Archive for the Randomalia Category

Paul the Psychic Octopus Hits the Big Time

Posted in Anthropromorphism, Bizzare Behavior, Psychic Pets, Randomalia, Roadside attractions, Travesties of nature on July 23, 2010 by Eric S.

If, like me, you could give a rat’s ass about soccer (football to those of you familiar with the metric system), there’s a chance you missed out on Paul the Octopus’s 15 minutes of fame. But this mid-phenomenon report by RussiaToday should be all you need to come up to speed:

Basically, what we have here is an octopus raised in captivity in a tourist aquarium in Germany with a considerably better than random ability to pick winners in Germany vs Whoever soccer matches. Paul lodged his predictions by choosing which side of a two-binned feeding dish to take his dinner from: one marked with a German Flag, the other marked with the flag of their opponent. According to stats on Wikipedia, his 2010 predictions were 100% accurate, making him 61% more accurate than Punxsutawney Phil and (if I’m doing the math right) 99.6% more accurate than dumb luck. NOTE: Yes, I did that math in my head before realizing it was right there on the Wikipedia page.

So, honestly, this followup story shouldn’t be that surprising:

Paul, welcome to the Big Leagues. But it’s not all bad, at least for Paul’s owners (I can’t claim to know the pros and cons of octopoidial life). A Russian bookmaker offered his owners €100,000, and I could swear I heard a story about someone stateside offering more than a million dollars for him. According to The Wall Street Journal, he has a job offer from Infosys. And according to this report, a black comedy Paul the Octopus murder mystery filmed in South Africa is in post production in Beijing.

All of which is trumped by the fact his immortalization in this little ditty by Perry Gripp, of Cat Flushing a Toilet fame:


Jupiter caught in blatant attempt to increase its own popularity

Posted in Objects in Space, Randomalia with tags , , on September 16, 2008 by Eric S.

First it was Saturn with it’s nifty rings. Then those other outer planets, some with names that were especially funny if you were a middle school student. And the whole is-it-a-planet-or-not kerfuffle with Pluto. Jupiter, arguably the most important non-solar/uninhabited object in the solar system appears to have finally had enough of not being the number one topic of conversation at local astronomy conventions and rural telescope parties. Thankfully, its chosen add to its headline value with something less drastic than fusing its core and transforming into a star, as seen in 2010. No, instead the planet has recently developed two more of the giant red spots that in large part define the Jupiter™ brand.

Which, honestly, might not give Jupiter the jolt it’s looking for. I mean, sure, more is better when you’re talking chocolate or kittens. But red spots? It’s kinda been done before. Next time the Jupiter Public Stunts Committee gets together, they should really consider finding a way to pull off that 2010 star thing.

‘Werewolf boy’ taunted by bullies, yet left alone by bigfoot hunters

Posted in Nature gone amok, Randomalia with tags , , on August 19, 2008 by Eric S.

Okay, that headline is a little mean, and I apologize to young Mr. Patil for it. It was intended as a jab at the bigfoot hunters anyway.

As reported by a fair number of sources including (from whom I borrowed these fine photos), 11-year-old Pruthviraj Patil has a condition known to the medical community as hypertrichosis and known to tabloid reporters as Werewolf Syndrome. Sources all seem to agree that 50 people worldwide have the condition; whether this is an estimate or an actual figure as catalogued by some unnamed census bureau isn’t mentioned.

Owing to the narrative similarity of different periodicals’ coverage of the story, I assume it was pulled off some wire service or another. What’s interesting is that, while they all make mention of the fact that people stare at him wherever he goes and he was bullied as a (younger) child, The Telegraph is the only source I found that includes this little snippet:

But despite his abnormal hair growth Pruthviraj, who is from the district of Sangli, near Bombay, is healthy, sporty and popular at school.

On the one hand, deals with bullies. On the other, sporty and popular. So, basically, a normal kid.

Differentiating the Unexplainable from the Inexplicable

Posted in Randomalia, Rant, The Unexplained with tags , , on July 31, 2008 by Eric S.

So, having been kind of remiss with the whole blog maintenance thing and feeling itchy to just get *something* up, I’ve been debating whether or not to post this video, billed as the unofficial video for the band Zombie Zombie: a recreation of John Carpenter’s The Thing using GI Joe action figures:

Ultimately, I decided not to post it. Why? I suppose it boils down to something akin to journalistic integrity (kindly note the strong influence of something akin in that phrase). As much as I enjoy quality entertainment like this discussion between David and texas buddha, I don’t believe there’s anyone out there that thinks Hitler actually recruited Bigfoot to serve in the SS (because if he had, duh, the Allies would have lost). That is to say, it is a work of fiction.

By contrast, the stories I set out to cover fall into that space between fiction and verifiable fact. Existence of the moon? Fact. Composition of the moon including cheese? Fiction. Moon landing being an elaborate hoax? Fiction. Arguments supporting the idea that the moon landing was an elaborate hoax? Damn good reading.

So, that established, please ignore the above video.

Whoa, look out for that gravity storm

Posted in Fact Checking, Nature gone amok, Randomalia with tags , , , , on June 12, 2008 by Eric S.

Yes, yes, I know it might seem lazy to post a video linked to in the ‘Related Videos’ column from a previous post (the one directly below this one, even), but you’ve got to admit it’s kinda cool. This is a 36-minute time lapse of an atmospheric event I had previously only heard referenced by Jimmy Buffett: a gravity storm. Or, either since it’s not actually storming per se or because the person that posted the video says so, a gravity wave:

I consulted the wiki elves to help patch this hole in my understanding of how the world works:

In fluid dynamics, gravity waves are waves generated in a fluid medium or at the interface between two mediums (e.g. the atmosphere or ocean) which has the restoring force of gravity or buoyancy.

Which totally cleared it up for me.

Errr, ummm, wait. Maybe I didn’t catch that on the first pass.

Since the fluid is a continuous medium, a traveling disturbance will result. In the earth’s atmosphere, gravity waves are important for transferring momentum from the troposphere to the mesosphere. Gravity waves are generated in the troposphere by frontal systems or by airflow over mountains. At first waves propagate through the atmosphere without affecting its mean velocity. But as the waves reach more rarefied air at higher altitudes, their amplitude increases, and nonlinear effects cause the waves to break, transferring their momentum to the mean flow.

So, what they’re saying is that, with the right gravitivity and/or polaritude, these waveforms cause an inverse yet reciporocal… okay, sorry. Lost it again.

The phase speed c of a linear gravity wave with wavenumber k is given by the formula

c = √ g/k,

where g is the acceleration due to gravity. Since c = ω / k is the phase speed in terms of the frequency ω and the wavenumber, the gravity wave frequency can be expressed as


The group velocity of a wave (that is, the speed at which a wave packet travels) is given by

cg = dw/dk,
and thus for a gravity wave,

cg = ½ √g/k = ½c.

The group velocity is one half the phase velocity. A wave in which the group and phase velocities differ is called dispersive.


blink, blink.

Okay, then. Honestly, though, none of this helps make that Buffett song make any more sense.

Sinkhole threatens to destroy Texas

Posted in Nature gone amok, Randomalia, The Unexplained with tags , , on May 9, 2008 by Eric S.

While not as spectacular as a volcanic eruption nor as mysterious as geometric patterns spontaneously appearing in grain fields, there’s something nonetheless unsettling about no longer being able to trust the ground you’re walking on:

Science guy spoils comic books for everyone

Posted in Fact Checking, Randomalia with tags , , , on May 2, 2008 by Eric S.

It’s guys like this, that have to go around pointing out so-called loopholes in everything from Santa Claus to the all-candy diet, that led to the whole Send Them Back to Sciensylvania movement in the first place:

Thanks a ton, Mr. Science Guy.