Trivia answer: Randall Munroe claims the comic name "xkcd" is "just a word with no phonetic pronunciation". I don't believe him, and since he's known to embed puzzles in his work, I think this explanation is correct: If you assign each letter of the alphabet a number value (A = 1, B = 2, etc), and add up the letters X (24), K (11), C (3) and D (4), they add up to 42, which of course is the answer to life, the universe and everything. Everyone who guessed gets 10 points.
If you don't get one of the xkcd comics, you can always check in with Explain XKCD, the xkcd wiki.
Beyond My Wildest Dreams (Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris)
Trivia (42 Biomes points): I’m sure most of you are familiar with the great web comic XKCD. What’s it mean?
How would you like to work for Walmart for free. The store is setting up a program where their online shoppers get their goods delivered to their door by Walmart’s brick-and-mortar customers.
Pet corner: I’ve always thought that we should never feed chicken bones to dogs, but I learned from a comic strip commenter (of all places) that this only applies to cooked chicken bones. Raw bones are fine. Also, dogs have a much higher resistance to salmonella than we do, so the raw thing isn’t a big deal either, apparently.
Explaining hibernation. Except for ungulates, all mammal groups have at least one hibernating species (including primates). If humans had evolved in Canada or Siberia, instead of Africa, we probably would hibernate as well.
Pet corner: It seems that docking a dog’s tail impairs its ability to communicate with other dogs. Although I see no reason to chop off a dog’s tail, I disagree with one part of this post: that it’s objectionable because it’s painful. I don’t believe it is. I’ve had to dock the tails of sheep, and there didn’t seem to be any discomfort or change in behavior at all. Docking a sheep’s tail is not for cosmetic reasons, but because a long tail encourages feces matting, which increases the risk of maggots. I’ve seen maggots on a sheep and it’s not a pleasant thing. Much more painful than removing the appendage. I still own the tool used for this (it’s called a sheep castrator), but today I use it to attach the extremely tight rubber bands to aquarium filter hoses to reduce the risk of flooding.
The very idea of a pope is rather silly. But if I believed in this stuff, I would want my guy to say things like this. And he even comes out against pedophile priests, which is kind of a good thing.
In Chris Buck’s “Presence” project, celebrities agree to be photographed, as long as they’re not shown.
Richard Dawkins sits in CNN’s Red Chair and talks about Darwinism and how creationists know nothing. It’s astonishing that 40% of the U.S. population believes that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
Tim Kreider notes that the people always complaining that they’re “so busy” and “crazy busy” and have “no time for myself”, aren’t the people working back-to-back shifts and three minimum wage jobs. They’re the people whose “busy” is self-imposed”.
The origin of the friendly wolf that confused Darwin. Now extinct because of its habit of approaching sailors with its tail wagging, and of course the only thing to do with an animal that approaches you is to club it over the head, how the Falkland Islands wolf came to be there has been a mystery until now.
Everybody thinks that cat videos are an unfortunate product of the internet age, but back in 1894 Thomas Edison thought they were LOL.
The science of illusion. One phenomenon of cognitive bias is called “change blindness”. A researcher stops a person on the street and asks directions. Halfway through the conversation two people walk between them and the researcher quickly trades places with one of them. The target then continues to give directions even though he’s now talking with a completely different person. Most people in this study don’t notice the difference. [Update]: Derren Brown shows you how it works on the streets.
Animal of the week: The grasshopper mouse, which eats scorpions, evicts other species from their burrows so they don’t have to dig one themselves, and howls at the moon. Scientists are now studying the nervous system to try to explain why it is immune to pain. You can listen to one howling here.
Why we lie. Cheating, by just a little, is normal. And more corrosive to society than more serious crimes.
When you rate movies on Netflix, they produce recommendations of other movies you might enjoy. Same with Match.com profiles or Amazon purchases. They do this by using a process known as singular value decomposition. You math geeks might enjoy this. For some reason I found it fascinating even though I have absolutely no clue about the algebra involved in this.
Seven million birds are killed each year in collisions with communication towers. A partial fix involves simply adding blinking lights on the structures, which should reduce deaths by up to 70 percent.
You’ve heard of six degrees of separation, which states that any two people on earth can be connected by no more than six other people. The same idea goes for the internet’s 14 billion pages, where any two can be connected by 19 clicks or less.
Aside from the Godwinning by gun nuts, Hitler never said “To conquer a nation, you must first disarm its citizens”.