Cool Links

Both Sony and Microsoft have been looking to take a bite out of Nintendo's wildly popular Wii system - and they need the help.   Playstation 3 is plagued by the 'yellow screen of death', where it randomly dies for no reason, forcing me to pay $200 for a new system, which counts as a new sale and therefore makes a poorly QA'ed platform look better than it is, or send $150 to Sony to 'fix' the problem that could then happen again.

Microsoft has a different problem.   GameSpot said the Kinect facial recognition camera system doesn't work properly for some players with darker skin.
On October 26th, the residents of Earth’s northernmost town, Longyearbyen, Norway watched the sun set and the next time they see it will be February. 

Depressing?  Science says Seasonal Affective Disorder exists and so a shortened day much less a non-existent one is bad.   Longyearbyen is located at 78 degrees north latitude in the Arctic circle and experiences 'Polar Night', when it remains dark for four months each winter.    It's not healthy.
From Scienceblogs:

Lately I've been thinking and giving some talks about Scandinavian pseudo-archaeological writers, that is, people who publish books on the past with unsubstantiated claims to scientific credibility. The beyond all comparison most famous of them is the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl.   Thor Heyerdahl's forays into archeology were pseudoscience because he had a single favorite model that he refused to let go of.
As the U.S. Navy bombs Guam with dead, poisoned mice in the latest attempt to eradicate invasive brown tree snakes, it's worth taking a moment to sit back and appreciate -- yes, appreciate -- invasive species.

Now, before the environmentalists among you get upset, I'm not suggesting that species invasions are good things but let's put aside our usual feelings about invasive species, and just talk about some really cool animals.
In Physical Review Letters, a large group of physicists published their study from the MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab in Illinois. When they looked at oscillations of muon antineutrinos into electron antineutrinos, they found the process happening faster than known physics predicts. Neutrinos followed the rules, but antineutrinos didn’t behave the same way did.

So what does it mean?
Researchers Patrick Markey and Charlotte Markey, associate professors in psychology at Villanova University and Rutgers University, respectively, were trying to test the idea that testosterone levels rise after a male has won a fight or challenge, and fall after he has lost. This would make evolutionary sense, because he could be hurt or killed, and therefore not breed if he kept fighting even though outmatched.

Blogs Krystal D'Costa at Scientific American;
There are an estimated 900,000 elevators in the United States, each serving an average of 20,000 people per year (1). That means approximately 18 billion elevator rides are taken every year. With 310,622,223 people in the United States, that amounts to about 58 elevator rides per person per year (2).
Yet despite the benefits to our lives and the close quarters, elevators have become home to an anthropological coping mechanism where people communicate less than in other venues.


Step 1.  Go to Google Maps
Step 2.  Click the 'Get Directions' button
Step 3.   Input Japan as the starting location and China as the destination
Step 4.  Click 'Get Directions'

Go to #43.   Laugh.  Those Google guys think of everything.
Regarding the reelection prospects of Bill Foster in the 14th district in Illinois, an article on the candidate mentions "An atypical politician, Foster can list among his endorsers not only the Illinois Farm Bureau but 31 Nobel Prize winners. Foster worked at Fermilab and helped discover the top quark, the heaviest known form of matter."
So Christine O'Donnell lost her election race in Delaware by a ridiculous landslide margin - anyone worried that she could somehow get elected and institute forced witchcraft zones in schools can rest easy.   No Republican took her seriously, in Delaware or anywhere else - that's why she lost so badly.  Sure, MSNBC played her up but it's what they do.

Likewise, Sam Brownback in Kansas is no friend to biology but the governor's office is a lot safer place for him than a local school board, where he could actually do some damage.

In Colorado, Proposition 62, the so-called personhood amendment, would have defined a ‘person’ as beginning at conception and never had any chance of success.  As predicted, it failed easily.
Senator John Kerry, Democratic Senator and failed presidential candidate, is thrilled that House Majority Leader Harry Reid managed to escape election night in America without losing to an unknown candidate from a fringe segment of the Republican Party.

So thrilled, he seems to have lost his mind.   "Harry Reid isn't just Dracula, he isn't just Lazarus, he's our leader and our whole caucus is thrilled that he's unbreakable and unbeatable," he said.
Tired of hearing the same old arguments and having to try and be interesting in drafting a response?   The Twitter chatbot @AI_AGW is here to help, at least on Twitter.

Every five minutes, it searches twitter for those phrases that correspond to the usual arguments about how global warming isn't happening and then replies to the twitterer with a canned response from a database.

Nigel Leck is the programmer who created it.    Read Chris Mims at Technology Review for the details.  
Want to get an iPad?  You don't need to go buy one today but don't wait until 2020 - with all of the hysteria about Peak Oil no one is thinking about an issue a lot more pressing, namely the shortage of indium tin oxide, which may have only have a 10 year supply remaining.

Indium is found in zinc deposits and is used to create indium tin oxide which is used to create touchscreens because it is transparent yet conducts electricity.
Asexual reproduction is common among invertebrates but rare in vertebrates, though parthenogenesis, in which an unfertilized egg develops to maturity, can occur.

Now scientists have discovered a boa constrictor that reproduces by virgin birth - read it at Livescience for the details.
DNA tests confirmed Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who ruled Romania from 1965 until he and his wife Elena were captured and shot by firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989 after fleeing mass protests in Bucharest,, was buried in a grave in Bucharest, forensic experts said on Wednesday, lifting doubt over the ruler's burial place.

Ceausescu's family had threatened to sue the Romanian state if the remains, exhumed on July 21, some 20 years after their deaths, had not belonged to the Ceausescus - ironically something Ceausescu would never have allowed when he was in power.
Advocates, regardless of ideology, tend to overlook junk science they like and focus their skepticisms on data that reinforces their beliefs.   Nothing typifies that better than claims that eating meat is implicated in global warming to any great extent.   No surprise, in 2006 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization repeated spurious claims that eating meat was responsible for more CO2 emissions than the entire worldwide transportation sector.
What happens after death?   If you visit the British Museum this weekend, you'll see a dark, terrifying underworld populated by vigilant baboons, an Ibis god called Thoth and crocodile-headed devourers who threaten to eat the damned.
Do mummies have a right to privacy?   David Dobbs tackles the issue of ancient remains - it's certainly topical in California, where the culturally untouchable native American demographic insists even remains 10,000 years old belong to their tribe, a progressive fissure that puts an icy chill on science, but also relevant in other cultures.
There was a rally last weekend and if you were on the Internet, you knew about it.   It was held by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, who felt that the various Tea Party rallies warranted a progressive response (oddly, the many 'spontaneous' MoveOn.org rallies of 2004 and 2006 were simply democracy in action, they felt) and so it happened.  Over 200,000 people showed up, they claim.
Remember when Tipper Gore wanted to have labeling for adult lyrics in music?  Frank Zappa and others protested this was a Constitutional violation and that it was the responsibility of parents to decide what kids listen to - yes, pop musicians were against Democrats and actually expected that parents should listen to everything their child might access in advance of them accessing it and... well, it was a silly argument.    Record labels made no different in music sales but it at least gave parents an idea what not to buy for their kids, even if they couldn't keep children from obtaining it themselves.