“Toured the Burj in this U.A.E. city. They say it’s the tallest tower in the world; looked over the ledge and lost my lunch.”
This is the quintessential sort of clue you hear on the TV game show “Jeopardy!” It’s witty (the clue’s category is “Postcards From the Edge”), demands a large store of trivia and requires contestants to make confident, split-second decisions. This particular clue appeared in a mock version of the game in December, held in Hawthorne, N.Y. at one of I.B.M.’s research labs. Two contestants — Dorothy Gilmartin, a health teacher with her hair tied back in a ponytail, and Alison Kolani, a copy editor — furrowed their brows in concentration. Who would be the first to answer?
Neither, as it turned out. Both were beaten to the buzzer by the third combatant: Watson, a supercomputer.
Via Discoblog, Buzz Aldrin talks with Vanity Fair about the perils of human excretion while in space. During the Apollo missions, astronauts had blue bags around their butts into which they did their business. But how did they dispose of the blue bags?
I remember we were headed local horizontal, local vertical, and we opened the hatch and I had three bags worth gripped between my legs,
Three bags of…?
Yeah, yeah. And I just tossed them like this. (Pantomimes throwing bags over his shoulders.) Straight up! Being very familiar with orbital mechanics, I should have realized what I’d just done. I’d put those three bags on a free return trajectory. (Laughs.) Straight back to us!
This is starting to sound like a Farrelly Brothers comedy.
So an orbit later, we looked out the window and there were three bags in a row, heading straight for us.
Did you recognize what they were right away? A couple of years ago you hinted that you might’ve seen a UFO during a space mission. Is it possible you were just looking at floating bags of your own poo?
(Laughs.) No, not at all. They were very close. We could certainly tell what they were.
There is more to these suicidal protectors that meets the eye. Keigo Uematsu and University of Tokyo found that all of them are ‘menopausal’. They are the parents of the other aphids in the gall but their reproductive days are long behind them. With no further opportunities to raise the next generation, their final role is to defend their offspring, with their lives if necessary.
But the fact that we know too much Web time could have negative side effects, and that we have doubts about the thing that made our lives so much more connected, doesn’t mean it’s making us stupid. As many reviews have noted, it’s hard not to see The Shallows as little more than the latest in a millennia-long line of nostalgia-driven scares brought on by technological revolutions, especially ones in information and media.
The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, a quarter-century look at the welfare of kids born to lesbian couples, has finally come out in the journal Pediatrics this week with the headline-grabbing finding that those children not only do as well as the rest of the population, they might actually fare better.
Read the whole article (along with the study’s caveats) at 80 Beats.