31 January 2013

Synesthesia | "B" Is For Orange

Synesthesia | ohhaiitssonja
I made this painting for a school assignment using watercolours and 
water markers on a 40x50cm canvas. It's based on my personal synesthesia,
and how I view different different shapes in different colours.
Click image to enlarge | Illustration is not related to article
While Nathan Witthoft was earning his PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he met a woman with color-grapheme synesthesia, a neurological condition where people see letters and numbers in color. Most color-grapheme synesthetes perceive the alphabet in their own color scheme, with each letter possessing a different hue. When tested on her synesthesia, Witthoft noticed that it had reoccurring colors, as if her alphabet followed a set, repeated pattern. She mentioned that as a child she had a set of colored alphabet magnets and her letters matched the colors of the letters in the set.
Witthoft wrote a paper about her and soon others contacted him, noting that their synesthesia mimicked the colors of the magnets. He recruited 11 synesthetes to visit the lab and take some tests. First, he asked the subjects to participate in a battery of tests to determine whether they were, in fact, synesthetes (the tests come fromsynesthete.org; anyone can register and take them online). Then, they participated in a timed color-matching test, where they selected the shade that corresponded with their letter. He found that all 11 subjects had a similarly colored alphabet that paralleled the childhood magnet set. All but one of the participants recalled having this toy during their childhoods.
This is the first time researchers found that color-grapheme synesthetes shared common patterns. “I had been surprised by how easy it was to find people [whose synesthesia mirrors the magnetic alphabet toy],” says Witthoft, a post-doctoral researcher at Stanford University in the psychology department. Additionally, these color patterns stay constant. The woman from MIT participated in this study as well and her alphabet remained similar to what it was seven years ago. All the subjects completed the matching test twice with about 50 days in between—both times the letters possessed the same shades. These findings are consistent with researchers’ understanding of synesthesia as being specific, automatic, and constant.
More at Body Odd | NBC News

30 January 2013


Daredevil Surfs 100-Foot Wave In Portugal

World record-holding surfer and known thrill-seeker Garrett McNamara is believed to have surfed the biggest wave ever, a 100-footer he rode off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. Word of the feat still has to be confirmed by the good folks at Guinness, but the 45-year-old Hawaiian is stoked by the accomplishment.
“Thank you for all your support. It means the world to me,” McNamara tweeted yesterday. “Today was an awesome day and so fun to be out there.”
A picture of the feat, taken by surf photographer Tó Mané, underscores the enormity of what McNamara has done. He is but a tiny dot on the face of the wave.
McNamara is no stranger to epic waves. He already held the title for the biggest wave ever surfed, having nailed a 78-footer at the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in Nazaré already. This record was originally reported to be 90 feet and not the actual 77.7559 feet that was later announced after video and photo analysis.
So was this really a record breaker? Whatever the final outcome, that was one amazing ride. Nazaré is considered to have the perfect conditions for big-wave surfing thanks to the Nazaré Canyon, an underwater canyon that is 1,000 feet deep, three miles wide and 105 miles long. When Atlantic swells hit the canyon, it funnels them out, creating monster waves like the two caught by McNamara.

29 January 2013

Cuddly Killers

In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States — both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it — kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.
The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes. Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and an author of the report, said the mortality figures that emerge from the new model “are shockingly high ... When we ran the model, we didn’t know what to expect.” Marra, who performed the analysis with his colleague, Scott R. Loss, and Tom Will of the Fish and Wildlife Service [added] “We were absolutely stunned by the results.” 
New York Times via Jezebel

Undead Teds

Phillip Blackman is a British illustrator who repurposes soft toys and transforms them into fluffy, bloody horrors.

UndeadTeds via Laughing Squid

28 January 2013

Happiness Is A Big Stick

Monkey Monday | Oxytocin May Be The Secret To Strong Societies

In the first study that non-invasively measures oxytocin levels in wild animals, researchers have found that in chimpanzees this hormone likely plays a key role in maintaining social relations among both related and non-related animals. The bond goes beyond genetic ties – it could be the very glue that holds societies together.

Published Jan. 23, 2013, in Proceedings of the Royal Society, "Urinary oxytocin and social bonding in related and unrelated wild chimpanzees” reported findings resulting from an international collaboration of researchers from the United Kingdom, Uganda, Germany, the United States of America, and Switzerland.

Toni Ziegler, Ph.D., senior scientist and head of Assay Services at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted the team’s hormonal analyses for the past three years after researchers collected urine samples from a troop of chimpanzees in Uganda’s Budongo Forest. Urine was collected from plastic sheets or leaves following episodes of grooming among the animals, and then transferred with sterile pipettes into sample vials before shipping to the WNPRC for measuring and analysis.

Lead authors Catherine Crockford, Roman Wittig and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, interpreted the data. They reported that oxytocin levels spiked after grooming among cooperating partners in contrast to non-cooperating partners or after no grooming, regardless of genetic relatedness or sexual interest. This suggests that, in chimpanzees, oxytocin plays a key role in maintaining social relations beyond genetic ties and in keeping track of social interactions with multiple individuals over time. Furthermore, the researchers found that when a chimp engages in grooming with another chimp, if there is no previously established friendship, oxytocin levels do not increase in either animal.

“We developed the assay methods used in this study for measuring urinary oxytocin in human children and nonhuman primates,” Ziegler said. “This is our first report of its role in social bonding in a totally wild primate. This technique will allow field researchers and human researchers alike the opportunity to learn about the importance of social bonding in primates.”
Wisconsin National Primate Research Center

25 January 2013

It's National Compliment Day

So say something nice! And if you can't think of anything, try the Emergency Compliment Generator or the Daily Odd Compliment.

23 January 2013

22 January 2013

January 22-28, 2013 | Trust Women Week

Forty years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v Wade and legalized abortion in the U.S. The fight for reproductive rights and to allow women to make decisions concerning their own bodies continues.

Women won historic numbers of seats in Congress in the November election. Voters across the political spectrum supported women's reproductive health, rights, and justice, and defeated candidates who trivialized women's safety. Florida rejected a ballot measure that would outlaw public funding for abortions.

But many state legislatures and members of Congress continue to attack access to birth control and abortion care, and cut funds for health care providers like Planned Parenthood. In Mississippi, state regulators are working to force the last clinic that provided abortions to close. These restrictions most severely affect low-income women and women of color, and women in certain geographic areas.

Threats continue to women's long-term economic and social security and safety.

Trust Women Week partner organizations are joining together to express the powerful voices of the majority of women, men, children, families and communities who uphold traditional American values of democracy, independence, fairness, progress, innovation and pragmatism.

Sign the Trust Women Week petition.

21 January 2013

Monkey Monday | The Legendary FuManchu

FuManchu, a late resident of the Omaha Zoo, frequently would be found lounging in the trees outside his exhibit when zoo employees arrived in the morning. Fu's James Bond-esque escape plots are the stuff of legend, and showcase the depth of the animal's foresight and imagination.

High-tech surveillance was the only way that zookeepers were able to keep up. Long after zoo employees had left for the night, Fu would climb into the air vents connected to his enclosure and follow them to a dry moat surrounding the orangutan exhibit. Inside the moat was a locked door that employees often used. The clever ape would pull out a small piece of metal wiring that he kept hidden under his cheek throughout the day, and proceed to pick the door's lock. 

How Fu Manchu learned to pick locks remains a mystery. But it's the ape's cunning planning skills, demonstrated by his ability to keep they wiry tool hidden from zoo employees all day, that show the depth of an orangutan's intelligence.

Mother Nature Network

20 January 2013

Bored CERN Physicists Look For Colon In LHC

Inspectors examining a recent malfunction at the Large Hadron Collider found that senior scientists had been ‘inserting various household objects into the collider’, causing helium leakage and misalignment of several of the magnets.

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, cost over 4.1 billion dollars to build, runs a length of 27 kilometers below Geneva and has been used to search for evidence of the Higgs particle and the associated Higgs field. These noble goals bear little relationship to the activities engaged in by Yukihide Matsuzi, a Japanese theoretical physicist, and his colleague, Klara Eschelbach, a mathematician interested in models of supersymmetry. ‘Apparently they were just chucking stuff in there to see what would happen’ said a distraught David Branston, project leader overseeing CMS and Atlas projects. ‘Just when we might be seeing evidence of two different Higgs particles, these clowns almost destroy the collider!’

The scientists in question admitted they had already collided several watches, a fountain pen, a bunch of keys and a can of coke. ‘It is very irresponsible of us, but our project has been delayed by 18 months. We’ve been here doing checks and simulations for more than four years now. I guess we just couldn’t help ourselves when we realized the machine was operational but not colliding proton beams. If we found a new particle by colliding coke-cans we were going to call it a colon…’. Eschelbach said in a feeble attempt to lighten the situation. “Maybe we should have stuck with our original plan of making high-energy popcorn instead…” 

Branston says he’s ‘just glad we could stop them before it got any worse’.”Just look at the stuff they had lined up!’ the project leader said. Among the objects soon to be reduced to subatomic particles were a desk chair, a Microsoft Zune and two rather nervous looking mice. The damage to the LHC will extend the two-year break by several months.

Collectively Unconscious

I've worked with enough pixilated experimental scientists to find this within the realm of possibility, but could find no corroborating sources. Darn it.

19 January 2013

Borowitz | Fox News To Shut Down Monday Morning For Routine Maintenance

New Yorker

Thanks, Rick

Monday 21 January, 11:40 a.m.
The local FoxNews affiliate is airing a Jerry Springer repeat titled "Lesbian Stripper Threesome."

18 January 2013

craigslist | Damnation

Click image to enlarge

craigslist via Gawker

17 January 2013

There, There ... Everything's Going To Be Fine


When we ask folks to behave in ways that are just not part of their repertoires, the results can be unsettling.

15 January 2013

Insomnia Jeopardy

Well, Hey! Baby Panda

A group of panda cubs are melting hearts this week as they play around and pose in a series of almost unbearably cute photos, from flashing a wave to kicking back and chilling out. The cubs were snapped in action at the Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China, according to photographer Dr. Katherine Feng.

13 January 2013

Laurel and Hardy | Way Out West


A happy little dance for a dreary, rainy day: Laurel's and Hardy's charming soft-shoe from Way Out West.

12 January 2013


Click image to enlarge
Located on the grounds of the CIA's headquarters in Langley is the sculpture "Kryptos," created as an outdoor installation for the agency by artist Jim Sanborn with the help of former CIA cryptographer Ed Scheidt. The sculpture's cipher contains four sections, with 869 encrypted characters in total. Three of them have been solved (it took the agency's analysts seven years). The fourth section with its 97 characters, known as "K4," is still a mystery.

Wired's Steven Levy explored the brain-busting techniques used to create the codes, involving letter substitutions, intentional misspellings, and jumbled letters that can only be un-jumbled with complex mathematical formulas. What do the messages say? One plate paraphrased Egyptologist Howard Carter's account of opening Tutankhamen's tomb. Another spoke about mysterious information stored underground, and revealed coordinates to a location inside the CIA headquarters. Poetic embellishment, of course. And good luck solving the final plate ... A crowd-sourcing effort through a Yahoo Group has been working since 2003 on cracking the remaining characters. But Sanborn knows the answer, and he's still alive. If you think you have the answer too, you can submit it to his website. But you probably don't know. The CIA doesn't.

11 January 2013

One Step Beyond | The Sacred Mushroom


Regarding a January 1961 episode of the TV anthology series One Step Beyond:
Host John Newland traveled to Mexico where he met with a local shaman who was an initiate in ritual use of magic mushrooms. The then-unknown mushrooms were purportedly able to increase the user's psychic powers. On camera, Newland ingested several mushrooms and allowed his reactions to be filmed for broadcast.
This was the only episode of the entire series to have a relatively reality-based "documentary" tone, rather than the scripted docudramas that made up all other episodes. Although the subject matter (the enhancement of psychic powers) was in line with the rest of the series, this episode was somewhat controversial and was omitted from the syndication package; it has been seen only rarely since its original broadcast. However, according to Newland, it was the most popular episode of the series.

08 January 2013

Pet Jerky Treats Linked To Illness And Death

Click image to enlarge

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to caution consumers about a potential association between the development of illness in dogs and the consumption of chicken jerky products made in China. The FDA issued this chart showing the brands of tainted chicken jerky treats that have been reported to the agency. Since 2007 more than 2,200 pet illnesses, including 360 cat and dog deaths, were reported to the FDA, all mentioning the animals had eaten chicken jerky treats from China. It's recommended that you not only avoid these brands of chicken jerky treats, but also any type of pet treat or pet food produced in China.


07 January 2013

Rape Culture | The Enliven Project

Click image to enlarge
The fear of getting falsely accused of rape just doesn’t compare to the fear of an actual rapist getting away with his or her crime. Statistics from Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2006-2010 and FBI reports.
Link via The Nation

Landfill Philharmonic

Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where young musicians play instruments made from trash. For more information about the film, visit their FaceBook page.

Monkey Monday | Bonobos Share With Strangers

Baby bonobos share papayas. Photo from Jingzhi Tan.
... primatologists know that great apes help and voluntarily share food with other group mates (acts that indirectly benefit themselves). But strangers? Such a behavior is unheard of amidst species that often compete aggressively with other groups and even murder foreign individuals.
Researchers from Duke University decided to challenge the great ape’s bad sharing rep, seeking to discover whether or not our furry relatives may also have a propensity for partitioning goods with animals they do not know. The scientists chose bonobos–a type of great ape sometimes referred to as a pygmy chimpanzee–for their study. Compared to chimpanzees, bonobos possess a relatively high tolerance for strangers, so they seemed like a logical candidate for investigations into the nature of sharing.
At a bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they enrolled 15 wild-born bonobos orphaned and rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in four experiments. In the first experiment, the researchers led a bonobo into a room piled high with delicious banana slices. Behind two sliding doors, they placed either a friend of the main bonobo or a stranger (a bonobo unrelated and unknown to their main research subject). The bonobo with the bananas could chose to eat the food all on its own, or open the sliding door and invite both or either the friend or stranger to join in. In the second experiment, they placed only one bonobo–either the friend or stranger–behind a door and left the second room empty.
The results, which they describe this week in the journal PLoS One, confounded the researchers. In more than 70 percent of the trials, the bonobos shared their food at least once. They preferred to release the stranger over their group mate, and the stranger in turn often released the other bonobo, even though that meant splitting the food three ways and being outnumbered by two bonobos that already knew each other. They ignored the door leading to the empty room, showing that the novelty of opening the door was not motivating their behavior.
So, were the bonobos willing to share their food with strangers because of an overwhelming desire to interact with the unknown apes, or were they motivated by a sense of altruism? The researchers set up two more experiments to find out.
Read more at Smithsonian | Surprising Science 

05 January 2013

Out Of The Blue

Watch on YouTube
Narrated by Peter Coyote, Out of the Blue is widely considered one of the best documentary films ever made about UFOs and was directed by celebrated filmmaker James Fox. The films producers traveled around the world to investigate some of the most famous UFO events on record. Through exclusive interviews with high-ranking military and government personnel, this award-winning film supports the theory that some UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin.
The film features former Arizona governor Fife Symington, astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Russian general Leonid Aleviev, President Jimmy Carter, cosmonaut Major General Pavel Popovich, UK admiral Lord Hill Norton, physics professor Dr. Brian Greene, President Gerald Ford, astronaut Colonel Gordon Cooper. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, and many more. Presents an international scope, quality testimony, and scientific perspectives.

Best Of Criggo

04 January 2013

Icelandair Restrains Unruly Passenger

Click image to enlarge | Via FB
The above photo comes to us from a tipster whose friend took off on a plane from Iceland yesterday and quickly ascended to hell in the skies. According to eyewitness accounts and Iceland's Morgunblaðið newspaper ... the gentleman pictured downed "an entire bottle" of duty free alcohol, then proceeded to lose his damn mind, groping, choking, and spitting on other passengers, and yelling that the plane was going to crash. A spokesman for Icelandair confirmed that a passenger was restrained for safety reasons and arrested after the plane landed at JFK. The man's nationality is unknown; he is a citizen of the world.

01 January 2013


Michael Ramirez, Senior Editor and Editorial Cartoonist for Investor's Business Daily
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