Yeah, no shit.

Yeah, no shit.

The University of Utah is doing groundbreaking research in the field of common sense, finally providing a definitive, scientific answer to the burning question of our times.

Just why is it dangerous to text while driving?

Gee, University of Utah, I guess I thought it was because you’re trying to type an excuse for being late to dinner to your significant other on a keypad half the size of your hand while piloting thousands of pounds of speeding metal down the roadway. But hey, you guys did the research. Why don’t you tell me what the reason really is?

Oh, it’s pretty much that?

Well, shit, I’m sure glad we have you around, University of Utah. What are you going to take on next? Why spiders are scary? Lemme give you a hint – eight hairy legs, tons of eyes, and poisonous fucking fangs they use to eat things that are still alive.

I just saved you a grant. You’re welcome.

Okay, two things. First thing – motorcycles are not safe. Second thing – rocket launchers are not safe. So we should be clear that there is no manner in which attaching rocket launchers to your motorcycle is in any way safe, for yourself or anyone else on sharing the road with you.

What it is, is totally bitchin’. Seriously – this dude is basically a hidden helicopter blade away from being a M.A.S.K action figure.

Ron Paul’s son, Rand (as in Ayn) wants to be the next US senator from Kentucky. Unsurprisingly, Ron Paul supporters are already lining up around the block to shower Rand, who is just scraping by on a doctors salary, with monetary support for his campaign. And rest assured, his supporters hard earned money will go towards funding those notoriously expensive Kentucky media buys and help enact one of the pillars of Rands campaign, “putting the C back in Conservative.”

And lest you think Rand is simply hoping to ride his popular papas coattails, perish the thought. After all, the fact that his first “money bomb” online fundraiser is schedule to coincide with his Dad’s birthday later this month is a total coincidence. As is the fact that he would like a blimp, just like the one his Dad had.

But unlike his Dad, if there’s any cash left over from the blimp, Rand plans to spend it on an armored sports car from which he can battle crime and liberals.

The i Phone – it’s not just for making your friends jealous and checking your email on the bus any more. Researchers at MIT have developed an app for everyones favorite handheld that allows users to control an unmanned drone via their very own palm pilot. It’s quite a feat just one year after their colleagues at UC Berkeley managed to control a small fleet of UAVs from an iPhone.

Between simpler methods of controlling the small wonders and more efficient power sources like solar panels and next gen batteries, UAVs are poised to make a jump from indiscriminate killing machine to phenomenally effective intelligence gathering devices that can operate over long ranges at little risk. Imagine if, rather than maybe probably almost killing a Taliban leader in Pakistan after definitely killing their fairly harmless wives, these things could gather intelligence on where he and his cohorts actually were. Imagine a fight against the Taliban that doesn’t involve us tossing Hellfire missiles around pell mell at every possible target.

Doesn’t that sound like a more effective war? Doesn’t that sound like a war that doesn’t give the people we’re fighting for an endless string of reasons to fear us? Doesn’t that sound like a war we could win?

I know we’re all wondering about what the Next Big Space Thing is going to be, especially since everybody seems to have spontaneously realized that in the forty years since we landed on the moon, the only space missions that haven’t been kind of boring have been the ones that were tragic.

The trendy answer seems to be “We’re going to Mars!” This despite the fact that NASA is about to retire the space shuttle fleet and the closest that we’ve gotten to training people for the mission is isolating a bunch of dudes in a box for a fraction of the time it would take to complete a trip to the planet, and this without the common courtesy to invite Pauly Shore and Steven Baldwin.

Don’t get me wrong – landing on the red planet is a nice idea. It’s noble and ambitious and would be super awesome to see. But seriously, no one gets to even bring up a manned mission to Mars until we can keep the shitter on the International Space Station working for more than a year at a stretch. End of story.

Between headline grabbing tales of plane crashes, South American coup d’ etats and untimely demises of high profile celebrities, it’s understandable that less sexy stories might fall through the cracks. And if there’s anything less sexy to mainstream media than the super fast translation of neurological messages, I’m hard pressed to think of what it would be.

That said, a couple of stories about doing just that managed to sneak in under the radar this week. And while restoring motion to paralyzed individuals might not be the sort of thing that gets CNN’s engine revving, it’s just the sort of thing that makes my heart go all aflutter. I’m a little weird that way, I guess.

Apparently the BSI-TOYOTA Collaboration Center knows just how to get me of a temper. Researchers there have develeoped a wheelchair controlled by the brainwaves of a subject. The wheelchair, which has been in development since 2007, has a 95% accuracy rate in translating brainwaves into simple directional controls like backward, forward, left and right. Even more impressively, it does so in fractions of a second, courtesy of a groundbreaking method of brain-machine interface that separates pertinent brain signals from the ‘white noise’ of EEG readings to analyze brainwave patterns several times faster than conventional methods.

Between this sort of advanced translation and research at the University of Washington that bypasses damaged nerves completely, the prospect of one day restoring limb function to paralyzed individuals has never been more realistic. And as a happy side effect of the technology, bloggers will one day to post updates just by thinking about them. Take that, my future case of carpal tunnel syndrome!

GPS mapping is a great tool for figuring out where things are, from the apartment that the best party is at to the house you’re supposed to demolish. No one is arguing that.

The problem arises when having a new tool like GPS prevents people from doing the simple things they used to do to problem solve. Like asking “Hey, don’t most of the houses we tear down not have furniture in them?”  Instead, apparently without double checking their coordinates or contacting the owner of the house, which was vacant at the time, a Georgia demolition company razed the home to the ground.

Condolences to the Byrd family, and a note to the companies involved – demolition is a big job. Next time, take a break before you start. Get a bite to eat, have a smoke – and oh yeah, make sure you’ve got the right damned address before you start knocking houses down, you bunch of jackasses.

Have you got more money than you know what to do with?

Are you looking for a novel way to stimulate the economy while also driving your friends mad with jealousy?

Are standard sports of the stupidly wealthy, like fox hunting and polo, just not providing the excitement you crave any more?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it sounds like you’re the perfect candidate for underwater flight school. Rather than the slow, clumsy underwater travel you’re no doubt used to from your current personal submersible, you’ll be able to fly gracefully through the water a la Johnny Quest.  For just $15,000, you could spend three days this summer in Northern California, learning to pilot the Super Falcon personal submarine alongside underwater flight pioneer Graham Hawkes.

The Super Falcon, which has been in development by Hawkes Ocean Technologies (yes, that acronym is HOT) for years, has finally reached it’s pinnacle, and after being on display recently at the California Academy of Sciences, the latest in underwater transportation and hyper wealthy gad-aboutery will be in the water and ready to go this summer.

Space is chock full of weird stuff this week, from the perhaps Holy Grail of astronomy in Gliese 581 e, a small, rocky exoplanet that exists in a potentially habitable orbital zone to a Jupiter sized planet with one of the strangest looking orbits ever observed, existing for most of its’ orbit in the Goldilocks zone and occasionally swooping in close and nearly grazing (in a cosmic sense) the star it orbits. These two planets are just two of the more interesting examples of the scads of planets that are being discovered recently. At this point, finding another planet that supports life somewhere in the universe looks more like a matter of time than anything else. And considering how far rocketry has come in just the past two centuries, from firing sheep into the stratosphere to capturing incredible images of the far side of the galaxy, like the ones sent back by NASA’s Kepler Mission earlier this week, it may not even be a matter of that much time. Heck, if the proposed Ceres Lander gets off the ground, we might not even have to leave our solar system to find evidence of extraterrestrial life.

The Big Wide World, Courtesy of Kepler

The Big Wide World, Courtesy of Kepler

Speaking of our cozy little solar system, you probably haven’t noticed it, but the sun is acting a touch peculiar as of late. Not that it’s anything to be concerned about. After all, new stars are always being born and researchers in Dublin may have come a step closer to understanding just how that happens.

No, you should save all of your concern for the following two questions: a) what is the ‘space blob‘? and b) does it spell our imminent cosmic doom? 


The Blob That Shall Not Be Named

The Blob That Shall Not Be Named

I’m going with a) some kind of dark and sleeping elder god from the realms beyond sanity and b) I guess that depends on what you mean by imminent. I mean, chances are we’ve got another like, five or ten years. Unless we start running into terrible omens, like sharks appearing where they do not belong.

Desperately need a vacation but can’t risk taking time off in the current economic abattoir. Thanks to a group of engineering students at ETH Zurich and Avalon, their robotic sailboat, you may soon be able to enjoy the high seas vicariously while slaving away at a job you never liked anyway. 

Avalon is a self guided sailboat that will make it’s debut this fall in the International Microtransat Challenge. If all goes according to plan, the boat will sail unmanned from Ireland to the Caribbean, with only it’s own on board software to guide it. While the technology is still in it’s early stages, it marks the first step towards a day when you can set your boat in the water, head back to your desk, and be greeted by streaming images of what it would be like to be sailing gloriously through sapphire waters on your way to an island paradise while you calculate P/E ratios in your cubicle. Misting yourself with a spray bottle of salt water and feeling smugly superior to those around you will be strictly optional.

And while sailing by itself is an achievement, Avalon isn’t by any means alone on that front. Now if they could create a boat that was capable of something really impressive – like solving crimes, for example – then they’d really have something on their hands.

People suffering from fibromyalgia are big winners this week, thanks to wonder drug naltrexone. Usually used in the treatment of alcoholism or heroin addiction, the drug has recently proven effective in treating kleptomania by numbing the giddy high associated with compulsive theft. Recent studies indicate that naltrexone, which acts on receptors in the brain, may also be effective in treating the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia and may also strengthen evidence that the disease is one of the brain and nervous system, rather than the musculoskeletal condition it has previously been understood as.

While Hulk Hogan is more famous for dealing out pain than suffering  from it, he’s a winner this week, too. Why? Because he didn’t brutally murder his wife and her lover! And according to an article in Rolling Stone this week, he really goddamned wanted to. But you see, he didn’t! You know why?  

Hogan, proudly sporting the Not Killing My Wife Championship Belt

Hogan, proudly sporting the 'Not Killing My Wife' Championship Belt

Because he is a Real American! Gold Star, Hulkster!

Americans who don’t drive are also among this weeks winners, thanks to a spate of stories, the most notable being the Obama administrations new plans for connecting America with high speed rail lines.Life may be getting more convenient and safer for pedestrians with the introduction of a collision system for cars that acts like an airbag for pedestrians. Even people who want to be pedestrians but can’t could be getting in on the act, thanks to Honda’s Robolegs, which will not only be a mobility assisting boon to the elderly or disabled, but provide a completely unfair advantage to users in dance contests. Unless it’s a dance contest against this guy.

Though Seattle is a winner in getting a piece of the planned high speed rail system, the Emerald City has more than it’s fair share of losers this week, starting with the city’s skyline. While buildings constructed after 1994 will probably not crumble and slide into the Puget Sound in the event of a serious earthquake, those built prior to the more strict building codes will probably not be so lucky when a major quake hits the region. Seattle’s buildings aren’t the only things in town whose stability is being called into question, as the city continues to feel the economic pinch with Seattle based companies Onvia and Targeted Genetics both being threatened with delisting by the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.

I know it’s not nice to pick on people who can’t defend themselves, but hey – fetuses aren’t people. And thanks to the prenatal effects of Hong Kong flu and methamphetamine on the developing brains of fetuses, people getting dumber with each passing generation might go from a myth bandied about by the elderly to science fact.

Despite promising results from an electrical implant that could provide relief from a lifetime of embarassment, the incontinent find themselves once again lumped in with the rest of the losers. Because they’re incontinent.

But hey, things could be worse. They could be small, hairy, flightless birds who are getting eaten en masse by weasels imported to New Zealand in the 19th century to combat the plague of rabbits the island had unwittingly unleashed upon itself. Then they’d be kiwis.

Kiwis who pee themselves.

There are days that this stuff just writes itself. Like this morning, when you wake up to headlines like ‘Snakes Escape on Qantas Flight.’

In other words, it would appear that there are, in point of fact, some motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane.

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