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Garth SundemRSS Feed of this column.

Garth Sundem is a Science, Math and general Geek Culture writer, TED speaker, and author of books including Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the Lab-Tested Secrets of Surfing, Dating, Dieting... Read More »

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There are four caffeine-induced psychiatric disorders recognized by the DSM-IV, the diagnosis manual of the American Psychiatric Association: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, caffeine-induced sleep disorder, and caffeine-related disorder not otherwise specified.

And, as you know if you have ever had to walk low-Starbucks-density wastelands, withdrawal can result in nausea, lethargy and depression. But what of the classic, washed-up-child-star-style overdose?
If you haven’t the infinite ammo of the late Hunter S. Thompson or the lightning-fast trigger finger (and impressive spray radius) of a recent Vice President, it actually takes considerable skill to shoot a fish in a barrel (exact difficulty proportional to size of barrel and fish depth and inversely proportional to size of fish). Some of this trickiness is due to refraction, or the change in speed and thus direction of light waves as they move from air to water.

Wait a minute!? Isn’t the speed of light constant?

Yes. But only in a vacuum.
With a group of friends, classmates or co-workers, offer to auction a $20 bill. One more rule: both of the top two bidders must pay their final bid.

Imagine that person A and person B are foolish enough to join your auction, with person A bidding $0.25 and person B overbidding to the tune of $0.30. Obviously this should escalate—who wouldn’t bid $7 to earn $20, especially if this could keep you from losing money you previously bid?
The term “computer” was first used by Sir Thomas Browne in 1646 AD, or 329 BB (Before Bill) according to the Gatesian calendar. Coincidentally (perhaps?), the year zero of the Gatesian calendar, or 1975 AD, corresponds to Daniel Hillis and Brian Silverman’s sophomore years at MIT. And it was during this year the two had the retro idea of constructing a non-electronic computer—specifically, one made of Tinkertoys.

Four years later, after a somewhat disappointing version 1.0, the pair started work on what was to become the Great Tinkertoy Computer, which plays a mean game of tic-tac-toe and is now housed at the Mid-America Science Museum.

Here’s how it works:

If you are a side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana), then you have an orange, a yellow or a blue throat (easily determined by looking in mirror). If your throat is orange, then you are a big, bad machine and will easily kick the ass of anyone with a blue throat and steal his lady lizards. Ah yeah.

If your throat is blue, you are a wuss but not a complete wuss, and can still defend your women against the über-wussy yellow-throats.
It is every geek’s dream to join a think tank and thereby rule the world with nifty numbers and influential ideas—for no think tank is completely without agenda. John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis (not to be confused with the Emmy-winning actor of the same name, most known for his role as the beer-swilling husband on the TV series Roseanne) even-handedly describes the difference in approach of first-rate liberal versus conservative think tanks, saying, for example, “The Brookings Institution is more likely to investigate unmet needs and ask what governmental programs could solve this problem. The NCPA is more likely to investigate how government policies are causing the problem in the first place and ask how the private sector can be utilized to solve it.”