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A rather horrible accounting of what happens if an astronaut floats off into space

The good news: There's a contingency plan for this sort of thing, involving the use an emergency jetpack that can (hopefully) stabilize you and help you maneuver back to the ISS. The bad news: If the jetpack fails, you're pretty much screwed. And you've got 7.5 hours of breathable air to consume while you think about that fact. Maggie 71

Astronaut Luca Parmitano's first-person account of almost drowning in space

Who needs coffee when you have this little horror story to wake you up in the morning? Money quote: "I think the liquid is too cold to be sweat, and more importantly, I can feel it increasing." Maggie 8

Snark Week - a compendium of cute things that can (and will) kill you

Last week was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. All this week, the awesome science blog Last Word on Nothing has been running a Snark Week series — highlighting cute animals doing horrific things. Go back and check out the full series, which includes features on bunnies, pudgy little crustaceans called gribbles, and fluffy-but-destructive parrots from New Zealand. Maggie 3

Terrifying Uzbeki clown wants you to wash your hands

This is an actual poster that UNICEF used to promote Global Handwashing Day in Uzbekistan schools in 2012. I like to think of it as a brilliant example of why images can speak louder than statistics. After all, I can tell you that 58% of communicable diseases could be prevented with regular handwashing. But, really, would that change your behavior as much as a menacing clown threatening to fist you (I think) if you don't wash up properly? I suspect not.

Via the HIAControversies blog

Scientifically accurate "Duck Tales"

If you've paid any attention to the Internet over the last few years you're probably aware that real life ducks are not exactly as friendly and personable as the ones in cartoons.

What if children's television reflected the fact that real duck life has more in common with, say, Oz, than Duck Tales? It would probably look a lot like this.

May be NSFW.

Video Link

Cochliomyia hominivorax thinks you look delicious

Meet Cochliomyia hominivorax — a delightful insect that manages to me more horrifying that even Mark's favorite Central American friend, the botfly. How much more horrific? Check out the name. Roughly translated from Latin, "homnivorax" means "eater of man". Maggie 7

The worst 48 hours in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Reuters has a travel guide to how to spend a weekend in Minneapolis and St. Paul. It's supposed to be an enjoyable weekend, I think, but that's not entirely clear. Beginning with a stop in the airport restrooms (no mention of Larry Craig) the travel guide recommends eating at generic chain restaurants, spending a Saturday in the Mall of America, and taking in a baseball "match" (which, readers are warned, can last as long as 3.5 hours, not counting the possibility of overtime). The guide is correct, though, on one thing. A view of the setting sun and skyscrapers from Target Field would be impressive — especially considering the fact that the skyscrapers are decidedly to the South and East of the stadium, and not much of the seating faces West, anyway. Maggie 27

Climate change is increasing the habitat of brain-eating amoebas

Brain-eating amoebas? In my local waterways? It's more likely than you think. Maggie 11

Scientific retraction leads millions of testicles to retract into ribcages

From Retraction Watch: The Indian Journal of Surgery has retracted a 2011 paper entitled "Penile Strangulation by Metallic Rings". The reason: The authors apparently self-plagiarized the report from an earlier 2005 paper. Please insert your own jokes here. Maggie

Wednesday is Dead Duck Day

Dead Duck Day — the annual memorial celebration honoring the first recorded case of male homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck — happens this Wednesday in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The holiday will be celebrated with a speech in front of the window where one of the ducks in question met his fate, followed by a duck dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. The victim duck has been taxidermied and will be on hand for the festivities. Maggie

Blog full of fantastic (and often NSFW) medieval illustrations

Here's a 15th century illustration of an English surgical procedure. Fun!

See the full blog — Discarded Image | Discarding Images.

Don't hide in commercial trash containers

"A French teenager who had hidden inside a garbage container was crushed to death inside a trash truck in Luxembourg on Saturday, police said." [Reuters] Rob

Resolution for 2013: Don't catch the clap

Over the weekend, during a conversation with "scary disease girl" (and amazing science journalist) Maryn McKenna, I was reminded of a public health issue that we've talked about here before, but which is still not getting enough attention. Gonorrhea (aka "the clap") has long been the STD you worried least about, thanks to easy treatment with antibiotics. But that time is over. Antibiotic resistance is turning gonorrhea into a superbug. As of August, we're down to one antibiotic that can reliably treat it. Your best defense is now, most definitely, offense. Get yourself tested. Make sure your sexual partners are tested (oral sex, too!). And use barrier protection (oral sex, too!) Maggie

Obedience and fear: What makes people hurt other people?

Stanley Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" experiments are infamous classics of psychology and social behavior. Back in the 1960s, Milgram set up a series of tests that showed seemingly normal people would be totally willing to torture another human being if prodded into it by an authority figure.

The basic set-up is probably familiar to you. Milgram told his test subjects that they were part of a study on learning. They were tasked with asking questions to another person, who was rigged up to an electric shock generator. When the other person got the questions wrong, the subject was supposed to zap them and then turn up the voltage. The catch was that the person getting "zapped" was actually an actor. So was the authority figure, whose job it was to tell the test subject that they must continue the experiment, no matter how much the other person pleaded for them to stop. In Milgram's original study, 65% of the subjects continued to the end of the session, eventually "administering" 450-volt shocks.

But they weren't doing it calmly. If you read Milgram's paper, you find that these people were trembling, and digging nails into their own flesh. Some of them even had seizure-like fits. Which is interesting to know when you sit down to read about Michael Shermer's recent attempt to replicate the Milgram experiments for a Dateline segment. Told they were trying out for a new reality show, the six subjects were set up to "shock" an actor, just like in Milgram's experiments. One walked out before the test even started. The others participated, but had some interesting rationales for why they did it — and a simple ingrained sense of obedience wasn't always what was going on.

Our third subject, Lateefah, became visibly upset at 120 volts and squirmed uncomfortably to 180 volts. When Tyler screamed, “Ah! Ah! Get me out of here! I refuse to go on! Let me out!” Lateefah made this moral plea to Jeremy: “I know I'm not the one feeling the pain, but I hear him screaming and asking to get out, and it's almost like my instinct and gut is like, ‘Stop,’ because you're hurting somebody and you don't even know why you're hurting them outside of the fact that it's for a TV show.” Jeremy icily commanded her to “please continue.” As she moved into the 300-volt range, Lateefah was noticeably shaken, so Hansen stepped in to stop the experiment, asking, “What was it about Jeremy that convinced you that you should keep going here?” Lateefah gave us this glance into the psychology of obedience: “I didn't know what was going to happen to me if I stopped. He just—he had no emotion. I was afraid of him.”

Read the rest in Michael Shermer's column at Scientific American

Positive pregnancy test diagnoses man's cancer

The science behind the story of how Reddit saved yet another life.

Read the rest