Posts filed under “Science & Nature”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Dear Dr. Boli: My car has started making a whining sound, especially when I turn the steering wheel. What do you think it means? —Sincerely, Bertram K. Wickett VIII, Fox Chapel.
Dear Sir: Has it occurred to you that what you so cavalierly describe as “whining” may in fact be your car’s very cogent arguments against turning in that direction? It may be trying to spare you from the inevitable disappointment of arriving at a place that is no better than the place you left. Instead of just dismissing its reasons as “whining,” perhaps you ought to listen to what your car has to say. Otherwise you begin to sound like a bit of a whiner yourself.
ANNIVERSARY WEEK.—In honor of the forthcoming eighth anniversary of his Celebrated Magazine on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting some of the most notable articles, stories, poems, and advertisements of the past eight years.
Click on the image to enlarge it, or click here for a PDF version.
Cheese.—A variety of cheese is monetarily valuable in exact inverse proportion to the number of people who will consent to eat it. The most expensive cheese in the world is the famous Market Harborough Blue, the entire production of which is bought every year by the Earl of Peterborough at ruinous expense. Every year the Earl takes one whiff of the stuff and tosses it in the Welland, and the cheesemakers get busy aging next year’s batch.