Boing Boing 

Thousands of worms found in neat piles on road

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Texas Floods: Piles of Worms Mysteriously Show Up Along Roads Credit: Eisenhower State Park - Texas Parks and Wildlife/ Facebook Piled neatly by road markings in Eisenhower State Park, Texas, a vast number of gently writhing worms grace the asphalt. At first mistaken for spaghetti by rangers baffled at their regularity, it soon became clear something stranger was afoot.

Seen in photos posted to Facebook by staff from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the mystery has baffled biologists, ABC News reports. But two theories are emerging:

Park officials have two theories about the worms’ bizarre behaviour.

The first is that the ground become so wet that the worms were forced to move to the dryer parts. The second is that rain may sound like predators, so the worms moved and clumped together to avoid them.

My hypothesis: escaped gnomes put there there.

Kate Milford's Greenglass House: lyrical, tense YA mystery

Kate Milford made a name as a young adult writer able to tap into a rich Bradburian vein of lyricism with the Boneshaker -- now she shows us that she's an expect mystery writer as well, in Greenglass House, an illustrated middle-grades novel that will keep you guessing.Read the rest

Gnome mystery as 107 statues appear overnight in garden

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Marcela Telehanicova, of Ivybridge, England, woke last week to find an army of gnomes neatly arranged in formation in her front yard, thirty rows deep.

In a story headlined "Call Gnomeland Security," The Plymouth Herald reports that the statuettes were placed there sometime between 9.30pm on June 1 and 1.30 am on June 2.

“I had a second look, thought ‘What is that?’” she said. “Then I realised they were little people.”

Marcela, who lives with her young son, says the figures were made of plastic and moulded into the shape of little workmen.

“I was in hysterics, I found it really funny,” she said.

“It’s the best, most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me.

Local police suspect that an equivalent number of gnomes may well be missing from other people's yards. "No gnomes have been reported missing," a police spokeswoman said. "The question is whether they are stolen, as opposed to being gnomeless."

Cicada 3301 is a mysterious organization seeking "highly intelligent individuals"

Wikipedia: "Cicada 3301 is a name given to an enigmatic organization that on three occasions has posted a set of complex puzzles and ARGs to recruit capable cryptanalysts from the public.

Read the rest

The quest to find 12 hidden treasures from a 1982 treasure hunt book

The 1982 treasure hunt book, The Secret, has clues to 12 hidden gems. Only two have been found. James Renner is on a quest to discover the others, and he invites you to join the hunt.Read the rest

What came before the big bang?

There was no such epoch as “before the big bang,” because time began with the big bang, says physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies.Read the rest

Mysterious coded messages at university library

"All the letters are in black, except for the leaf symbol which is green. The letter appears to be colour laser printed. The physical leaf is made of plastic and has two paint splotches on it - one red, one cyan. I'm not sure what the grey pillow-shaped object is supposed to be." - Mike Moffatt

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.

A crowd-sourced effort to find missing Malaysia Air flight

A satellite imaging company is looking for volunteers to help comb through satellite pictures for evidence of Flight MH370.

The 727 that vanished without a trace in 2003

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 ...

Read the rest

Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds

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.

Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds (Thanks, Gareth and Syd!)

The secret to SIDS might be in the ear

Nobody knows what causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There are a many factors linked by correlation and lots of things that, again, correlate to a reduced risk. But the actual cause (or causes) have been elusive. Fascinatingly, research from Seattle Children's Hospital suggests that inner ear dysfunction and hearing impairment might play a role in some SIDS deaths. Sleeping mice with inner ear problems have a harder time waking themselves when they're positioned in a way that makes it hard to breathe. Meanwhile, a surprising number of SIDS victims were diagnosed with hearing problems.

1,661 pulp novels as free e-books

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.

Munseys

The Silent Wife - mystery in the style of Gone Girl

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.

Read the rest

Genetics: Not a "miracle", but still pretty damn strange

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.

Who Owns Omni?

Glenn Fleishman on the legendary science and science fiction magazine's murky proprietorship.Read the rest

Unsolved mystery: Can you identify this woman?

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.

Read mystery novels to learn chemistry

Deborah Blum — my favorite expert in the fine art of poisoning — writes a fascinating piece about the way mystery writers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers approached the chemistry in their stories with an almost mind-blowing accuracy. Not only did they get the symptoms of specific poisons correct, they were actually describe common chemical tests and techniques right in the narrative.