Japanese live streamer accidentally starts his apartment on fire


This guy was showing off his cigarette lighters and matches when he accidentally started a small fire. While he was putting it out, he started an even bigger fire, which wasn't so easy to put out. Read the rest

Be careful when spelling the word "Coconut"

This 'unfortunate typo' became a headache for a supermarket in New Zealand.
The sign advertising Griffins Krispie Toasted Coconut Biscuits misspelled the word coconut, turning it into an offensive expletive.

The mistake, which happened at Countdown's Meadowbank store in Auckland on Tuesday, led to a social media frenzy with a photo of the sign posted on Countdown's Facebook receiving more than 7000 likes and almost 1500 shares.

The Facebook post also inspired a stream of comments about other amusing typos spotted on signs and jokes about the misspelling.

[via Arbroath] Read the rest

How a tweet caused Twitter's stock to slump


Twitter's stock dropped $8bn in a single day, all thanks to a tweet.

Investors were rattled by the early disclosure of unexpectedly low revenues, exposed before the close of trading by Selerity, a service that scours the web looking for investment information.

"We inadvertently released an early version of [Twitter's] earnings," Nasdaq admitted to the BBC. "We are investigating the root cause."

Normally, the results would be posted after the close of trading to allow for the news to be digested. But the results had been posted—through not yet officially publicized—on an investor relations page operated by the stock exchange.

"Selerity, who provided the initial tweets with our results, informed us that earnings release was available on our Investor Relations site before the close of market," said Twitter executive Krista Bessinger. "Nasdaq hosts and manages our IR website, and we explicitly instructed them not to release our results until after the market close and only upon our specific instructions, which is consistent with prior quarters.

Selerity was quick to disclose the source to douse early suspicions of a hack or insider shenanigans.

The poor financial results, far short of expectations, gave Twitter its second-worst trading day since it went public in 2013, reported the Wall Street Journal. By the end of the day, the stock price was about $40, down 6 percent.

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, traders started getting a range of where the stock should open based off of buy and sell orders that were coming in while the stock was halted, said Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner at brokerage firm Meridian Equity Partners.

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Mellow electronica video shows what happens in your computer when you go right ahead and just spill juice all over it

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Man swept to sea in beach baptism

The search for a 43-year old man, swept out to sea during a baptism on a south California beach, was called off this weekend: "A wave pulled three people into the ocean about 10 a.m. off Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve and only two managed to return to shore on their own." [AP] Read the rest

Job-hunting tip of the day: don't include dick picks with resume

A man who sent a potential employer a photograph of his penis along with his curriculum vitae remained unemployed as of Monday, reports the Dallas Observer. Read the rest

Scottish police apologize for "tit" tweet

The Scottish Police apologized after an insulting tweet, posted on its own account, described a conservative panelist on a talk show as "making a right tit of it". An ironic moment: the panelists were discussing how much of a role Twitter should take in policing abusive users. Read the rest

Spotting science mistakes in the movies

In the interview I posted earlier today, SETI's Seth Shostak talked about how Hollywood has to make their science more accurate today than they did 40 years ago. That's because today's movie-watching tech makes it easier to spot flaws, and the Internet makes it easier to share them. But different people notice different kinds of flaws, in different contexts. In a post from 2010, journalist Colin Schultz writes about a study that examined the differences between the kinds of scientific movie mistakes that men noticed, and the kind that women found. Everybody saw the errors, but the context was different. Read the rest

A "not insignificant" defense of gleeful scientists

Just a few minutes ago, researchers with NASA's MESSENGER mission announced the publication of data that strongly suggests the poles of Mercury contain significant quantities of frozen water.

On the one hand, this is not exactly new news. The possibility of water on Mercury has been a topic of research for something like 20 years. And scientific discoveries tend to move in little mincing steps, not giant leaps, so there have been lots of previous announcements about evidence supporting the hypothesis of water of Mercury — including very similar announcements from the MESSENGER team in December 2011 and March 2012. Your life will not change in any significant way because there is frozen water on Mercury. You probably won't even make a note to tell your children where you were the day NASA announced that ice most likely existed there.

But that doesn't mean this news isn't damned exciting. And it doesn't mean that the scientists involved shouldn't be giddy about it. We are, after all, talking about a mission that sent a spacecraft into orbit around another planet and has quite likely found frozen water sitting on a landscape that is hot enough to melt lead. What's more, they think that ice is covered in places by a thin layer of some coal or tar-like organic material. That is huge news. It's going to change textbooks. And because the scientists think both the ice and the organic material got to Mercury via collisions with asteroids and comets, it's going to be an important part of our ongoing efforts to understand how life begins on planets like Earth. Read the rest

Fear and Trembling: Prion diseases on Twitter

Even if you don't immediately recognize the words "prion" or "Kuru", the history of these pathologies has seeped into popular culture like a horrifying fairy tale. But it's true: a tribe in New Guinea ate the dead, not as Hollywood-style savages but to respect the dead. Upon death, you took a part of them into yourself. And that included the brain.

How Smokey Bear creates forest fires

By now, many of you are probably aware that human behavior is one of the key factors behind some of the massive forest fires we've seen in recent years. The basic story goes like this: Under a natural cycle, periodic small fires sweep through forests, burning through small trees and dry brush. But if you prevent those fires from happening—as humans have done for around a century at this point—all that highly flammable stuff builds up. In the end, you're left with a giant tinderbox of a forest. The next time a fire does happen there, it's almost guaranteed to be much, much bigger and more destructive than the natural fires that forest is adapted to.

NPR has a very nice story about the science and history behind this problem, which forest fire experts call "The Smokey Bear Effect", after the cartoon Ursus the U.S. Forest Service has long used as part of its fire prevention campaign.

Its ill-advised fire prevention campaign.

And it was the experts who approved the all-out ban on fires in the Southwest. They got it wrong. That's the view of fire historian Stephen Pyne.

"The irony here is that the argument for setting these areas aside as national forests and parks was, to a large extent, to protect them from fire," Pyne says. "Instead, over time they became the major habitat for free-burning fire."

So instead of a few dozen trees per acre, the Southwestern mountains of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah are now choked with trees of all sizes, and grass and shrubs.

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Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches

Worth noting, especially if you read my piece last Friday about problems with America's electric infrastructure: Wikipedia's list of infamous software glitches includes the problems with General Electric Energy's XA/21 monitoring software that helped make the 2003 East Coast Blackout happen. (Via Kyle McDonald) Read the rest

How early electric experiments destroyed the University of Missouri's main academic hall

I'm completely fascinated by stories from the early days of electricity ... specifically, stories of experiments that went horribly (and sometimes, comically) wrong.

For me, it's a great reminder that, no matter how much of a sure-thing a technology like electricity seems in retrospect, there was always a point in history where the future was uncertain, where mistakes were made, and where even the "experts" didn't totally know what they were doing. In general, I think it's good to remind ourselves that the real history of innovation is a lot messier than high-school level textbooks make it out to be.

In this short video, retired University of Missouri engineering professor Michael Devaney tells the tale of how a group of engineering students—armed with an early-model Edison electric generator—burned their school's main academic building to the ground. At the heart of the disaster: An attempt to see how many light bulbs the generator could light at once. To paraphrase Devaney, everything was going okay until the fire reached the ROTC's supply of cannon powder.

Read about how Thomas Edison himself set W.H. Vanderbilt's living room on fire.

Read about Thomas Edison and his staff accidentally turning a New York City intersection into a giant joy buzzer.

Read more on my thoughts about the messy history of innovation, published in last weekend's New York Times Magazine.

Thanks to Robert Solorzano and The Missourian for the tip on this story!

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Car heads down subway stairs

A driver tried to drive into the Chaussee d'Antin La Fayette Metro station in Paris on Tuesday, reportedly having mistaken it for a subterranean parking garage. The driver, who gave his name as Johan, told AFP: "There's a sign saying 'Haussmann Parking' right in front (of the Metro entrance), and ... I made a mistake."

Parisian drives car down Metro stairs [AFP. Photo: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen] Read the rest

Thought-provoking essay on cause and correlation in modern science

Science is the best method we have for understanding the world. That doesn't mean that everything scientists ever think they've figured out is correct. And it doesn't mean that we're doing science in the best way possible right now.

For a great illustration of this, I recommend reading Jonah Lehrer's new piece in WIRED, about the problems we run into as we learn more about individual parts of complex systems and then assume that we understand the big picture of how those parts work together. A lot of scientific research, particularly in medicine, operates off assumptions like this and it can lead to big mistakes. Case in point: Back pain. In this excerpt, Lehrer explains how MRI technology that allowed doctors to get a better look at the spines of people with back pain led them to make inaccurate conclusions about what was causing the back pain.

The lower back is an exquisitely complicated area of the body, full of small bones, ligaments, spinal discs, and minor muscles. Then there’s the spinal cord itself, a thick cable of nerves that can be easily disturbed. There are so many moving parts in the back that doctors had difficulty figuring out what, exactly, was causing a person’s pain. As a result, patients were typically sent home with a prescription for bed rest.

This treatment plan, though simple, was still extremely effective. Even when nothing was done to the lower back, about 90 percent of people with back pain got better within six weeks.

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