23 April 2014

"Big-hole golf" explained

The embedded image isn't an optical illusion.  That's Sergio Garcia retrieving his ball from a 15-inch-diameter cup on the putting green.
Mention 15-inch cups to a self-proclaimed golf purist, and their upper lip will quiver as their knickers bunch. “My forebears aimed at four-and-a-quarter-inch holes,” they’ll harrumph. “So it was, and so it shall ever be!”

Which, of course, is pretty much King’s point. With all due respect to golf’s timeworn traditions, the game remains so wedded to its established views that its guardians are blinded to the need for change. As a consequence, golf has become like the prostates of many of those who play it: it has a growing problem.

Participation is dwindling, down nearly 20 percent in this country over the last 10 years alone. While others have noted this troubling trend, King has taken outsize steps to reverse it...

...the enlarged hole isn’t meant for elite players. It’s aimed at juniors, newbies and assorted would-be golfers, those untold legions who steer clear of the game because they think that it’s too stuffy, too difficult, too boring, and the many more who have given up playing out of sheer frustration. Advocates of the 15-inch cup say that because it speeds up play and lowers scores (test-runs show that it shaves 10 strokes from the average golfer’s tally) it also has a place at easy-going tournaments and company outings. Behold the jumbo hole: a cure for the three-putt, an antidote to the five-hour round. 
There is big money behind this trend.  The "King" referred to above is Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade, a premium equipment manufacturer.

There is an explanatory video interview with King at Golf.com and more information at the Wall Street Journal and at Hack Golf.  The industry is suffering - there are fewer players, and golf courses around the country are being repurposed.  Changes are imminent and this appears to be one of the more interesting ones.  I'll report later on kickball golf and on the new "party hearty" driving ranges.

World's largest gold crystal

"The lump of gold, which weighs 217.78 grams (about 7.7 ounces), was brought to Los Alamos to confirm whether it was a single crystal of gold, or a more common multiple-crystal structure....

To determine the nugget's internal structure, Rakovan and his colleagues used two sophisticated machines: a neutron single-crystal diffraction (SCD) instrument, which determines the atomic arrangement of single crystals; and a high-pressure/preferred orientation (or HIPPO) instrument, which measures the crystal structure and the orientation of crystals in a polycrystalline material. These noninvasive techniques determined that the gold piece was, indeed, a very large and very rare single crystal of gold."

Refraction dramatically illustrated

The effect would also be dependent on the round shape of the glass. I don't believe the reversal would be seen if a rectangular aquarium were passed in front of the arrows.

Via Gerard Vlemmings' The Presurfer.

Cautionary notes re edible marijuana

From an AP article in the StarTribune:
Twenty-six people have reported poisonings from marijuana edibles this year, when the center started tracking such exposures. Six were children who swallowed innocent-looking edibles, most of which were in plain sight...

An autopsy report listed marijuana intoxication as a significant contributing factor in the death of 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi. Authorities said Pongi, who traveled from Wyoming to Denver with friends to try marijuana, ate six times more than the amount recommended by a seller... Toxicologists later found that the cookie Pongi ate contained as much THC — marijuana's intoxicating chemical — as six high-quality joints...

For now, the industry is trying to educate consumers about the strength of pot-infused foods and warning them to wait up to an hour to feel any effects before eating more. Still, complaints from visitors and first-time users have been rampant.

"One of the problems is people become very impatient," Bronstein said. "They eat a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie and they get no effect, so then they stack the doses, and all the sudden, they get an extreme effect that they weren't expecting."
More at the link.

Factory roof vegetable garden

"Ailuo garment factory planted more than 40 varieties of vegetables on its 4,800 sqm workshop roofs. The harvest is enough to produce meals for all 200 workers in the factory canteen."
Text and image from Wired, via The Soul is Bone.

Photo credit Rex Features.

Methoprene vs. Aedes excrucians and Aedes vexans

Minnesota's mosquito season starts when the lakes are still covered with ice, because the mosquito larva can develop in snowmelt.  They have evolved adaptations that allow them to thrive up in the Canadian tundra, and thus are quite at home in Minnesota's climate.
The helicopters dropped pellets of methoprene, which prevents mosquito larvae from becoming flying, biting, breeding adults while leaving them available as a food source to other aquatic creatures, McLean said.

The targeted species — which carry the incriminating names Aedes excrucians, Aedes abserratus and Aedes stimulans — can grow into large, aggressive adults that can live one long generation, into late June or early July, McLean said. That’s when they’re usually succeeded by the daintier but more numerous and annoying Aedes vexans, a warmer-season floodwater-breeder.

MMCD workers actually attack mosquitoes through the winter, placing anti-mosquito materials by hand on top of ice in cattail areas. That stymies a species that lays its eggs on the water and develops while attached to the roots of cattails through the winter.
And, if that's not enough, "McLean said deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, are already out and “on the move” in thick underbrush and wooded areas."

22 April 2014

Bird prints on windows are caused by "powder down"

In the middle of April we experienced several days of truly bizarre behavior by a local robin.  Perched on the railing of the porch, or in the branches of a nearby juniper, he would launch himself against one of the windows.  Repeatedly.

These strikes were totally different from the rare high-speed bird strike that happens when the creature fails to detect the presence of window glass and breaks a neck.  These assaults were "belly up" flailing at the window, at low speed, and with true deliberation, repeated in series of dozens.

Had this occurred in midsummer, I would have surmised that the bird was chasing insects drawn to the window, but this was daylight with no house lights to draw insects (and essentially none present at this time of year).

Several windows of the house were "painted" with overlapping "bird prints" similar to the one shown above (via The Soul is Bone).
The imprints are caused by the bird’s powder down, a special type of down which helps feathers to grow. In some species, the tips of the barbules on powder down feathers disintegrate, forming fine particles of keratin, which appear as a powder, or ‘feather dust’. When a bird strikes a glass pane, the power is shaken lose and adheres to the glass.
We wondered whether the bird was mentally deranged, but finally found the answer after a brief internet search... (explanation below the fold to allow you to ponder the problem)

Reconsidering high school English classes

From an op-ed piece at Salon:
I’ve begun to wonder if this typical high school English class, dividing its curriculum between standardized test preparation and the reading of canonical texts, might occupy a central place in the creation of a generation of college students who, simply put, cannot write...

For years now, teaching composition at state universities and liberal arts colleges and community colleges as well, I’ve puzzled over these high-school graduates and their shocking deficits. I’ve sat at my desk, a stack of their two-to-three-page papers before me, and felt overwhelmed to the point of physical paralysis by all the things they don’t know how to do when it comes to written communication in the English language...

And so recently, I’ve started asking them: “What exactly did you do in high-school English class?” And whether I ask them as a group or individually, whether I ask my best students or my worst, the answers I get are less than reassuring...

Those who didn’t make it onto the honors or A.P. track hardly mention writing or reading at all. They talk about giving oral presentations and keeping reading journals evaluated with a big, meaningless check. They reveal putting on skits, reenacting some scene in a novel or play whose title they can’t recall. One student recounts a month of junior English class in which she and her classmates produced digital short film adaptations of the trial in “The Scarlet Letter.”

“Sounds fun,” I say to this student, a girl who would not know how to summarize a source or correct a sentence fragment if her life depended on it.
More at the link.

Some elevator doors have a "blue asterisk"

The Rod of Asclepius in the six-pointed star carries certain implications:
The symbol indicates that the elevator is big enough to hold a stretcher...
The blue symbol itself is modestly known as the Star of Life. Originally designed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and trademarked in 1977, it’s since become the general symbol for emergency medical services...When it appears on an elevator, it typically means that that elevator is large enough to accommodate a 24” by 84” stretcher.
More information at Slate.  If such elevators are not available, the patient may need to be transported downstairs on a stair chair (basically a fancy furniture dolly.  See image embedded at right).

"Flower food" explained

What is cut flower food?

Q: What is actually in those packets of cut flower “food”? Is it just a preservative to make them last longer in the water? Is it possible to make it oneself?
--- Mrs Jeni Butler, via email

A: The contents of those little sachets is a mixture of sucrose (sugar), acidifier and something that inhibits the growth of bacteria.

Sucrose serves as a source of energy to make up for the loss of the functioning leaves and ensures continued development and longevity of the flower. Most water supplies are alkaline and can reduce the life of cut flowers, so the acidifier makes the pH of the water closer to the more acid pH of the plant’s sap. It also acts to stabilise the pigment and the colour of the flowers.

A microorganism growth inhibitor is perhaps the most important part of the “food”. Bacteria quickly starts to proliferate in the vase water (especially if damaged leaves are left clinging to flower stems prior to dunking).

Many gardeners/florists swear by various ways to keep flowers fresher for longer. But aspirin, wine or copper coins added to the water are apparently ineffective. Home-made concoctions are not as good as the packet stuff, either (according to the people who are in the business of selling flower food, anyway).

However, variations of the following recipe seem to be favoured by many. To make one litre of the solution...
Directions for DIY at the Telegraph source column.   I hope the "growth inhibitor" is a natural and not a pharmaceutical antibiotic.

Meskel Square (Ethiopia)

There are plenty of roundabouts elsewhere in Addis Ababa.  One wonders why not here.

Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

21 April 2014

Zentai practitioners

It’s called “zentai.” And in Japan, it can mean a lot of things. To 20-year-old Hokkyoku Nigo, it means liberation from the judgment and opinions of others. To a 22-year-old named Hanaka, it represents her lifelong fascination with superheroes. To a 36-year-old teacher named Nezumiko, it elicits something sexual. “I like to touch and stroke others and to be touched and stroked like this,” she told the AFP’s Harumi Ozawa. But to most outsiders, zentai means exactly what it looks like: spandex body suits.
More at the Washington Post.

Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Image of an Accu-Vein machine at work

Infrared sensing then projected back onto the extremity.  Brief video at the company's website.

"Made from the long bones of an enemy king"

It's a kāhili- the Hawaiian royal standard.  The long bone is decorated with feathers from birds of prey.  The one in the painting (and the ones in this photograph) appear to be too gracile to be an entire femur or humerus; perhaps they are carved to their final form.

Quick - name some bipedal mammals

There are the great apes and other primates, kangaroos and other macropods, and... and... and... (see above).

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