Someone is leaving coded messages and items such as a plastic leaf with paint dots inside envelopes between the pages of books at Western University. “It’s completely baffling!” says assistant professor Mike Moffatt, who has been tracking the messages on his blog.
The ocean is big and deep. The most likely scenario, right now, is that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed into the water and no one has yet looked in just the right place to find evidence of that crash. (You can read more about losing planes in the age of GPS in a post Rob made earlier today.) But the case made me curious about other lost planes — cases where an aircraft just "vanished" and nobody ever found a crash site or debris.
Naturally, Wikipedia has a list for that ...
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The 600-year-old, strangely-illustrated Voynich Manuscript (which resides at Yale University) has been called the most mysterious manuscript in the world. Not a single word of the secret language has been decoded, at least not until now. Stephen Bax of the University of Bedfordshire says he has decoded ten words from the Voynich Manuscript. This seems to indicate that the document is not a hoax filled with nonsense words, as some scholars have concluded.
Stephen Bax, who teaches at the University of Bedfordshire, has produced a paper and a video where he details his theories on the text and provides translations of ten words from the manuscript, which are proper names of various plants that are depicted in the manuscript. Professor Bax explains, “I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script.
I have not yet watch Bax's 47-minute video, above.
I don't remember how I found out about Munseys. It's a website with links to thousands of out-of-print books, with over 1,500 pulp era novels. There's a lot of good stuff to be found here, as well as much that fits somewhere between excellent and awful. I downloaded and read a so-so novel called Alley Girl, by Jonathan Craig. There's no "alley girl" in it, which I didn't care about anyway. It's a about a hard-boiled sociopathic cop who tries to set up an innocent man for the electric chair so he can profit in more ways that one. It took me about an hour and a half to read and it made me forget about my 18-hour plane ride last week.
At the top of the chart, get Charles Willeford's Whip Hand (he ghost wrote it for Frank Sanders, or at least wrote most of it). It's about a kidnapping/murder seen through the eyes of different characters, and takes places in Texas. Willeford is one of the great hardboiled noir writers. I read everything of his I can get my hands on.
Like Gone Girl (a novel I liked so much that I interviewed the author, Gillian Flynn, on Gweek), The Silent Wife is told in alternating chapters from the points-of-view of a common-law husband and wife whose union has endured two decades of infidelity and stifled communication.
Jodi is a 42-year-old part-time psychologist who has developed a coping mechanism for her husband Todd's philandering: she gaslights him with little annoyances. For instance, she removes a key from his keyring so he can't enter his office building. But other than the quiet tricks she plays on Todd, she seems to enjoy his company and delights in making gourmet meals that they both enjoy in their high-end Chicago riverfront condominium.
Todd is a fairly well-to-do property developer, and incorrigible pleasure-seeker. He's a charming dinner party host and everyone likes him, in part because he avoids conflict at all costs. He knows that Jodi knows about his frequent dalliances, but neither he nor Jodi ever bring it up in conversation.
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Read the rest
Besides magnetism, there's another thing that the Insane Clown Posse was on-track in categorizing as a mind-blowing mystery — Why do Shaggy 2 Dope's kids look just like him? As with the magnets, this is another situation where the obvious answer (it's genetics!) masks a much more complicated issue that science hasn't totally figured out yet. At Pacific Standard, Michael White explains why genetics is still messing with our heads, almost 150 years after Mendel:
The problem: most of the genetic differences discovered have only a very small effect. And when you add up all those effects, the result can’t possibly explain the full influence of our genes on those traits. For example, researchers have identified hundreds of DNA differences between people that influence the very strongly heritable trait of human height, but the total effect of those differences added together explains only about 10 percent of the genetic influence on height. In other words, we still can’t explain why tall parents have tall children.
Scientists have named this discrepancy the “missing heritability,” and they’ve spent the last half-decade trying to find it.
The woman pictured above (on the left in the early 2000s, on the right in a 1990 passport photo) committed suicide in 2010. When she died, she took with her the knowledge of who she actually was — the private detective hired by her ex-husband's family is now calling her Jane Doe.
When she married, in 2004, she was known as Lori Erica Kennedy. After her death, her ex-husband discovered a lock box containing documents that showed she had changed her name to that from Becky Sue Turner. But here's the twist. She wasn't actually Becky Sue Turner, either. The real Becky Sue Turner had died in a house fire in 1971, at age 2, and her family had never seen this woman before.
So who is Jane Doe? That's what her ex-husband and his family are trying to figure out. When she died, she left behind a young daughter, who is going to want answers someday. Meanwhile, the mystery is seriously curiosity provoking. As far as anyone can tell, her trail goes dead in 1988. Her entire life before then is a great big blank.
The Seattle Times has the full story, including copies of documents and photos found in the lockbox and a timeline of what we do know about Jane Doe.
The Geminids are one of the big deal meteor showers that happen every year. In fact, they're regarded as one of the most reliable and impressive. They're also a little strange.
Most meteor showers happen when Earth and a comet cross paths, slingling rocks, dust, and debris from the comet's tail into our atmosphere. The sudden influx of shooting starts that results is a highly noticeable event and humans have been recording them for millennia.
The Geminids are different. They sort of just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, back in 1862. And it wasn't until the 1980s that scientists were finally able to identify the thing that was producing them. At which point, ish got weirder.
That's because the object, known as 3200 Phaethon, is really confusing. It doesn't seem to be a comet. At least, not a normal, healthy, functioning comet. It doesn't even have a tail. In fact, at this point most scientists think it's probably an asteroid, which then leads to still-yet-unexplained question of where all the meteors come from. Asteroids, after all, do not typically accumulate tails of small rocks. So far, the best guess has to do with 3200 Phaethon's orbit, which over the course of about a year and a half takes it closer to the Sun than Mercury and then back out further from the Sun than Mars. Those wild temperature swings might lead to the asteroid cracking and throwing off dust and debris, which then becomes meteors. But, as a NASA info page pointed out in 2010, that explanation doesn't totally cut it.
The amount of dust 3200 Phaethon ejected during its 2009 sun-encounter added a mere 0.01% to the mass of the Geminid debris stream—not nearly enough to keep the stream replenished over time.
According to the International Meteor Organization, you can expect the Geminids to peak tomorrow night, around 5:30 pm, Central Time. But this is a big shower, so you're likely to see something even if you can't hit the exact peak.
Also: While you're watching for meteors, also keep an eye out for an upcoming feature here by Miles O'Brien, which will delve into the latest in Geminid science!
Make use of The Bad Astronomy guide to meteor watching