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February 20, 2008

Project Posner — 'The opinions of Judge Richard A. Posner'


Version 2.0 of the website went up on January 29, 2007, with subsequent enhancements as the year went on.

For those not acquainted with the Chicago federal appeals court judge, he is best described as a phenomenon.

You can learn why here.

Just out is a special issue (top) from the University of Chicago Law Review commemorating his work.

He also finds time to post to his blog.

February 20, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

3/16 Flat 6" Rapi-drive Screwdriver — 'Perfect for any screw job'


Say what?

From the website:

    6" x 3/16" Flat Rapi-drive Screwdriver

    Electricians' choice. Enough said.

    As fast as an electric screwdriver or drill, lighter to carry on your tool belt — takes up less space too.

    And it’s a proven concept.

    Rapi-drives are used by electricians when moving through big wiring jobs – perfect for any other screw job too.

    The bent shaft and crank-action handle let you drive screws in seconds — without all the wrist work.

    Comfortable cushion-grip handle and chrome-plated steel shaft with a precision machined tip for an exact fit.

    The top is marked for fast ID in your tool belt.




February 20, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet Beelzebufo — 'The frog from hell'


Long story short: Pictured above in an artist's illustration with a pencil and a modern frog for comparison, the prehistoric frog, which lived 70 million years ago, was the size of a bowling ball with heavy armor and teeth, weighed 10 pounds, and snacked on baby dinosaurs.

Here's Will Dunham's Reuters story from yesterday's Vancouver Sun about one formidable frog.

    Froggie went a-killing

    Prehistoric hopper, dubbed 'devil frog,' could have eaten newborn dinosaurs

    It was the biggest, baddest, meanest froggy ever to have hopped on Earth.

    Scientists on Monday announced the discovery in northwestern Madagascar of a bulky amphibian dubbed the "devil frog" that lived 65 million to 70 million years ago and was so nasty it may have eaten newborn dinosaurs.

    This brute was larger than any frog living today and may be the biggest frog ever to have existed, according to paleontologist David Krause of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, one of the scientists who found the remains.

    Its name, Beelzebufo ampinga, came from Beelzebub, the Greek for devil, and bufo — Latin for toad. Ampinga means "shield," named for an armor-like part of its anatomy.

    Beelzebufo (pronounced bee-el-zeh-BOOF-oh) was 41 cm long and weighed an estimated 4.5 kg.

    It was powerfully built and possessed a very wide mouth and powerful jaws. It probably didn't dine daintily.

    "It's not outside the realm of possibility that Beelzebufo took down lizards and mammals and smaller frogs, and even — considering its size — possibly hatchling dinosaurs," Krause said in a telephone interview.

    "It would have been quite mean," added paleontologist Susan Evans of University College London, another of the scientists.

    Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Even though it lived far away, Beelzebufo appears to be closely related to a group of frogs that live today in South America, the scientists said. They are nicknamed "Pac-Man" frogs due to their huge mouths. Some have little horns on their heads, and the scientists think Beelzebufo also may have had horns -- a fitting touch for the "devil frog."

    Beelzebufo was bigger than any of its South American kin or any other living frog — "as if it was on steroids," Krause said. The largest one today is the goliath frog of West Africa, up to 12.5 inches (32 cm) long and 7.2 pounds (3.3 kg).

    The presence of Beelzebufo in Madagascar and its modern relatives in South America is the latest sign a long-lost land bridge once may have linked Madagascar to Antarctica — much warmer then — and South America, the scientists said.

    That would have let animals move overland among those land masses. Fossils have been found of other animals in Madagascar from Beelzebufo's time similar to South American ones.

    The first frogs appeared about 180 million years ago, and their basic body plan has remained unchanged. Beelzebufo lived during the Cretaceous Period.


Here's a link to much more detailed report — a February 18, 2008 National Science Foundation press release — about the discovery.

The abstract of the scientific report about the discovery, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, follows.

    A giant frog with South American affinities from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar

    Madagascar has a diverse but mainly endemic frog fauna, the biogeographic history of which has generated intense debate, fueled by recent molecular phylogenetic analyses and the near absence of a fossil record. Here, we describe a recently discovered Late Cretaceous anuran that differs strikingly in size and morphology from extant Malagasy taxa and is unrelated either to them or to the predicted occupants of the Madagascar–Seychelles–India landmass when it separated from Africa 160 million years ago (Mya). Instead, the previously undescribed anuran is attributed to the Ceratophryinae, a clade previously considered endemic to South America. The discovery offers a rare glimpse of the anuran assemblage that occupied Madagascar before the Tertiary radiation of mantellids and microhylids that now dominate the anuran fauna. In addition, the presence of a ceratophryine provides support for a controversial paleobiogeographical model that posits physical and biotic links among Madagascar, the Indian subcontinent, and South America that persisted well into the Late Cretaceous. It also suggests that the initial radiation of hyloid anurans began earlier than proposed by some recent estimates.

February 20, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

bookofjoe World Exclusive: Where to buy a ZING! catapult spoon


Following yesterday's introduction of this great new addition to the lunch space came an email from PA Design, which created the device.

Long story short:The spoon is not yet available in the U.S. but it is in France.

In Red, Green, Blue, Orange or Yellow.

8 €.

They added, "We also have our shop/showroom in Paris, see the address on our website."

But maybe you don't have access to a computer.

Okay, then — they're at 2 bis, rue Fléchier, 75009 Paris, France.

Call 01 42 85 58 33 and tell 'em bookofjoe sent you.


Me, I wouldn't mention how I got the number but hey, you're old enough to make that decision for yourself.

February 20, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Acquired Synesthesia


About five years ago while listening to the radio, philosophy professor Sherrilyn Roush suddenly felt a terrible sensation over much of her body, so cringe-inducing that she had to stop listening.

This event heralded the onset of a rare case of acquired synesthesia.

Here's Sandra Blakeslee's December 25, 2007 New York Times story about the unusual occurrence and its sequelae.

    When the Senses Become Confused

    One morning seven years ago, Sherrilyn Roush woke to discover that the left side of her body had gone numb.

    The cause was obvious, according to Dr. Roush, now 42 and a philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley: the day before, she had been given a prescription decongestant with an ingredient suspected of causing strokes in young women.

    Five months later, the Food and Drug Administration took the drug off the market.

    But Dr. Roush, then starting her career at Rice University in Houston, did not realize that her stroke would lead to sensations that few people have ever experienced.

    A year and a half after the stroke, caused by a lesion the size of a lentil in a region of her midbrain, Dr. Roush began to feel tingling on her body in response to sounds.

    Today, more than ever, she feels sounds on her skin.

    The first time it happened, Dr. Roush was channel-surfing when she heard the voice of an announcer on a local FM station. When the announcer started to talk, she recalled, “I felt an unpleasant sensation on my left thigh, left arm, the back of my shoulder and even the outside of my left ear.”

    “It was the kind of icky feeling that uniformly washes over you at a scary movie,” she continued. “I had to stop listening. It made me cringe.”

    Tony Ro, a psychologist from Rice University who has followed her case from the beginning, said Dr. Roush has a rare case of acquired synesthesia.

    Synesthesia is a condition marked by odd mixings of the senses. Sensory areas of the brain that do not normally communicate engage in cross-talk.

    Most synesthetes are born with such crossed connections. Some experience complex tastes, like apple or bacon, in response to words. Others feel complex shapes, like pyramids, in response to tastes. Many see colors attached to specific letters or numbers.

    In this case, Dr. Ro said, the crossed wiring developed as a consequence of the stroke. Imaging studies reveal that fiber tracts from Dr. Roush’s midbrain that normally go to higher regions involved in touch are disorganized and diminished. Such disruption can lead to enhanced connectivity in remotely connected regions of the brain like hearing and touch.

    Dr. Ro and colleagues have tested Dr. Roush for the last seven years, observing how her brain has reorganized. An article describing her case appears in the November issue of Annals of Neurology.

    For several months, Dr. Roush found herself bumping into doors. When she drove, her car would veer to the right. But gradually, the weakness on her left side and the neglect of space around her left side diminished. Her only concession was to give up driving a car with a stick shift because of lingering weakness in her leg.

    But in laboratory tests a year later, she exhibited a rare phenomenon. If simultaneously touched on both hands, she would feel an increased sense of pressure on her left hand. Her brain was reorganizing in ways that baffled her doctors.

    Not long after that, sounds began to produce tingling, hair-raising sensations of touch on her body. Something about that radio announcer’s voice — its pitch or timbre — was unbearably irritating. The sound of a duck quacking or the sharp clanging of a fire alarm sets her teeth on edge. When she rides the subway, the sound of the train hitting the rails makes her left side “feel on the way to tingle.”

    But the soft sound of water bubbling is “soothing, almost like a massage on my skin,” Dr. Roush said, adding, “Round sounds produce a very light tickle but without the annoying part of being tickled.”

    She always feels touch sensations, positive and negative, on the left side of her body, particularly the outside of her arm, thigh, head and shoulder. They do not reach the bottom of her leg. Sometimes they make her squirm. But most, she said, do not interfere with everyday life.

    Recently, Dr. Roush learned how to exploit her oddly mixed up senses.

    “I took up the string bass,” she said. “Most people get pleasure from this instrument. It is huge. It has a soft deep sound. But I get more pleasure out of it, right there in my left arm. When I play, it feels like a massage.”


Here is the abstract of the Annals of Neurology paper referred to above.

    Feeling sounds after a thalamic lesion

    Objective The ventrolateral nucleus of the thalamus (VL), based on its connectivity with the cerebellum and motor cortex, has long been considered to be involved with motor functions. We show that the human VL also plays a prominent role in sensory processing.

    Methods Structural magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging were used to localize a small lesion restricted to the right VL in a patient with contralesional sensory processing deficits. Systematic assessments of anatomic brain organization and behavioral measurements of somatosensory and visual processing were conducted at several time points after stroke.

    Results Initially, the patient was more likely to detect events on the contralesional side when a simultaneous ipsilesional event was presented within the same, but not different, sensory modality. This perceptual phenomenon, which we refer to as unisensory antiextinction, persisted for several months before transforming into a form of synesthesia in which auditory stimuli produced tactile percepts. Tractography performed on the diffusion tensor imaging data showed altered connections from the lesioned thalamus to the cerebral cortex, suggesting a neural basis for these sensory changes.

    Interpretation These results demonstrate a role for the VL in sensory processing and suggest that reorganization of thalamocortical axonal connectivity can lead to major changes in perception.

February 20, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lunar Time-Slip: Eclipse on for tonight — not last night


Shows what happens when you depend on Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon of PTI for your astronomical information.

At the top of yesterday's (Tuesday, February 19, 2008) show they went on about the (in their world, at least) imminent lunar eclipse, with Kornheiser saying, in response to Wilbon's question as to whether he'd be watching it, "No, I'll be aiming my telescope at my neighbor's window."


At the time I thought to myself, okay, since at least one of my daily newspapers yesterday also had the eclipse happening then.

Must be the same one the PTI guys read 'cause all I'm seeing in today's papers is news of tonight's eclipse of the moon.


At any rate, according to today's Washington Post the event takes place tonight — Wednesday, February 20, 2008 — between 10:10 p.m. and 10:51 p.m. ET, "... but it could be obscured by clouds."

Bonus: You don't have to wear dark glasses or worry about going blind if you stare at it.

FunFact: The next lunar eclipse occurs on December 21, 2010, so don't miss this one if you're the impatient type.

February 20, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iterasi.com — 'I can't believe I saved the whole thing'


Check it out.

February 20, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ultimate Slicing Guide Knife



From the website:

    Ultimate Slicing Guide Knife

    This knife has an adjustable guide to help you cut foods to the perfect thickness.

    Just turn the knob to adjust the guide's distance from the blade, then cut perfect, even slices of everything from bread to meat to vegetables.

    The guide is flat and stands out from the side of the knife to support the food slice as you cut it.

    A fork to help you hygienically hold food while you cut is included.


February 20, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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