The Ratcar is Awesome, Kinda Gross

Another genius/disgusting scientific breakthrough is careening your way: Scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a motorized system they call “Ratcar,” which is controlled by electrodes in Master Splinter’s motor cortex that read his brain and respond accordingly.  Suck on that, PETA!

The researchers first implanted electrodes in the motor cortex of each rat’s brain, and then trained it to tow the contraption around while the motor was turned off. Next the rat was suspended beneath the car so that it could only lightly touch the ground, and couldn’t actually move the robo-car with its limbs. Then the car was switched to brain-reading mode and researchers watched to see if the rat could control the car’s movements with only the pulses from its motor cortex.

“We wanted to develop a brain-machine interface system aiming for future wheelchairs that paralyzed patients can control only with thought,” says Osamu Fukayama of the university’s Medical Engineering and Life Science Laboratory. “RatCar is a simplified prototype to develop better electrodes, devices, and algorithms for those systems.”

Discover Magazine

How could they possibly call it anything besides the “RatMobile”?? Is there no love for cheap puns anymore? Anyway, sounds like a solid cause, but c’mon, we Americans know what this thing will really be used for: Lazy fatasses like myself who tire of pushing the accelerator buttons on our Rascals.  I may have legs but YOU CAN’T FORCE ME TO USE ‘EM. And have we discovered which region of the brain is responsible for milkshake cravings? If you could hook that up to my blender, that would be great.  But maybe we should leave rats out of the testing phase for this one…

Flash Crash Report is 140 Pages of Stuff You Already Know

This Just in: “May 6th Was an Unusually Turbulent Day in the Markets.”  Who woulda thought? I certainly can’t tell just by looking at this chart.

Today’s CFTC report basically told everyone a bunch of things they already knew.  That a turbulent climate in Europe set the stage for a huge down day that overran the market with fear, exacerbated by high-frequency algorithms and retail stop-losses triggering each other in turn like some snot-nosed brat playing an avalanche-inducing round of Domino Rally atop a mountain of human shit.

Remember that the initial speculation was a fat-finger from someone on an institutional desk (Citi was the one named) swiping bids to unload 10 billion S&P E-mini contracts?  The report now says it was 75,000 contracts, quite a bit less, but still a SHITLOAD of liquidity to wipe out in 20 minutes.  And obviously high-frequency traders see that happening and proceed to bomb the hell out of the already sinking ship.  As a wannabe day-trader who was in (and out of) equities on May 6th, I can tell you that when you see the above chart at 2:40 and CNBC is literally broadcasting video of Greek citizens storming banks with Molotov cocktails to the chagrin of riot-control police officers, the easiest thing you’ve ever done in your life is hitting that sell button (assuming you can avoid having an anxiety attack).

Tune in to your favorite talking heads if you like hearing the terms “circuit breakers” and “exacerbating factors,” but stick to WG if you want to hear some things you didn’t already know, for example: CFTC Chairman Clifton has a really nice mullet.  Looks like if he tires of finance he could have a fruitful career in the WWF.

So Duke is the Best Place to go to College

We all know the lacrosse team knows how to party.  So their choice of stripper was a little misguided, but come on, their hearts were in the right place.  Anyway, some mediocre broad who builds her sense of self-worth solely on the attention of men decided the best way to spend her 4 years of higher education would be to create an incredibly detailed account of all the “scientific research” she did hanging out at a place called Shooters and going home with whichever horny Blue Devils laid the best line on her for 4 years.  And the Internet thanks her by (obviously) spreading the 42-slide Powerpoint presentation all over the damn place, complete with subjects’ real names and likenesses.

Memorable Moments [with Subject 7]: Hooking up on Subject 4’s couch, as he lay sleeping ten feet away.  The quote: “I just want to come all over you.” The Subject successfully (and accidentally) marking his territory with reproductive fluid on the couch, in the exact spot that [subject 4] sat upon his reentry (to much general amusement).  His dirty talk (his voice is actually incredibly sexy). The randomness of the entire encounter.”

You can check out Jezebel for a woman’s perspective, but they’ve redacted all the names and faces.  So if you think you might know some of the poor bastards who’ve been outed for their small weiners and lackluster attempts to bring da noise and/or funk, head over to Boston Barstool Sports to see the PPT in its entirety.

That’s her up top, by the way, on the left.  Meh.  Seen better, seen worse.  But in the eyes of many men, mediocre + DTF = 9/10.  I guess it just reinforces the Seinfeldian theory on female sexuality.

For women, sex is like the garbage man.  You just take for granted that anytime you put some trash out on the street, some guy in a jumpsuit’s going to come along and pick it up.

-Jerry Seinfeld

Some people are concerned about gender discrimination because of the fact that this broad has sullied a lot of men’s, citing the fact that if the roles were reversed, and a man was objectifying and ranking women, no one would think this was funny at all.  Remember that New York Times article about how high school freshman drafting fantasy teams of girls they wanted to hookup with? Caused a fuckin outrage over the “Dangerous Swagger” of high school athletes.  So add to that actual encounters, followed by the public release of all the incriminating details about the innocent underequipped garbagemen involved.

But who really cares about whining about someone else’s problems? Douchebags, that’s who.  The real issue is this bitch does not know how to tell a story at all.  I mean she’s a big enough whore to get banged by all the LAXers and baseball players at Duke, yet she somehow finds a way to make it all completely uninteresting??  You need to set the mood for your reader, honey.  Quit the clinical bull and give me some imagery.  Tell me about the soft candlelight at the restaurant black light at the frat house, the complexity of the merlot tequila you’re sipping puking up at Chez Quis Shooters, while a gentleman fratboy approaches to tell you you’re beautiful ask, “so you want my D?” Phewf, I’m getting all hot and bothered already.  Slap a portrait of bare-chested Fabio on the cover and you’ve got yourself a national best-seller.  Maybe throw in a few vampires just to seal the deal.  And for Pete’s sake, woman, how dare you forget the golden fucking rule of the Internet – PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!

The Whole World Has Aliens on the Brain

There’s been an overwhelming amount of alien-related news lately, and the latest bits of it have covered the leaders of Earth actually preparing for conact.  It all started when European astronomers discovered a new solar system last month, 127 light years away from us, and believed to contain at least 5 planets. Pretty awesome, right?

Any wannabe astronomer worth his salt knows that the universe is 1. estimated to be 14 billion years old, 2. HUGE and 3. expanding.  Where the REAL wannabes go from there is to understand that means there is undoubtedly a non-zero probability that the necessary components have come together in the necessary proportions to sustain life somewhere else in the universe.  And if that probability hasn’t come to fruition yet, it is still a certainty when extended over an infinite timeline.  In other words, it’s only a matter of time before we find some other planet that can sustain life and raid them for their Spacecash.

Wait, what?  It already happened?!

If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g,  would be the first Earth-like world found residing in a star’s habitable zone — a region where a planet’s temperature could sustain liquid water on its surface. [Illustration of planet Gliese 581g.]

Earth once supported harsh conditions, the researchers point out. And since red dwarfs are relatively “immortal” living hundreds of billions of years (many times the current age of the universe), combined with the fact that conditions stay so stable on a tidally locked planet, there’s a good chance that if life were to get a toe-hold it would be able to adapt to those conditions and possibly take off, Butler said.

“Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent,” said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a press briefing today. “I have almost no doubt about it.”

Space.com

There you have it folks.  So what is Earth to do when we see a mind-blowing jump in the probability that there are indeed some sexy blue cat people out there theatrically recreating the plot of Fern Gully?  News outlets have reported this week that the first order of business for the UN was to appoint a pointman as Alien Ambassador.  Since the kid from E.T. was unavailable they went with an astrophysicist (yawn) from Malaysia, Mazlan Othman.  Apparently this story has since been debunked as mass confusion fueled by the Interwebz’ hyperactive news-cycle, but it seems like Othman is already the go-to lady anyway, as head of the U.N.’s Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).  Personally I’d like to see that awesome Japanese scientist with the sweet hair representing Earth, or maybe John Stamos.  Gotta make sure we put our best foot forward.

Interestingly enough, the Vatican has also chimed in.  The Pope‘s astronomer (the Pope has an astronomer?!) said that he would “be delighted” if intelligent life were found, and that he would baptize them Catholic if they so wished.  He had no answer when asked, “But why the hell would they want that?”

Speaking ahead of a talk at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, he said that the traditional definition of a soul was to have intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions. “Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul.” Would he baptise an alien? “Only if they asked.”

The Guardian

Unfortunately, those soulless gays are still out of luck.

Attention New York/Bean Towners: Freakonomics Movie Sneak-Preview Tonight, Pay-What-You-Want Pricing

The freaks over at table 9 Freakonomics have decided to run (what else) a little pricing experiment, and are offering a screening of the new movie with a pay-what-you-want pricing scheme.  So if you’re looking for a way to get rid of all those pesky pennies and nickels, why not put on your finest mustache and go to a quasi-intellectual screening to see some entertaining research projects coming to life?  There’s hookers! And crack!

Interstingly enough, co-author Stephen J. Dubner has already fuxed with some of the early data and found that 18 people have already paid the maximum of $100; about 10x the average ticket (the movie can be rented on iTunes for $9.99).  He hasn’t said how many people paid the minimum of $0.01, but being just one-thousandth of the average $10 ticket, it only takes 1 purchase at that price to offset 10 at $100 and bring that average right back down to earth.  And knowing that the price of movie tickets is actually high enough to prevent me from going to see films that I’m interested in, I’m going to have to take the obvious answer and go with the under $9.99/ticket for this experiment.

I am guessing most of the $100 payees thought they would be the only person to do so, and would therefore show up in the data set as the sole high-roller. Sorry, folks.

It does remind me of something that happened in college. I had a brand-new girlfriend, Sandy, and we were planning to go to the movies one night, along with a friend of hers. Sandy told me that if you showed up at the movie theater in town (this was Boone, N.C., with only one theater) with a $100 bill, they’d let you in free because they never had enough cash on hand to make change.

How could you not be attracted to such a clever girl?

So I went to the bank, drained my account and walked out with a crisp $100 bill. That night at the movie theater, the cashier took my $100 bill without a second glance, gave me three tickets and gave me back the change. Sandy smiled. I did too. She wasn’t clever in exactly the way I thought, but she was clever nonetheless.

Freakonomics Blog

Cities that can check the movie out tonight are Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.  No reason not to, people, YOU CAN PAY A PENNY.

Maybe the theater should try a pay-what-you-want plan for food.  That way I can enjoy a film without spending $30 on nachos.  Come on, you HAVE to get that extra cheese.

We Live in the Future

So apparently scientists have been able to move tiny objects (the size of a bacterium) a few millimeters for years now using what they call “optical tweezers.”  But a new technique allows them to move much  bigger objects a meter or more.  Can they use it to pull the shit out of my pants?  Only time will tell.

The device works by shining a hollow laser beam around tiny glass particles. The air surrounding the particle heats up, while the dark center of the beam stays cool. When the particle starts to drift out of the middle and into the bright laser beam, the force of heated air molecules bouncing around and hitting the particle’s surface is enough to nudge it back to the center.

A small amount of light also seeps into the darker middle part of the beam, heating the air on one side of the particle and pushing it along the length of the laser beam. If another such laser is lined up on the opposite side of the beam, the speed and direction the particle moves can be easily manipulated by changing the brightness of the beams.

physorg.com via Geekologie

First anal probes and now this? Science is really something.  How long before this apparatus can be strapped to your wrist for force grabbing? That would really be awesome.  Unfortnately, it can’t happen because that tightass George Lucas will slap a suit on its makers faster than you can say “I am your father.”

Captain Obvious Strikes the Facebook

A new study says that people who count their friends, flood the Internet with pictures of themselves, and notify us what they’re eating for lunch are desperate for attention.  Who would have thought?!

Researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh from York University in Canada asked 100 students, 50 male and 50 female, aged between 18 and 25 about their Facebook habits. They all took psychology tests to measure their levels of narcissism, which the study defined as ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance’. Those who scored higher on the narcissism test checked their Facebook pages more often each day than those who did not. This may not be altogether surprising as it is widely thought, however contradictory it may appear, that narcissism is linked to a deep-rooted lack of self-esteem.

Daily Mail via Geekologie

GTFO.  Next thing you know, you’re going to be telling me that men use it to look at pictures of women they don’t have enough confidence to talk to IRL.  Yea right!  But wait, there’s more the status-update obsessed are also dumber.

A study earlier this week showed that the grades of students who use Facebook while they study, even if it is only on in the background, are 20 per cent lower on average than those of non-users.

Too busy typing “zomg i hate studying!!” and uploading pictures of the textbook to learn them maths.