the origins of mental disorders.

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Listen to William S. Burroughs read Edgar Allen Poe for a PC game


In 1995, William S. Burroughs was recorded reading of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" and "Annabel Lee" for a PC game called The Dark Eye. (He also was the voice of a character in the game.) Hear those recordings below and read this post at Open Culture for more details.

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New photos from the scene of Kurt Cobain's suicide


UPDATE: Ooops, these photos were released in 2014.

Last year, the Seattle Police Department released several dozen newly-developed photos from the scene of Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide. The police processed the film as part of a recent reinvestigation into Cobain's death. According to detective Mike Ciesynski, there is still no basis in conspiracy theories that Cobain was murdered.

Ciesynzki says that they will not release any graphic images of Cobain's body.

"What are people going to gain from seeing pictures of Kurt Cobain laying on the ground with his hair blown back, with blood coming out of his nose and trauma to his eyes from a penetrating shotgun wound," he told KIRO-TV. "How's that going to benefit anybody?"

"Dozens of new photos released from Kurt Cobain death probe" (CBS News)

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Magnificent mountaineering museum embedded in a summit

Above, a balcony jutting from the Messner Mountain Museum Corones that's carved out of the summit of Mount Kronplatz in Tyrol, Italy, 2,275 meters above sea level. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the mountaineering museum that is built entirely of concrete on steel scaffolding. More photos and construction time-lapse video below.

"The idea is that visitors can descend within the mountain to explore its caverns and grottos, before emerging through the mountain wall on theater side, out onto the terrace overhanging the valley far below with spectacular, panoramic views," Hadid says.

(via Uncrate) Read the rest

Watch the world record stone skipper hit 88 skips


Kurt Steiner holds the world record for stone skipping, with 88 skips achieved on a lake in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest. From Wikipedia:

An early explanation of the physics of stone-skipping was provided by Lazzaro Spallanzani in the 18th century.

The stone generates lift in the same manner as a flying disc, by pushing water down as it moves across the water at an angle. Surface tension has very little to do with it. The stone's rotation acts to stabilize it against the torque of lift being applied to the back.

Research undertaken by a team led by French physicist Lydéric Bocquet discovered that an angle of about 20° between the stone and the water's surface is optimal. Bocquet and his colleagues were surprised to discover that changes in speed and rotation did not change this fact. Work by Hewitt, Balmforth and McElwaine has shown that if the horizontal speed can be maintained skipping can continue indefinitely.

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Nobody voted in Iowa election including only person running


Randy Richardson was the only candidate in his district running for the Riceville, Iowa Board of Education but nobody voted for him, including Richardson himself.

"I didn't vote because I was too busy," Richardson told the Mason City Globe Gazette.

The entire population of the district is less than 1,000 people. Richardson has said he'd happily take the post if appointed. Read the rest

Seal surfs on whale's back

Robyn Malcolm captured this wonderful photo of a fur seal surfing on a humpback whale off Eden, Australia.

"We'd seen some amazing whales coming out of the water, everything was happening so quickly," Malcolm told the Sydney Morning Herald. "And it was when I went back through the photos that I realised I had actually captured the seal on top of the whale."

Geoff Ross, a whale expert at New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service said the only other time he'd heard of this happening is when a seal was attempting to escape an orca. Read the rest

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing with style

In the anthology "How To Use The Power of the Printed Word," brilliant author shares eight tips on how to write with style:

Find a Subject You Care About

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do. Do Not Ramble, Though

I won’t ramble on about that.

Keep It Simple

As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline’ is just this one: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred.

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The man who seeks the sound of silence

Gordon Hempton is an "acoustic ecologist" and field recording artist who seeks out the places on Earth that are free of noise pollution. The episode below of the Generation Anthropocene podcast features Hempton's story and some of his favorite recordings of the natural environment. For more from Hempton, check out his book "One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet."

(top photo by Richard Darbonne) Read the rest

Watch the Ramones guest star on "Sha Na Na" (1979)


In 1979, the Ramones were special guests on novelty 1950s nostalgia band Sha Na Na's TV variety show. In this bizarre skit, the Ramones play in a Family Feud parody gameshow called "Greasers Feud." More context over at Dangerous Minds: "Sha Na Na Feud with the Ramones" Read the rest

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