Watch a documentary about Batman's Batmobile through the ages

From the stately and elegant Batmobile Cadillac seen in the 1943 movie serials to the latest militaristic models, this is the on-screen history of Batman's Batmobile. Of course the true high point was the 1955 Lincoln Futura tricked out by George Barris for the 1960s TV series.

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Scientists: Saying "fuck" and other bad words really can decrease your feeling of pain

Repeating the word "fuck" actually can reduce your experience of pain, according to a new study by Keele University researchers. The psychologists ran an experiment in which subjects underwent a cold pressor test, a common method to pain threshold and tolerance by immersing your hand in freezing cold water for a minute. (See above video for actor Brian Blessed's demonstration, unrelated to this current research.)

According to the researchers' scientific paper, their data "replicate previous findings that repeating a swear word at a steady pace and volume benefits pain tolerance, extending this finding to pain threshold."

Don't think any old word will help though. They found no benefit when their subjects exclaimed made-up words like “fouch” and “twizpipe."

"Swearing as a Response to Pain: Assessing Hypoalgesic Effects of Novel 'Swear” Words" (Frontiers in Psychology) Read the rest

Who ya gonna call? India's first paranormal help line

If there's something strange, in your Mumbai 'hood, who you gonna call? Indian author and strange phenomena investigator Jay Alani has started a helpline for people freaked out about "ghosts, spirits, black magic or anything related to the paranormal world." Alani says he receives eight to 10 calls each day. From the Hindustan Times:

He has been receiving various calls of people claiming to see a ghost, hearing some unusual noise, or feeling that someone is constantly watching them, during this quarantine period.

“In most of the cases, I have found that person who claims to experience any such unusual incident has been watching horror films and series during this lockdown period. After questioning them about their daily routine, family history, past trauma etc, I and my team of psychologists found out that many of them actually create a fictional ghost in their mind”, said Jay Alani who has been a full-time paranormal investigator for last many years and has investigated over 100 haunted locations and looked after over 150 paranormal cases[...]

As per Jay Alani, “The main motive behind this helpline number is to provide scientific solutions to those who are encountering any unusual incidents or have any question about the paranormal world. We see that black magic and mesmerism are propagated and advertised openly in India. People usually fall in the trap of such Babas, Tantriks and Ojhas due to lack of knowledge.”

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What near-death experiences can tell scientists about how the brain works

Floating out of your body and looking down on it. The story of your life flashing by before your eyes. Seeing a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. These are just two of the most common experiences that people report after a near-death experience (NDE). For some people, NDEs are a transformative spiritual or mystical experience. But what's the source of the phenomena? That's a question that fascinates Dr. Christof Koch is president and chief scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science who studies the neuroscience of consciousness. In Scientific American, Koch surveys the science of near-death experiences and what they can tell us about how our brains work under extreme duress. From Scientific American:

Modern death requires irreversible loss of brain function. When the brain is starved of blood flow (ischemia) and oxygen (anoxia), the patient faints in a fraction of a minute and his or her electroencephalogram, or EEG, becomes isoelectric—in other words, flat. This implies that large-scale, spatially distributed electrical activity within the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain, has broken down. Like a town that loses power one neighborhood at a time, local regions of the brain go offline one after another. The mind, whose substrate is whichever neurons remain capable of generating electrical activity, does what it always does: it tells a story shaped by the person’s experience, memory and cultural expectations.

Given these power outages, this experience may produce the rather strange and idiosyncratic stories that make up the corpus of NDE reports.

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Delightful cover of A-ha's "Take On Me" performed on a washing machine

I hereby dub this genre: "Appliancewave." Read the rest

Virginia family found $1 million cash in the middle of the road

Last weekend, the Schantz family was on a drive in Caroline County, Virgina when the car in front of them swerved to avoid a bag in the middle of the road. The Schantzes stopped to pick up the bag and noticed another in a nearby ditch. Assuming the bags were garbage, they tossed them in the back of their truck to throw away later. They eventually discovered that the bags contained nearly $1 million in cash. From CNN:

Within the two larger bags were smaller ones, each containing some information on where the money should have been deposited.

"Inside of the bag, there were plastic baggies and they were addressed with something that said 'cash vault,'" Emily Schantz told CNN affiliate WTVR.

The Sheriff's department conducted its own investigation before turning it over the United States Postal Service, which is now looking into the matter [...]

"It's really a credit to just the character and fiber of the family," [Caroline County Sheriff's Department Maj. Scott] Moser said. "I'm sure it'd be difficult to make that decision. It's almost $1 million in cash. But they did the right thing."

image: Caroline County Sheriff's Department Read the rest

This woman has Elon Musk's old phone number and gets calls and texts meant for him. A lot.

Lyndsay Tucker, 25, works at a beauty boutique in San Jose, California. Every day, her mobile phone rings or buzzes with texts, not for her but for Elon Musk. Tucker was randomly assigned Musk's old phone number that made its way online years ago and continues to spread. (It's not clear if Tucker's number is the one Musk accidentally Tweeted publicly back in 2017.) From Bobby Allyn's story on NPR:

One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. "Which is, No. 1, really cool," Tucker said. "But I have no idea how it's built."

A South African businessman asked about buying 1,000 trucks. The Internal Revenue Service called about a complicated tax issue.

"I assumed I had messed something up," Tucker said about that call. "It was a huge relief they weren't looking for me."

[...] NPR reached out to Musk to see whether he knew about his long-lost number. He replied with a short email.

"Wow," Musk said. "That number is so old! I'm surprised it's still out there somewhere."

Some of those who texted Tucker said Musk himself provided the number to them. When NPR asked Musk whether he gave out that number to people he was trying to dodge, he did not respond.

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How to wash your hands... in space

Astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how astronauts wash their hands in the microgravity of space. Formerly the commander of the International Space Station, Hadfield spent nearly six months offworld.

(via The Kid Should See This) Read the rest

Watch this robotic sheepdog manage a flock

The robot is your shepherd. In collaboration with cloud robotics firm Rocos, Boston Dynamics demonstrates how their robot dog Spot can herd sheep and handle other farming tasks. From the video description:

The use of autonomous robots in agriculture is increasing the efficiency of food production. Robots, like Spot from Boston Dynamics, increase accuracy in yield estimates, relieve the strain of worker shortages, and create precision in farming.

More on the Rocos/Boston Dynamics collaboration here.

And some context, albeit from 2018: "As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans" (New York Times) Read the rest

"In lieu of flowers, please pay someone's open bar tab"

"In lieu of flowers, please pay someone's open bar tab." That's the request to those mourning the loss of one Randall Jacobs of Phoenix, Arizona, who died at age 65. According to his obituary, RJ, aka Uncle Bunky, "told his last joke, which cannot be printed here, on May 4th, 2020." He sounds like a real character and will be greatly missed by those who knew him. From Legacy.com:

When the end drew near, he left us with a final Bunkyism: "I'm ready for the dirt nap, but you can't leave the party if you can't find the door."

He found the door, but the party will never be the same without him.

In lieu of flowers, please pay someone's open bar tab, smoke a bowl, and fearlessly carve out some fresh lines through the trees on the gnarliest side of the mountain.

(via Fark) Read the rest

Watch "Mondo Elvis," a short and unsettling 1984 documentary about extreme Elvis Presley fans

Tom Corboy's "Mondo Elvis" (1984) is a short, award-winning, and oddly unsettling documentary about extreme Elvis Presley fanatics after The King's demise. From the description at Mondo A-Go Go Video's channel:

"This award-winning film takes a searing look at Elvis Presley's most fanatic followers. Meet such devoted disciples as the twin sisters who believe Elvis was their father, a woman whose husband divorced her for excessive devotion to Elvis, and an impersonator who claims The King came to him in a dream.

Disturbing yet entertaining, haunting yet hysterical, this program is a must for anyone interested in comprehending the significance of America's greatest cultural hero."

(via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

Kraftwerk's connection to R&B and black DJs in America

Pioneering hip hop musician Afrika Bambaataa's love for Kraftwerk is evidenced by his groundbreaking 1982 electro track "Planet Rock" (above). Indeed, Bambataaa's underground DJ sets in black nightclubs were a key point-of-entry into the United States for many international electronic musicians in the early 1980s, from Yellow Magic Orchestra to Gary Numan. I hadn't realized though that Kraftwerk readily acknowledged that it was a two-way musical conversation: Black American music, particularly R&B, was a massive influence on Kraftwerk's music. In The Wire, John Morrison writes:

In an interview with Dan Sicko, the late author of Techno Rebels: The Renegades Of Electronic Funk, former Kraftwerk percussionist Karl Bartos gives an essential statement on the influence of black R&B on the band's work: “We were all fans of American music: soul, the Tamla/Motown thing, and of course, James Brown. We always tried to make an American rhythm feel, with a European approach to harmony and melody.” When exploring the band’s early work, this rhythmic influence does occasionally peek its head up through their abstract sound. On “Tone Float” (the title track from founder members Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben’s pre-Kraftwerk 1970 debut album as members of Organisation), the band can be heard experimenting with a rhythmic framework similar to the “Bo Diddley'' beat, the heavily accented drum pattern that dominated rock ’n’ roll in the 50s and early 60s. For their first release as Kraftwerk, the “Bo Diddley” beat remerges, albeit with an aggressive Jazz flair courtesy of drummer Charly Weiss providing the driving pulse for the the album’s ten minute closer “Vom Himmel Hoch”.

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Watch Mississippi governor honor graduate "Harry Azcrac"

On a Facebook Live event Sunday, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves read the names of graduating seniors including good ol' Harry Azcrac. He took the prank well though, following up with this Tweet:

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Watch this opera singer's wonderful performance of the Star Trek Theme

In her first UK concert, Spanish opera soprano Laura Ruhí Vidal warms up the Rainer Hersch Orkestra audience with a surprise performance of the Theme from Star Trek.

Composed by Alexander Courage, the original TV theme was sung by Loulie Jean Norman. Here are Gene Roddenberry's unsung lyrics that he apparently only wrote to get a piece of the action in royalties:

Beyond The rim of the star-light My love Is wand'ring in star-flight I know He'll find in star-clustered reaches Love, Strange love a star woman teaches. I know His journey ends never His star trek Will go on forever. But tell him While he wanders his starry sea Remember, remember me.

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King Penguin poop is rich in laughing gas

The poop of King Penguins releases high levels of nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas. An international team of researchers from China, Denmark, and the UK were studying how the retreat of glaciers and penguins activity impact soil greenhouse gases on South Georgia, an island north of Antarctica. They observed that the penguin guano is rich in nitrogen that, when it interacts with bacteria in the soil, is converted into nitrous oxide. From CNN:

"It is truly intense," said Bo Elberling, an author of the study. He noted it's not an insignificant amount, either -- the emissions measure about 100 times more than a recently fertilized Danish field. There was enough emitted nitrous, in fact, that one researcher went "completely cuckoo," while "nosing about in guano for several hours," Elberling said...

"The small nitrous oxide cylinders that you see lying in and floating around Copenhagen are no match for this heavy dose, which results from a combination of nitrous oxide with hydrogen sulphide and other gases," he added, referring to the containers designed for whipped cream but often used as a recreational drug.

"Combined effects of glacial retreat and penguin activity on soil greenhouse gas fluxes on South Georgia, sub-Antarctica" (Science of the Total Environment)

image: transformation of original photo by Andrew Shiva (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

MasterClass: Your dad teaches loading the dishwasher

Learn from the world's best.

Written and directed by Kathleen Cameron; starring Jim Cameron; original music by Bensound.com.

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Help Wanted: participants for a NASA social isolation experiment inside a Russian lab

NASA is looking to pay US citizens to spend eight months in social isolation inside a Russian laboratory. The goal is to simulate the longterm social distancing that astronauts will endure on future missions to Mars. The location is "a unique multi-compartment facility used as an analog for isolation, confinement, and remote conditions" located in the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow. From NASA's announcement of the opportunity:
NASA is looking for highly motivated U.S. citizens who are 30-55 years old and are proficient in both Russian and English languages. Requirements are: M.S., PhD., M.D. or completion of military officer training. Participants with a Bachelor’s degree and other certain qualifications (e.g., relevant additional education, military, or professional experience) may be acceptable candidates as well.

Participants will experience environmental aspects similar to those astronauts are expected to experience on future missions to Mars. A small international crew will live together in isolation for eight months conducting scientific research, using virtual reality and performing robotic operations among a number of other tasks during the lunar mission. The research will be conducted to study the effects of isolation and confinement as participants work to successfully complete their simulated space mission. Results from ground-based missions like this help NASA prepare for the real-life challenges of space exploration and provide important scientific data to solve some of these problems and to develop countermeasures.

Compensation is available for participating in the mission. There are different levels of compensation depending upon whether or not you are associated with NASA or if you are a NASA employee or contractor.

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