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Wednesday: December 21, 2005

Scientific Puzzle II

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:37 PM GMT-0500

‘Peculiar’ of Odious and Peculiar reports that a tectonic fissure opened up in Ethiopia last September that is 37 miles long and 13 feet wide. Neither Peculiar nor his/her source tells us what I most want to know: how deep is it? Surely scientists have tried dangling instruments on ropes, or just dropping them in. A simple microphone or even a cellphone would give some clues: just listen to figure out how long it takes to stop falling and/or bouncing. I suppose reception would be a problem after the first few hundred feet. So why not a rock on a rope?

The picture provided was also a bit puzzling at first, since the cleft is a lot wider than 13 feet at the top. Of course, that is because the rift is deep enough that the original sharp edges fell in and were swallowed up. The area looks quite sandy. Here’s a diagram of what must have happened. Original rift (probably only existing for a second or two):

Rift after the edges fell in:

Roughly how far the debris fell is what I really want to know.

Further desultory thoughts:

I’m impressed by how close to the (new) edge the scientists are standing.

In such a sparsely-populated area, I don’t suppose anyone fell in when the rift opened up – not that it would be at all easy to tell unless someone else saw it happen. But a 37-mile bottomless canyon can’t be good for those unfortunate enough to have family or friends on the far side.

Scientific Puzzle I

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:19 PM GMT-0500

The Hamilton Spector reports that 1200-pound gorillas nearly 10 feet tall once roamed southwest China (þ Deinonychus antirrhopus). The picture is impressive, though a human figure would have helped show the size of the beast, and I wonder about the oddly Chinese facial features. One passage in the story struck me as implausible:

It was a herbivore, feasting mainly on bamboo. It is theorized it became extinct because it came into conflict with man or other animals, such as giant pandas, that lived on bamboo.

What kind of ridiculous theory is that? How could something as (relatively) small and flabby as a panda bear possibly compete with a ten-foot gorilla? Do pandas have a hitherto unsuspected proficiency in martial arts? Or did they run out and gobble up all the bamboo when Kong was asleep? I really don’t see any other way they could have been ‘fit’ enough to survive the theorized competition.

I’m 5.08% Slutty

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:04 PM GMT-0500

So says the Slut-o-MeterDustbury). When I do the same calculation through Google myself, I get a figure of 1.49%. The arithmetic is quite simple: the sluttiness quotient is just the percentage of sites found using an unrestricted Google search that are not found when those with “explicit sexual content” are filtered out.

There must be something wrong with the Slut-o-Meter’s algorithm. If I use their site to calculate the sluttiness of a Weevil in general rather than “Dr. Weevil”, I get a sluttiness quotient of -7.38%. I suppose that could mean that weevils are not only totally non-slutty, they even inspire non-slutty behavior in others, but that seems a bit of a stretch.