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May 13, 2019

Turn your toilet paper into a Ferrari


Whoa, joe, are you in Denver?

'Cause that headline sounds like someone spiked your coffee with a magic mushroom.

But I digress.

It occurred to me a moment ago, as I massaged a fresh roll of toilet paper so as to get its cardboard hub as circular as possible to enable smooth unrolling, that there had to be a better way.

I invoked the great Edwin H. Land's useful epigram, to wit: "Solve the problem with what's in the room."

Bingo: the childproof top of my pill container (full disclosure: Paxil 40mg tabs) fit snugly inside the hub (above). 

I pushed the container back and forth a couple times and got the hub as close to perfectly round as possible: now my toilet paper unrolls like I was pranking someone's front yard back in high school.

You can too!

May 13, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Milan Kundera on why man cannot be happy


"Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition." — "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," among the vanishingly small number of books whose film versions are equally arresting and so cunningly created that neither is diminished when experienced after the other.

An opinion not shared by Kundera.

May 13, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

BehindTheMedspeak: Is it safe to eat moldy food if you cut off the moldy part?


Short answer shorter: No.

C. Claiborne Ray's July 22, 2008 New York Times Science section Q&A has the longer version, and follows.

Mystery Molds

Q. I've been told not to eat food that has a little mold on it because the mold has permeated throughout. Is this true?

A. Yes, mold that is visible on the surface of food is only the tip of the iceberg, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Molds are fungi that have three parts: the root threads, which invade deeply into the food; a stalk, which rises above the food; and spores that form at the end of the stalk.

By the time the stalks are visible, the root threads, called hyphae, are embedded, so it is best to avoid food with any sign of mold.

Some molds can cause strong allergic reactions, including respiratory problems, in susceptible people. And in some varieties, the threads produce toxic substances called mycotoxins, which can make people very sick.

Molds may appear as "gray fur on forgotten bologna, fuzzy green dots on bread, white dust on Cheddar, coin-size velvety circles on fruits, and furry growth on the surface of jellies," as a fact sheet from the U.S.D.A. says. But molds have their good side; beneficial molds make blue cheese blue, and a common bread mold famously gave rise to the lifesaving drug penicillin. Also, molds play a big role in the decomposition of organic waste.

May 13, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Watch lightning strike — up close and personal

From ExtremeTech:

Once, when I lived in Louisville, I witnessed a lightning strike that hit the ground a few dozen feet from my vehicle, as I was merging on to the Gene Snyder Expressway.

If you've never been close to a lightning strike, it can be difficult to describe the experience.

At that range, there's no perceivable gap between the lightning and the thunder.

I was momentarily blinded (while driving at speed) and felt the thunder as a physical shockwave through the air as much as an audible phenomenon.

I was, in a word, shaken.

The only reason I didn't immediately pull off the road is that I suddenly had absolutely zero interest in remaining where I was.

All of this is to say, I deeply sympathize with Erica Hite, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who inadvertently captured a rare positive lightning strike on camera and was obviously rattled by the experience.

What makes this strike interesting is that it was positive, not negative, lightning.

Positive lightning is much more rare than negative, as this Doppler radar image and accompanying data on lightning strikes from Wxbrad.com makes clear:


The terms positive and negative refer to the polarity of the lightning strike.

Typically, lightning transfers a negative charge from cloud to ground.

A negatively charged lightning bolt typically carries ~300M volts and 30,000 amps.

But unlike negative lightning, which typically originates from the lower portion or middle of a thunderstorm, positive lightning is generated at higher altitudes, 30,000-60,000 feet high.

Typically, the insulating layer of negative charge shields the ground from positive lightning strikes.

Should this layer be disrupted, a positive lightning strike can result.

Because these strikes begin so high in the atmosphere, they can be significantly stronger and last much longer — up to one billion volts and 300,000 amps.

Positive lightning is much rarer than negative, but it kills a far higher percentage of the people unlucky enough to be struck by the bolt.

Positive lightning strikes are also responsible for much of the damage to homes, buildings, and other structures hit by lightning in the first place.

"It was crazy. Very scary, very loud," Hite told the Palm Beach Post. "It was just the right place at the right time. I could probably never in my life get something like that again."

Probably not.

And given just how dangerous positive lightning is, probably for the best.

Incidentally, while the bolt is a brilliant red, the color has nothing to do with the fact that it was a positive strike.

Lightning color varies depending on local atmospheric conditions and distance from the strike.

Lightning is often orange or red for the last few feet of the stroke, which is what we see in the video above.

May 13, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Iron Man Jet Suit


You can too!

From T3:

Show Tony Stark who the real Iron Man is by donning the world's first commercially available Jet Suit.

You'll get a custom fitting and training session at Gravity Industries' ex-military HQ before taking to the skies.


May 13, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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