Thursday, December 23, 2004

Live fast, die young - proven! 

Breaking news from the scientific world:

If male crickets live fast they die young, researchers have concluded.
Scientists in Australia fed one group of field crickets a protein-rich diet and another group a protein-poor diet.

The best-fed male insects burned themselves out with their tireless trilling mating calls, causing them to die sooner than their malnourished, quieter counterparts.

The pattern was not mirrored in females, who do not indulge in mating calls.

"Only high quality males can bear the costs of an extreme sexual display," scientists at the University of New South Wales said in an article published in the medical journal Nature.

"Sexual advertisement is costly."
So perhaps married men live longer, not because of being contented and loved, but because they aren't wearing themselves out searching for it?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Poor lonely whale... 

A sad story from New Scientist:

"a lone whale singing at around 52 hertz has cruised the ocean every autumn and winter since 1992. Its calls do not match those of any known species, although they are clearly those of a baleen whale, a group that includes blue, fin and humpback whales.

Blue whales typically call at frequencies between 15 and 20 hertz. They use some higher frequencies, but not 52 hertz, Daher says...The tracks of the lone whale do not match the migration patterns of any other species, either."
Poor fella - because he has a squeaky voice, no other whale will hang out with him, let alone mate. So he wanders around aimlessly, waiting, hoping... I hope he inspires someone to write a song.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

No street signs. No crosswalks. No accidents. 

According to a Wired article (Roads Gone Wild), if you blur the boundaries, and remove the signs, roads become safer because drivers become more cautious. If you remove the curb, drivers are more careful not to run over pedestrians. If you remove the lane markers, cars slow down.

Riding in his green Saab, we glide into Drachten, a 17th-century village that has grown into a bustling town of more than 40,000. We pass by the performing arts center, and suddenly, there it is: the Intersection. It's the confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior - traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings - and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point.

Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact. Remarkably, traffic moves smoothly around the circle with hardly a brake screeching, horn honking, or obscene gesture. "I love it!" Monderman says at last. "Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road."

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Some genius/madman has created a robot that can sit in toilet cubicles and give the impression that someone is having a "never-ending bowel movement complete with straining grunts, horrific gas, splashes, and pee sounds." It is called RoboDump

Listening to: Killing Moon performed by Echo & the Bunnymen

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