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Tim Howard Saves

America got knocked out of the 2014 World Cup today, in the round of 16, with a 2-1 loss in overtime, just like in 2010. But one great thing came out of the loss to Belgium and that was the amazing performance by our goalie, Tim Howard.

Tim  Howard: Department of Defense

Tim Howard


The rest of the USMNT (which either means US Men’s National Team or US Mutant Ninja Turtles) wasn’t having much luck in stopping the Belgian offense, but Tim Howard set a World Cup record by stopping 16 shots on goal in one match — more than any other goalie in the recorded history of the Cup. He also had the best goalkeeping performance in any single match this Cup.

Tim Howard plans to retire when his contract is up with the English team Everton in 2017, but hopefully he’ll come back to play with the USMNT at the 2018 World Cup, in Russia. In the meantime, the tournament is now officially a very localized event: the 8 teams left are the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France from Western Europe, and Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica from South America (or close enough).


@SavedYouAClick, Fighting Clickbait On Twitter

An eyecatching link on a website which encourages people to read on. It is often paid for by the advertiser (“Paid” click bait) or generates income based on the number of clicks.

-from Urban Dictionary

Clickbait headlines are quite possibly the worst thing to have happened to the Internet, ever. And like a virus, it keeps spreading, thanks to the success of terrible, terrible websites like Upworthy.

To fight this scourge, a Twitter guy (it’s gotta be a guy, right?) named @SavedYouAClick started reading a bunch of a clickbait articles and then posting awesomely sarcastic summaries of what you’d find in the article, were you to take the bait. Examples: (which are better understood by starting to read them at the RT, and then reading the beginning part)

Co-valedictorians RT @HuffingtonPost: Identical twins get school’s highest honor

Less than $6 per passenger. RT @cnni: Guess how much money airlines make when you fly. You might be surprised:

Run away. Fast. RT @businessinsider: A former Navy SEAL explains how to escape a dangerous situation

It’s called Drizly. RT @latimes: A liquor delivery app just launched in L.A.:

She’s pregnant again. Those are the details. RT @OK_Magazine: Breaking: @kourtneykardash is pregnant! Details:

LeVar Burton bringing back Reading Rainbow RT @Upworthy: That one time when a famous Hollywood person created a Kickstarter so kids can read

It’s not. It could give you a hand injury, though. @mashable: Why Texting Is Killing You

It’s a red panda. Cute, but not cutest ever. RT @Cosmopolitan: Is this the cutest GIF ~*eVeR?

Abandoned island near the Bronx. RT @HuffingtonPost: We’re pretty sure a visit to this island will give you nightmares

No. Just let it go. RT @GuardianUS: Does a spouse not liking Frozen qualify as grounds for divorce?

Water quality. RT @businessinsider: A chemist has uncovered the secret to brewing delicious coffee at home

Sexism. RT @Slate: What we found while lurking on an anonymous college message board for two years will disgust you:

Invaded Normandy. RT @businessinsider: Here’s how the Allies began to win World War 2, 70 years ago tomorrow

Because you’re not enjoying it. A study found they’re linked. RT @NYMag: Why you’re constantly exercising and never losing weight:

Wal-Mart sells a TON of CDs. RT @FortuneMagazine: Here’s why Pharrell and Robin Thicke played the Wal-Mart annual meeting for free

Florence. (It’s just a user poll). RT @mashable: What is the best summer vacation spot in the world?

It’s addictive.


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From Twitter, via FAIL Blog

DVD Production Wastes A Ton Of Energy

From a government study, summarized by Motherboard:

If all DVDs purchased in 2011 were streamed instead, the energy savings would have been enough to meet the electricity demands of roughly 200,000 households. It would have cut roughly 2 billion kilograms of carbon emissions.

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From Environmental Research Letters, via Motherboard

Why Airplane Boarding Takes Forever

The short answer is because the common method is the slowest method. The longer answer is probably because… money: a lot of people will pay more for a first class ticket just to avoid the horrors of boarding. Vox has a pretty in-depth article on the five different methods of boarding a plane:

Boarding time for 173 passeners Boarding Methods for 72 passengers

  • Back-to-front, a.k.a. the Standard: people in the rear of the plane board first. This is what most airlines do, and it’s been proven to be by far the slowest method of boarding a plane. Why? Because a lot of the time someone already sitting on the aisle has to get up to let someone sitting by the window through, and people have to access the same overhead spaces, so everyone ends up waiting and waiting. It takes 173 people 25 minutes to board a plane in this way.
  • Assigned Random: no order; people just line up and go to their assigned seats. Because they’re scattered all over the plane, it actually takes less time than the back-to-front method. So here’s a situation where engineering has actually made things worse than doing nothing at all. This takes 17 minutes.
  • Outside-In: like back-to-front, but with people by the windows boarding first, then middle seats, then aisles. No one has to get up to let anyone else in, so congestion is much decreased. United does this now, and makes exceptions for groups traveling together, so they all board at once. Down to 15 minutes.
  • Unassigned Random, a.k.a. the Southwest: just like the bus, in which people get on and sit somewhere. This is faster than the Assigned Random because people will just sit somewhere rather than wait in line for their assigned seat. Few really like this method though, due to the added stress of “will I get a good seat?”. It makes us feel much better knowing ahead of time that we’re stuck in the middle. 14 minutes.
  • Optimized Outside-In, a.k.a. the Steffen: just like the Outside-In method, except only one side of the plane is sent in at a time, and rows are skipped to keep people from using the same overhead space. The method is named after a physicist studying this very important problem. Experiments done with this method were for 72 people instead of 173, but extrapolating from the proportions, you get about 13 minutes to fill the 173-person plane. That’s almost twice as fast as the standard method. Here’s a video demonstrating its awesomeness:

The Vox article has simulation videos of all of the boarding methods and more details on them.

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From Vox, via… Gawker, maybe?

English Man Requested ‘Trial By Combat’ Instead Of Paying A Fine

The Telegraph reported way back in 2002, that a 60-year old man from a town in eastern England got a roughly 50$ fine from their DMV for failing to file some form. He’s unemployed, so he didn’t pay it and eventually had to go to court over the matter; there, he entered a not-guilty plea and requested trial by combat, to the death, with a champion clerk put up by the DMV. He was willing to fight with “samurai swords, Ghurka knives or heavy hammers”. The magistrates declined his offer, and instead fined him about 600$.

Tyrion Lannister's champion, Bronn, fights in trial by combat against Ser Vardis Egan, champion of House Arryn, in season 1 of Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister’s champion, Bronn, fights in trial by combat against Ser Vardis Egan, champion of House Arryn, in season 1 of Game of Thrones


Trial by combat disappeared from use in legal systems across Europe prior to the Renaissance. In Britain, the last trial by combat sanctioned by the monarch is thought to have taken place in 1583, in Dublin, under the auspices of Queen Elizabeth I. The last such type of trial probably took place in the early 1600s, but was not abolished by the British Parliament until 1819. Therefore, since US law prior to the 1776 Declaration of Independence comes from British common law, trial by combat is technically still legal in America. Someone should try it though, just to make sure.

From The Telegraph, via FAIL Blog


Synthetic ‘Tru’ Blood Has Been Synthesized In Transylvania, Of All Places

I had to double check to make sure this wasn’t April Fool’s Day, because when you hear — on Halloween, no less — that Transylvanian scientists invented artificial blood, it seems too good to be true. But it all checks out: according to The Daily Mail, researchers from a university in the medieval city of Cluj-Napoca say they’ve synthesized blood and used it in lab mice with no adverse effects. Instead of hemoglobin, it uses an oxygen-carrying protein called hemerythrin, which is found in marine invertebrates. The scientists hope to start clinical trials in the next couple of years.

Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, where the research took place

Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, where the research took place


In the HBO series, Tru Blood was created by Japanese scientists, and its invention allowed the vampires to finally reveal themselves, since they no longer had to kill people for sustenance. No doubt the thought crossed some writer’s mind to have the artificial blood invented by vampires in Transylvania, but it probably seemed too on the nose. Well, it’s nice to know that sometimes reality can outdo fantasy.

Incidentally, Cluj-Napoca was originally settled by Germanic colonists called Transylvanian Saxons, and was known as Klausenburg. King Matthias I Corvinus of Hungary was born there, in 1443. (House Corvinus is an ancient vampire family in the Underworld series.) And a final little known fact: Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, lived in Transylvania for only a short part of his life, while in exile from his home principality to the south, Wallachia. Both regions are now part of Romania.

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From The Daily Mail, via Slashdot

Cellphone Use Does Not Cause More Car Crashes

More research has come out against the common belief that being on your phone while driving will make you more likely to crash a car. This time, they took advantage of the cellphone call spike that happens at 9pm on weekdays, which is when it generally becomes free to place calls: if talking on the phone led to more crashes, then there would also be a spike in car accidents just after 9pm. There was no such thing.

Crash Rate for California from 8pm to 10pm in Preperiods (1995 to 1998) and Postperiods (2005) (Monday to Thursday)

In lab simulations, it’s been shown that any kind of cellphone use (talking hands-free or not, texting, etc) is always more impairing than driving while drunk or high on marijuana. Real-life data does not seem to support the lab results, though. In their paper (PDF), the researchers also brought up two important points that we’ve seen before:

  1. Despite the exponential increase in cellphones over the past two decades, car crashes haven continued to decrease
  2. Laws banning cell phone use have no effect on accidents

Cellular Ownership and Crashes Per Vehicle Mile Traveled in the United States for 1988 to 2005

It’s also worth mentioning another study from 2012 showing that bad drivers will always drive badly: if they can’t be distracted by cell phones, they will find or make another distraction to keep them from being bored. Thankfully, self-driving cars are just years away at this point.

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From Carnegie Mellon University (PDF), via Slashdot

The NSA Eavesdrops On Everyone Because… There’s Money In It?

This is the “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” moment of the whole Snowden saga, except instead of the Inquisition, it’s the Defense Industry. Last week, the House of Representatives had a vote to de-fund the NSA’s eavesdropping ability. In the end, the vote did not go through and the NSA still has money to collect all our data; but it was pretty close: 217 to 205 votes. Wired wondered if money had anything to do with the outcome of the vote and had the non-partisan, non-profit political money tracker maplight.org look into the matter.

Defense Contributions Chart

The evidence is pretty damning: the Congressmen that voted to continue funding the NSA’s activities received twice as much money from the Defense Industry. Why? Because NSA personnel are but a fraction of the NSA workforce. The rest is made up of contractors from companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Booz Allen, where Snowden used to work. If NSA funding gets cut, the piece of the funding that goes to the contracts will also disappear, which obviously is not good for the defense contractors.

But it probably works the other way also: the more stuff the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community does, the more contractors they need, and the more profits the contracting companies make. Ergo, if the companies want to make more money, they need the government to do more stuff. And they can get the government to do more stuff by lobbying Congressmen and giving them a piece of the cut as donations. So, actual national security need aside, it behooves defense contractors if everyone believes that building systems which collect and analyze more data, better, and faster is a good thing. It’s like taking advantage of a fire to sell everyone in the neighborhood fire retardant furniture and clothing, which they probably don’t need. Except fire retardant wouldn’t threaten our civil liberties, the way being constantly monitored does.

And all of this, done on the taxpayer’s dime.

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From Maplight, via Wired

Your Feet Pronating While Running Is In Fact Not An Issue

Danish scientists published a study on 900+ novice runners, whose feet they measured and classified to see how much they over- or underpronated. They gave them all the same, neutral shoe — with no pronation correction — and had them run as much as they wanted for a year. In the meantime, they noted all the injuries the runners suffered. What we’ve been told by running shoe stores lately is that pronation causes more injuries, but this study proved the opposite: the runners with neutral feet had slightly more injuries than the pronated ones.



Other researchers agree. “This is an excellent study,” says Bryan Heiderscheit, an associate professor of biomechanics and director of the running clinic at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The research reinforces a widespread belief among scientists studying running “that pronation doesn’t play much of a role” in injury risk, he says.

The runners all had the same shoes, which didn’t correct pronation, and the pronaters suffered less injuries. Ergo, corrective shoes are nothing but snake oil. Instead, you should just buy comfortable shoes, because many of the injured runners said their shoes weren’t.

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From The British Journal of Sports Medicine, via The New York Times and Lifehacker

Actually, Women Are Quite Fertile Until Their 40s

Both popular and scientific consensus is that female fertility peaks around 27 years of age, then drops sharply such that by 35, the odds of getting pregnant are not good, and by 40, they’re virtually non-existent. However, that conclusion is actually based on some very questionable data: French birth records from around the 18th century. More recent studies show that women aged 35-39 have somewhere around an 80% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying, which is roughly 5% less than younger women.

The top left graph, from a 2002 issue of TIME magainze, is likely wrong. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does not cite their source.

The top left graph, from a 2002 issue of TIME magainze, is likely wrong. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does not cite their source.


Why is the modern medical community relying on 200 year-old data? Because, thanks to modern science, modern birth records are useless: most women now have children in their 20s and then use birth control to stop having children in their 30s, after they’ve had a couple. Instead of looking at records, scientists could just study some people to get statistics, but it’s hard to find large numbers of women trying to get pregnant, especially since that window is generally less than six months. And asking them later to remember how long it took is very unreliable. Not to mention that a large number of women over 35 who are trying to get pregnant are only doing so because they were infertile when they were younger — most people are not that careful about getting pregnant.

So, the choice is between data from a time when there were no antibiotics, fertility pills, or even proper nutrition, and data from a time where birth control makes study subjects scarce. The latter is still probably better, but the three modern studies on fertility included only 400 women over 35, which is that representative of the global population. And besides its age, a big problem with the historical data is that, in the 1700s, people likely would stop having much sex after having had a few kids in their 20s, which would make the data look like women were infertile in their 30s when really, they were just not having sex.

All things considered, the modern data is a lot more reliable than the historical one. Also, most fertility problems are not related to the woman’s age, but rather blocked tubes, endometriosis, or male infertility. The take-away is this: women in their 30s do experience more miscarriages, but are only slightly less fertile than in their 20s.

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