scientifically accurate warning labels

How much do I love fake documentation? I love fake documentation. Here are samples from Scientific Truth in Product Warning Labels(from the Journal of Irreproducible Results)

Advisory: There is an extremely small but nonzero chance that, through a process known as ‘tunneling,’ this product may spontaneously disappear from its present location and reappear at any random place in the universe, including your neighbor’s domicile. The manufacturer will not be responsible for any damages or inconvenience that may result.

Public Notice as Required by Law: Any use of this product, in any manner whatsoever, will increase the amount of disorder in the universe. Although no liability is implied herein, the consumer is warned that this process will ultimately lead to the heat death of the universe.

Important Notice to Purchasers: The entire physical universe, including this product, may one day collapse back into an infinitesimally small space. Should another universe subsequently re-emerge, the existence of this product in that universe cannot be guaranteed.

strange and violent squid sex

They say that keeping a blog is a good way to find yourself. And you know, I really had no idea I had such a fascination with our eight-legged mesopelagic overlords until I started blogging about them. So there you go. All this time I was a latent squidblogger.

From collision detection I learn more uncomfortable facts about giant squid. As in, if you are a male giant squid getting laid is just no fun at all. The good news is that if you are a male giant squid you have a penis as long as your body that behaves, um, “a bit like a high pressure fire hose.” (make joke about spam email here). Squid mating also requires no aim or talent at all — all the male squid has to do is inject “sperm packets” somewhere into the skin of the female. The bad news is that the female of the species is a third larger than you are, isn’t the least bit interested in you, and mean as heck. (make joke about women in bars here.)

Although this hasn’t actually ever been observed the thought is that giant squid mating happens when a male squid bumps into a female squid in the dark in the ocean. (I am kind of dubious about this part. The ocean is a really big place and this seems mighty chancy to me). A violent mating battle ensues. The extra-long projectile penis is apparently a good idea because with it the male can inseminate the female from some distance away and then run away before the female figures out precisely what’s going on (make joke about men in bars here).

But apparently things get kind of confusing in the dark when there are a whole lot of legs involved. A bunch of male squid have been found that have been inseminated by another male squid, and a few that have been inseminated by themselves. Being a male giant squid must be very, very confusing.

the gimli glider

OK, just one more post today. (I’m down to only one page of backlogged draft blog posts! woohoo!)

By now y’all have seen the footage of the JetBlue airplane that landed without incident in LAX a few days ago with the crooked landing gear. (or at least heard about it). In an online discussion about that landing elsewhere an acquaintance passed on Wade Nelson’s gripping, edge-of-the-seat account of the Gimli Glider, an Air Canada Boeing 767 in 1983 that ran out of fuel in mid-flight and had to glide all the way into a landing. How could they possibly have run out of fuel? The fuel gauge in the then-new 767 wasn’t working, so they refueled the plane using a more traditional, basic method — measuring the amount of fuel you have with a dipstick and determining how much you need based on mileage and weight. Except that the fuel weight is measured in kilograms. They did the conversion in pounds. They ended up with half as much fuel in the plane as they thought they had.
Math is hard. This page from the American Chemical Society explains the problem of fuel density in better detail.

Basically, everything totally went wrong on this flight that could possibly have gone wrong, and yet it still has a happy ending. Good read.

hurricanes FAQ

I was reading the comments over on Jeff Masters’ blog on weather underground, watching Rita grow into a cat 5, and they were talking about Typhoon Tip, the largest recorded megastorm ever, in 1979. It had sustained winds of 190MPH and covered over 1000 square miles. And I got to wondering — what’s the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?

Google to the rescue! There’s an FAQ about all this stuff. Its very…meteorological.


(To answer the actual question: typhoons and hurricanes are the same thing. They’re just named differently in different parts of the world).

when the celaphopods rise up, run

Over at the Seattle aquarium, employees had to move their two giant pacific octopus into a big holding tank with some sharks for a while. They figured the octopus would be safe from the sharks because there were plenty of places to hide and they could turn color to blend in with their surroundings.

They were wrong. But not about the safety of the octopus from the sharks.

Over the next week there was mayhem in the tank: the sharks started turning up dead and mutilated at the bottom of the tank. Four over the course of a week. They couldn’t figure out what was going on. So one of the aquarium employees stayed late with a video camera.

This intense footage of the octopus stalking and attacking a shark was shown on PBS’ Nature. No one had any idea whatsoever that pacific octopus were this mean. Warning: requires the hated Real player. (its worth it)

(I got it from Collision Detection.)