The One True Cause of all disease (All 52 of them)

A few years ago, Harriet Hall googled "The One True Cause of all disease", just to see what the Internet would come up with. She counted 67 One True Causes before she got bored (52 of them made it into the handy chart above).

Besides making for an amusing anecdote, this little exercise also helps illustrate why there's a problem with ideologically driven medical treatments — the sort that comes from people who are pushing a lifestyle or a philosophy along with ostensible healthcare. It's both intriguing and convenient to think that, if we just open the right secret door, we can find the thing that's actually causing all our problems. The truth, unfortunately, seems to be that our bodies and the world they inhabit are complicated and messy and that lots of of things can lead to disease (doctors typically learn to divide these things into nine different categories, Hall says). In fact, a disease we think of as a single entity can have its roots in more than one thing. All of this is pretty obvious but it's the kind of obvious that's worth rubbing our noses in on occasion. If somebody tells you that everything from obesity to bipolar disorder to allergies to cancer all stem from the same root and can be treated or prevented with the exact same treatment, there's probably good reason to question what they're telling you.

The myth of the ugly blobfish

Here we have the common Internet blobfish, recently voted World's Ugliest Animal.

But wait! At Smithsonian, Colin Schultz has made a very good case for why the blobfish doesn't deserve its unattractive reputation. This isn't about beauty being subjective (although some might find the above picture more cute than ugly). Instead, it's about atmospheric pressure, and what happens to a fish removed from its natural, deep-sea, high-pressure habitat.

Here is what the blobfish really looks like, before somebody took him to the surface and snapped an embarrassing photo:

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One weird trick for sleazy marketing success

Armed with a cheap laptop and a pre-paid debit card, Alex Kaufman figures out what happens when you actually buy something from on one of those “One Weird Trick” ads. [Slate]

The making of Drunk Science (and why I am never making another one)

I've gotten a few questions about the Drunk Science video that I posted here yesterday. The two most common: "Will there be another Drunk Science?" And, "Jeezus, didn't science journalist Charles Q. Choi drink a bit too much for this?"

The answers to those questions are, respectively, "No" and "Yes". Choi is probably the best person to explain both answers, which he does in a blog post that discusses the science of an alcohol-induced blackout, and why — despite the fact that everybody involved with Drunk Science thinks the final result is pretty damn funny and generally good Internet — we won't ever be doing anything like that again.

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Duck penises: The saga continues

As we all know by now, ducks have penises. Rather epic penises, in fact. Chickens, though, are penis-less. In fact, most birds don't have them. In an important update in duck sex news, Ed Yong follows the work of several scientists who are trying to better understand how genitals evolve and why they differ so much between species and genuses. Bonus new fact: A dissected goose penis looks surprisingly like a less-colorful Man-O-War jellyfish.

Bubble boy: Baby born inside intact amniotic sac

"Born in the caul" is a phrase that's connected with a lot of cross-cultural myths and superstitions — babies born in the caul are supposed to be destined for lives of fame and fortune (or, possibly, misfortune and grisly death, depending on which legends you're listening to). Biologically, though, it refers to a baby that's born with part of the amniotic sac — the bubble of fluid a fetus grows in inside the uterus — still attached. Usually, a piece of the sac is draped over the baby's head or face. These are called caul births, and they're rare. But, about once in every 80,000 births, you'll get something truly extraordinary — "en-caul", a baby born inside a completely intact amniotic sac, fluid and all.

There's a photo of a recent en-caul birth making the rounds online. The photo is being attributed to Greek obstetrician Aris Tsigris. It's fascinating. But it's also pretty graphic, so fair warning on that. (If the sight of newborn infants and blood gives you the vapors, you might also want to avoid most of the links in this post, as well.)

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The evolution of @

John Brownlee on the unlikely evolution of the @ symbol: "Rejuvenated by its insertion before every Twitter handle, the @ symbol today is almost a pronoun. It has a very personal meaning for billions of people across the planet. It’s the symbol that means “digital me.”"

In defense of the selfie

Sam Kassé defends the selfie, blight of social networks: "I know most people hate selfies. They groan and complain about them, from the duck lips to the filters. Why, just the word “selfie” can induce legendary amounts of eyerolling. What people seem to miss, is that selfies are actually great. No, scratch that, selfies are brilliant! One of my favourite pastimes at work is to (discreetly) scroll through my Instagram feed and see pictures of my friends feeling good about themselves."

No internet for Syria

Nicole Perlroth: "Syria’s access to the Internet was cut on Tuesday. The most likely culprit, security researchers said, was the Syrian government." [NYT]

Secrets of the world's most successful tumbleweed farm

Tumbleweeds aren't a type of plant. It's more of a description — the thing that happens when the bushy above-ground parts of lots of different types of plants dry, die, and disconnect from the healthy root system below. It is then free to blow wherever the wind takes it. That's your basic free-range tumbleweed. At Prairie Tumbleweed Farms, the weeds are a bit more constrained and they're shipped, rather than blown, to customers all around the world. This podcast by Rose Eveleth is a cute, quirky piece, but you MUST listen to the whole thing. Because the backstory of Prairie Tumbleweed Farms is what makes this truly worthy of BoingBoing.

A cat video about the science of cats

Two things I learned from this video:
1: I am my cat's Facebook page. That rubbing-up-against-you-and-leaving-scent thing? It's not just to mark you as "theirs". It's also a way of communicating information about themselves to other cats that you might encounter.
2: My cats poop in a box and bury it as a gesture of submissiveness to me. Good cats.

Internet apocalypse? In the next bag o' chips

Sam Biddle writes that this week's epic, internet-shaking DDOS was a lie. Spamhaus was indeed under a record-size denial-of-service attack, but the protection company it hired, Cloudflare, turns out to be the only source of the bigger story that went with it: that the internet at large was significantly affected.

What would happen if an unstoppable force met an immoveable object?

Minute Physics tackles the greatest mystery in all the Internet and solves it with the power of science (and pedantry).

Fans fix Aliens: Colonial Marines' amateurish game trailer

UPDATE: Reader Pat David went the extra mile and improved the trailer a different way: by keeping the music and sound effects but removing the dreadful voiceover: "turns out it's a center-panned vocal - so just inverted the LR stereo channels." Pat's edit is pasted above, UberWaz's is below.

After years of waiting, Alien fans were shocked yesterday by the appalling state of the trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines. Badly-acted and terribly-scripted, it made the forthcoming game look amateurish and cheesy; the project's lead writer immediately and publicly disowned it. But what a difference a day makes: Rock Paper Shotgun reader UberWaz remixed the clip with new audio, creating something that perfectly matches the franchise's gloomy mix of science fiction and horror.

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Glaucus atlanticus: For once, the Internet is not lying to you

This is actually a real life animal.

I know. I didn't believe it either. When it turned up in my Facebook feed, via my Aunt Beth, I assumed that this had to be a hoax photo. Had to be. I mean, just look at it. This animal looks like it should appear in pretty photos forwarded to you by your aunt that later turn out to be the result of a photoshopping contest on Something Awful, right?

But then it was on Wikipedia, too. And I thought, "Okay, it's still the Internet. Somebody is clearly just getting really elaborate in their trolling."

And I suppose that's true. If by "somebody", what I mean to say is "natural selection".

This is the Glaucus atlanticus. It is a type of nudibranch—shell-less mollusks known for their extravagant shapes and colors. It is venomous. And I am now almost completely convinced that it's not a joke.

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