Posts filed under “Science & Nature”

ASK DR. BOLI.

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Dear Dr. Boli: There was supposed to be a blue moon tonight, but when I looked at it it was the same grubby white color it always is. Why isn’t it blue, and what can be done about it? —Sincerely, An Astronomer Who Prefers to Remain Anonymous.

Dear Sir or Madam: The moon is not blue because it is impossible to feel sad when such exciting discoveries are coming in from Pluto. The celestial bodies exhibit an exemplary emotional solidarity, and we could learn much from them. If you still have complaints, however, you may refer them to Mr. Lorenz Hart and see where that gets you.

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ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: How do potholes form? —Sincerely, Mike Gable, Director, Pittsburgh Department of Public Works.

Dear Sir: When a glacier meets the sea, the end of it begins to float on the water, forming an ice shelf. Sooner or later a crack will appear in the ice, and then a chunk will break off. And that is how potholes are formed.

No, sorry—those are icebergs. Icebergs are easy to explain. Potholes are not. No one knows how potholes are formed. Disreputable scientists will attempt to lull you into complacency with tales of freezing and thawing cycles, but those scientists have all been suborned by Big Asphalt and will tell you anything to keep you from the truth. Evidence from traffic-light cameras and convenience-store surveillance tapes shows a suspicious pattern of activity, with executives of major asphalt companies being sighted repeatedly in locations where potholes are found the next day. Is it coincidence? Dr. Boli will make no pronouncement; he merely presents the facts, and you must make the judgment yourself.

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HORROR OF THE DANCING MUSHROOM.

Addendum: See also the Nodding Faceless Statue below.

Experimenting with Google Photos, our friend Father Pitt discovered that Google will automatically do certain things with your pictures, especially if you have a lot of similar pictures. Father Pitt always takes several of the same shot, just to make sure he gets one usable photograph in the bunch. The secret to being a good photographer is to take hundreds of pictures and expect to use a dozen or so of them. (And Father Pitt never throws out the failures, because—who knows?—they might be useful for something.)

Sometimes Google decides that what you wanted was an HDR version of the image. HDR—“high dynamic range”—images use more than one photograph of the same thing to capture detail both in the shadows and highlights; in sunlight, for example, one might otherwise have to settle for either featureless white highlights or featureless black shadows.

But often Google decides that, since the pictures are only subtly different, what you wanted was an animation. So it dutifully animates your multiple shots of the same stationary object. The result is usually just a jiggly picture; but every once in a while, Google’s automatic animations come out, well, terrifying. And you may see an example of the latter only if you promise not to hold Dr. Boli responsible for your psychiatrist’s bills:

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UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA.

There are ten hereditary monarchies in Europe today, even though no one has yet succeeded in finding a use for hereditary monarchs.

When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the peak of Everest in 1953, they found a program for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal sitting on a rock with a hand-painted sign beside it saying “TAKE ONE.”

Scientists observing the New Guinea crow in 2013 discovered that the species has evolved the ability to order a pizza through GrubHub.

The North Pole is actually Lithuanian.

Astronauts in the Gemini 7 space mission reported hearing tapping on the outer shell of the capsule, apparently spelling out a message in Morse code. The message was transcribed by astronaut James A. Lovell, Jr., as “BORMAN IS A WEENIE.” Not until 1996 were details of the incident quietly released by NASA.

 

 

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FUN FACTS ABOUT PLUTO.

Pluto is at present the only planetary conglobation in the solar system named for a cartoon dog, although there have been petitions circulated asking the IAU to rename Eris after Spike from the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Pluto’s argument of perihelion librates around 90º. Bet you didn’t know that.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by an astronomer looking for the “Planet X” that Percival Lowell had predicted; but in fact the discovery was a mere coincidence, as Pluto did not have the attributes expected of the predicted Planet X. Planet X was not discovered until 1953, when an earth duck landed and claimed it.

If Pluto were moved to the same orbit as Mars, astronomers would be very surprised.

The Plutonian year is equal to 248 Earth years; and because Pluto’s axis is tilted 120º, its seasonal variation is extreme. Winter on Pluto is mind-bogglingly cold, whereas summer is only unimaginably cold.

Astronomers estimate that the Plutonian Christmas shopping season lasts for 496 Earth months.

The eagerly awaited photographs from the New Horizons space probe revealed an object on Pluto’s surface that astonished astronomers could only describe as a “polygonal feature.”

Pluto has four known moons. Um, five known moons. Six. Pluto has seven kno——— Pluto has an unknown number of moons.

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From DR. BOLI’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MISINFORMATION,

Second Series.

Pluto. After years of protests against Pluto’s demotion to Dwarf Planet in the solar system, the International Astronomical Union has at last agreed to grant Pluto the more dignified title of Planetary Conglobation.

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ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: I am a little confused. Can you explain to me what the difference is between “cheese” and “pasteurized process cheese food”? —Sincerely, Alvino McCollander, President, Mid-Atlantic Association of the Moderately Confused, Oakmont or Verona Branch.

Dear Sir: “Cheese food” is, as its name implies, meant to be fed to cheese. Please don’t tell us you’ve been eating that stuff yourself.

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