Posts filed under “Science & Nature”


Annual Christmas Number.

Little Drummer Boy. Connoisseurs of Christmas novelty songs insist that “The Carol of the Drum,” otherwise known as “The Little Drummer Boy,” was much funnier in the original Lancashire dialect.

Nativity scenes. Inexplicably, 83% of the Nativity sets manufactured within the past twelve months have turned out to include a pangolin, in spite of the manufacturers’ best efforts at quality control.

White House. The much-lauded White House Christmas decorations for 2020 include a giant inflatable coronavirus wearing a Santa hat.

Puritans. Although the Puritans officially outlawed celebrations of Christmas, an underground fruitcake industry prospered in seventeenth-century Boston.

Christmas Colors. For this year’s Christmas red and green, the Web Color Consortium has picked FireBrick (#B22222) and MediumSeaGreen (#3CB371).


Tomorrow, December 21, the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will appear in the sky, a once-in-800-years event that has been called the Christmas Star by astronomers desperate for publicity and funding. The two planets, already very near in the sky, will approach to within a tenth of a degree. Here are some tips for viewing the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn without personal injury.

Use a pin to poke a small hole in a sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap the sheet of foil around a potato. Bake the potato. Eat the potato with butter, sour cream, and shredded Cheddar (real English Cheddar, not the American substitute). If you are indoors eating a potato during the conjunction, you will probably be safe.

Bring a pair of powerful binoculars or a small telescope. It will allow you to detect the approach of a superstitious mob with pitchforks and torches while there is still time to make a getaway.

Make sure to check the astrology column of your local newspaper for the latest conjunction safety information. Be especially wary of any tall, dark stranger with a mysterious past.

If you are vacationing on either Jupiter or Saturn, it is probably too late to book a return flight. Find an interior room on the lower floor of your hotel and brace for impact.

If the conjunction begins wandering across the sky, making gestures to you to follow it, and you do decide to pursue it, and it finally comes to rest over a stable, and inside the stable is a newborn infant surrounded by his parents, some shepherds, and an assortment of picturesque farm animals, make sure you have available a gift of (a) gold, (b) frankincense, or (c) myrrh. Under no circumstances should you bring a drum that goes pa rum pum pum-pum. Babies and snare drums do not go well together.


Dear Dr. Boli: I’ve been feeling like a failure as a dog owner because I’m not paying enough for dog food. Calvin Coolidge, my Dobermoodle, eats mid-priced dog food from the supermarket, but my neighbor (who keeps parrots, by the way, but she has opinions on everything) says I should be feeding him that expensive all-meat dog food, because dogs are wolves, and wolves are evolved to eat meat. Am I cheating poor Cal on his food? —Sincerely, A dog lover, but not sure how much of a dog lover.

Dear Sir or Madam: Your neighbor’s assertion is based upon an insufficiently nuanced understanding of canine evolution. It is true that many taxonomists consider the domestic dog to be a subspecies of wolf. (Others do not, so you must be careful about the seating whenever you invite taxonomists to a party.) But the dog has had tens of thousands of years to diverge from the wolf. Dogs evolved from those wolves who learned to stick by the humans and eat the things the humans tossed aside. In other words, the contents of your garbage can are what your dog is evolved to eat, and supermarket dog foods are carefully formulated to provide a close approximation, nutritionally speaking, of your garbage. Your dog Calvin is well fed.


Thank you for purchasing Paradise brand Himalayan Green Tea. It is nearly impossible to escape from the fact that natural green tea provides a guarantee for healthier life. Our billboards all over the city are designed specifically to be inescapable. Our Urban Canvassing Agents will round you up and make you read them. You will not escape the Paradise brand Himalayan Green Tea Festival of Unsubstantiated Health Claims.

Green Tea and Obesity

With the use of green tea, the metabolic system of the body becomes better. Green tea literally melts away fat, as is proved by our own laboratory experiments in which green tea at proper serving temperature of 180° Fahrenheit was poured over lumps of butter. It is a fact that a diet consisting only of green tea reverses obesity in even the most stubborn cases.

Green Tea and Heart Diseases

Heart disease is the number-one killer of people who die from heart disease. Green tea prevents death from heart disease, as you may demonstrate by asking yourself a simple question: Have you ever personally known anyone who died of heart disease while drinking green tea?

Green Tea and Blood Pressure

Our Urban Canvassing Agents, dressed in plain clothes and scattered throughout the city, are trained to argue the health benefits of green tea for hours if necessary with increasing belligerence. By acquiescing at once, you will lower your blood pressure almost immediately.

Green Tea and Falling Objects

Large bales of Paradise brand Himalayan Green Tea, placed properly around and above the subject, have a preventative effect against damage from falling objects.

Green Tea and Cancer

Green tea contains antioxidants, powerful cancer-preventing chemicals. Cancer, according to medical professionals who asked to remain anonymous, is simply a medical term for the body rusting. By consuming the antioxidants in green tea, you will make your body immune to oxidation (cancer). Try it on your car, too.

Green Tea and Death

Death is merely an advanced symptom of the diseases prevented or eliminated by green tea. By drinking green tea at the recommended dosage of three or more cups per day, you will make yourself immune to all diseases, and thus immortal. This is, of course, the goal of Paradise Brands Ltd., as we thrive on repeat business.


Photograph by “AnRo0002.”

From the Wikipedia article on Trifoliate Orange (Citrus trifoliata or Poncirus trifoliata):

The cultivar “Flying Dragon” is dwarfed in size and has highly twisted, contorted stems. It makes an excellent barrier hedge due to its density and strong curved thorns. Such hedges have been grown for over 50 years at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and are highly student-proof.

Now you know what to do. Surround your university with a hedge of the Flying Dragon cultivar of Citrus trifoliata, and your problems are solved. As long as you put up the hedge when the students are out, not when they are in.


Dear Dr. Boli: This fancy-pants toothpaste from the organic drug store says it contains activated charcoal. How do they activate charcoal? —Sincerely, A Man Reconsidering the Notion of Putting Black Toothpaste on His Toothbrush.

Dear Sir: Modern charcoal is usually activated by entering an activation code supplied by the manufacturer, which allows the charcoal to be activated by central servers. This precaution is necessary to prevent the chaos that would ensue if everybody could make charcoal without purchasing it from a reputable manufacturer. In the old days, of course, the activation code had to be sent by telegram, on receipt of which the manufacturer would dispatch a courier to the customer’s address with the activation key. It was a dangerous business being a charcoal activation courier, as they were frequently waylaid by miscreants who would stop at nothing to obtain the keys. For this as for at least one other reason (viz., the Magazine you are reading now), we may be grateful that we live in the age of the Internet.


In spite of centuries of ecclesiastical tradition, no one in France can say exactly what an abbé is.

Three copies of the Book of Common Prayer always appear in each pew at the Third Assembly of God Church on Bracket Street just before the service every Sunday, no matter how vigilant the ushers attempt to be.

Until the advent of social media it was not known that fish crows in Smyrna, Delaware, call in exact synchronization with fish crows in Ahoskie, North Carolina.

Zoologists studying the behavior of common groundhogs (Marmota monax) have been forced to entertain the possibility that the creatures can bilocate.

Traveling due east from Grundy, Virginia, places the traveler in West Virginia, and no one knows why.