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article archives at abelard's news and comment zonetopic archives: fun
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 | III-2004: 03 07 08 08-2 22 |
IV-2004: 18 | V-2004: 10 18 18-2 20 25 27 |
VI-2004: 07 13 16 19 19-2 | VII-2004: 4 28 |
VIII-2004: 05 11 19 25 | IX-2004: 1-1 1-2 2 17 |
X-2004:06 08 10 12 13 20 25 | XI-2004: 18 27 30 | XII-2004: 06

New translation, the Magna Carta

K 'Y


come fly balloons [Xavier]
This site has lots of great photos.

Remember the Darwin Award entry?

“The most famous cluster balloon flight took place in 1982. Larry Walters, with no prior ballooning experience, attached 42 helium weather balloons to a lawnchair, intending to go up a few hundred feet, but instead soaring to 16,000. Surprisingly, Walters survived his flight.”

Cluster ballooning is now done for real, and under much greater control.

A cluster balloon flight image credit:
A cluster balloon flight image credit:

“To control the altitude of the cluster balloon, the pilot takes off with more balloons than needed to lift his or her weight, and carries ballast (water or sand) to balance out most of this excess lift. To level out or descend, the pilot releases or bursts balloons.”

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flight scene from the 'red balloon' image via
from the film the red balloon

My first notion of such a feat came from the 1956 short film, Le ballon rouge by Albert Lamorisse. A red balloon befriends the story’s main character, a boy named Pascal. After the red balloon is stoned by a local gang of bullies, the other balloons in Paris collect together and take Pascal on a flight over the city. (Link to text of the book of the film, which book is heavily illustrated with film stills.)

The Red ballooon image credit:

The red balloon
by Albert Lamorisse
(ntsc format) 6303968651 $13.99

Doubleday Books for Young Readers
hbk 1967, 0385003439, $11.53
pbk 1978, 0385142978, $9.71

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a chess curiosity - chess book rejected by an oregon prison

See item 111, examine reason for rejection!

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mandarin, tangerine, clementine, satsuma – are they different?

These fruits are cultivated varieties (cultivars) of Citrus reticulata, a member of the Rutaceae family. In some varieties, particularly tangerines and satsumas, the peel is loose and can easily be removed by hand. Other varieties of mandarin are are dancy and tangor.

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Mandarins are so named because Chinese high government officials - the mandarins - used to cultivate these trees commercially.

“The mandarin orange is considered a native of south-eastern Asia and the Philippines. It is most abundantly grown in Japan, southern China, India, and the East Indies, and is esteemed for home consumption in Australia. It gravitated to the western world by small steps taken by individuals interested in certain cultivars. Therefore, the history of its spread can be roughly traced in the chronology of separate introductions.” [quoted from Fruits of Warm climates by J. Morton]

Mandarin cultivars fall into several classes:

Class I, Mandarin

Class II, Tangerine: includes the clementine and the dancy.
• The clementine is named after a French clergyman, Pierre Clement, who crossed a mandarin and an orange, making a seedless tangerine in a crossing experiment around 1900, when he was the leader of the agricultural school in Oran in Algeria.
• The dancy was first found in the grove of Col. G.L. Dancy at Buena Vista, Florida.

Class III: Satsuma
The satsuma orange [a mikan in Japanese.] is believed to have originated in Japan about 350 years ago as a seedling of a cultivar. Satsuma was a feudal principality in south/west Japan, that now roughly corresponds to Kagoshima Principality.

Most canned mandarin oranges are satsumas.

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All citrus trees are classified within one genus, Citrus. They are mostly interbreedable: that is to say there is only one “superspecies”. This superspecies includes lemons and limes, as well as oranges.

Oranges are said to have originated in India (or even Vietnam) and were called na rangi in Sanskrit. Their Latin labels are Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium.

The original orange is bitter compared to modern varieties and is called the sour orange, or bitter, bigarade or Seville orange.

The navel orange is the result of a single mutation found in an orchard of sweet oranges belonging to a Brazilian monastery in 1820.

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The grapefruit, Citrus paradis. “About 1948, citrus specialists began to suggest that the grapefruit was not a sport of the pummelo but an accidental hybrid between the pummelo and the orange”. Variations include

  • Pummelo/Pomelo/Shaddock: the principal ancestor of the grapefruit;
  • Minneola: a tangarine/grapefruit cross that can be recognized by "the little nose".
  • Sweeties: a pummelo/grapefruit cross. Looks like a green grapefruit and tastes sweeter.

Tangelos: a tangerine/grapefruit/orange cross. The ugli is a particular variety.

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they're all mad i tell you—$100,000 (so far) for the holy toast

"Sandwich owner Diana Duyser says she spotted the image after she'd taken a bite out of the sandwich and saw the face staring back at her."

Once bitten ....

Update: this piece of ex-food sold for $71 plus $9.95 delivery.

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bin liner may be ded - boltneck says it's unfair

“Citing newly declassified intelligence documents, President Bush told reporters today that al-Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden is "very likely dead," and that Senator John Kerry "needs to stop his yammering about our so-called failure in Tora Bora, because such talk demoralizes the troops and, quite frankly, makes the Senator look like he's got that big head of his stuffed squarely up his pooper." ”

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pretty paintings by raphael

A quick little gallery from the new Raphael exhibition in London.

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us voting intention testimonial

Dear Editor,

I am a senior citizen.

During the Clinton Administration I had an extremely good and well paying job.

I took numerous vacations and had several vacation homes.

Since President Bush took office, I have watched my entire life change for the worse.

I lost my job.

I lost my two sons in that terrible Iraqi War.

I lost my homes.

I lost my health insurance.

As a matter of fact I lost virtually everything and became homeless.

Adding insult to injury, when the authorities found me living like an animal, instead of helping me, they arrested me.

I will do anything that Senator Kerry wants to insure that a Democrat is back in the White House come next year.

Bush has to go.


Saddam Hussein

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english usage from the british broadcasting corpse

“A spokesman for Scriptum said: "It features women of various fame in Jimmy Choo shoes and Cartier jewellery. We are still shooting the book." ”

Sounds like a richly deserved fate. More fun than burning it I s’pose, but will it keep you warm?

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On the 40th anniversary of Dr. Strangelove:

“Dr. Strangelove," Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film about nuclear-war plans run amok, is widely heralded as one of the greatest satires in American political or movie history. For its 40th anniversary, Columbia TriStar is releasing a two-disc special-edition DVD next month.”

“Daniel Ellsberg, who later leaked the Pentagon Papers, was a RAND analyst and a consultant at the Defense Department when he and a mid-level official took off work one afternoon in 1964 to see the film. Ellsberg recalled that as they left the theater, he turned to his colleague and said, "That was a documentary!" ”

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how could we manage without 'them'?

Billions for NASA despite huge cost over-runs and disasters due to mismanagement, but come the capitalists and the arseoles can’t wait to stcik their long noses in:

“ While entrepreneurs explore how to put ordinary folks into space, federal officials are pondering how to regulate the emerging commercial space industry.

“In the afterglow of Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne winning a $10 million prize for the first private reusable spacecraft, House and Senate negotiators had hoped to be able to get a bill approved this year providing regulatory guidance for the new space-tourism industry.” [quoted from DailyNews]

SpaceReview gives a detailed commentary on HR 3752, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.

Note that SpaceShipOne and other sub-orbital craft may have other problems because they are probably included under the International Trade in Armaments Regulations (ITAR).

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it isn't the violence we can’t stand, it’s the s--e--x we jest cannot tolerate.

“ [...] On film, without the constrictions of TV or a live cast, there's nothing they won't do for a laugh. "Team America" almost got the dreaded NC-17 rating

because of, yes, simulated puppet sex. The scene does smolder. It's also groan-inducingly uproarious. Apparently the marionette-on-marionette violence didn't bother the ratings board nearly as much. "I think we just truly are kind of filthy, offensive people," Stone said good-naturedly. "That's just the stuff we find funny, and ultimately you have to make a movie that makes you laugh." ” [quoted from]

More detail:

“South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have won a censorship battle with officials at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) after their new puppet film was slapped with a "ridiculous" NC- 17 rating.”

“Parker fumes he was particularly upset with censorship surrounding the sex scene, because, in making the necessary cuts to get an R-rating, he and his partner have turned the scene into a smutty love-making mess.” [quoted from]

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st bernards to leave st. bernard’s pass

“Switzerland's St Bernard rescue dogs, known for centuries for saving avalanche victims from snowy Alpine graves, are to be sold by their monk owners as helicopters and heat sensors take over their work.

At St. Bernard's hospice, cradle of the breed, Augustinian monks want to devote more time to needy people and less to the 18 dogs -- which will be sold only to new owners who promise to bring them back each year.

"They (the dogs) need a lot of time and energy. There are only four of us monks now," [...] ”

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space, the final frontier

After the success of the first Antari X-prize, what comes next?

the x-prize continues

“The X Prize, offered to the first team to get into space twice in a 14-day span, will now evolve into a regular competition called the X Prize Cup. In May, organizers selected New Mexico to permanently host the X Prize Cup.”

“ Teams will compete in five different categories to win the overall cup:

  • Fastest turnaround time between the first launch and second landing,
  • maximum number of passengers per launch,
  • total number of passengers during the competition,
  • maximum altitude and
  • fastest flight time.”

your next holiday cruise

“[...] fly[ing] under the banner of [Richard Branson's] newly formed company Virgin Galactic, the expected price of a ticket will be some US$175,000 per trip, which, if it is similar to Monday's flight, would last about 90 minutes.”

“ [...] a company called Space Adventures was busy calling prospective clients and journalists, offering them the chance of a ride in the record-breaking craft for just US$102,000, including four days of training.

“There are also numerous other teams work to build reusable, commercially viable space craft capable of carrying passengers to the edge of space. They vowed, after the flight, to keep developing their vehicles [...] .”

and the deep black yonder....

“ "The big guys, the Boeings, the Lockheeds and the nay-saying people at (NASA headquarters) Houston ... I think they are looking at each other now and saying, `We're screwed,'" Rutan said.

“The next major step may be prompted by the US$50 million American Space Prize, to be given for the first privately funded, reusable space ship able to carry seven people into orbit. Such a craft would have huge commercial value for the satellite industry.”

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asteroids—far away, so close

“ON SEPTEMBER 29th, Toutatis, an irregularly shaped rock a few kilometres in diameter, came within 1½million kilometres (1million miles) of Earth—about four times the distance of the moon.” [1]

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“The 2004 approach is particularly ‘interesting’.[editorial quotes] 0.0104 Astronomical Unit equals about 1.5 millions of kilometers from us. Seen from Toutatis, the Earth will be as large in the sky as the Moon is from the Earth, and from Earth it will be large enough that the best telescopes will start resolving its apparent size.”[2] [4]

But it might hit us on Earth!

“Toutatis owes its name to a trio of French astronomers, who baptised it after a Celtic god well-known in France for the comic book hero Asterix. Protected by Toutatis, Asterix and his friends fear nothing except the idea of the sky falling on their heads.”[3]

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“If an asteroid the size of Toutatis were to hit Earth, it would be by far the biggest natural disaster in human history, quite possibly causing the end of civilisation. The dust thrown up would obscure the sun for months, leading to large-scale crop failure. If it landed in the ocean (more likely than not, given that the sea covers two-thirds of the Earth's surface) an enormous wave would be generated, demolishing whatever lay in its path. And in the longer term, there would probably be profound disruption of the climate.”[1]

However, we are still safe:

“[...] Toutatis missed the Earth by a comfortable margin.” [1]

There is concern, and not just by ancient Gauls, that a near-Earth object (NEO) may come dangerously close to te Earth. Here is a “List Of The Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs)”, a list of “PHA Close Approaches To The Earth” and a “Plot of the Inner Solar System” showing “the current location of the major planets (Mercury through Jupiter) and the minor planets that are in the inner region of the solar system”. These links are all from the Spaceguard Foundation which is “aimed at the protection of the Earth environment against the bombardment of objects of the solar system (comets and asteroids)”.

What to do? Here’s one suggestion:

“The popular science-fiction method of dealing with the problem—detonating a nuclear weapon next to the object to divert its course—is seen as too uncertain. The alternative—strapping rocket engines to the rock and using their thrust to alter its orbit—would not work either, unless the project began several decades before the impact was due. That is why a group of scientists and former astronauts formed the B612 Foundation (named after the home asteroid of Antoine de Saint Exupéry's little prince) in 2002. Their goal is to develop a way of altering the course of an asteroid using an ion rocket, which pushes electrically charged atoms out of the back. This is more efficient than the hot gas which provides the thrust in a conventional rocket.

“The B612 group believes such a system could be ready for use by 2015, and suggests it should be tested shortly thereafter on a non-threatening asteroid. A noble goal—it is, as the little prince might have said, a matter of consequence.”[1]

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Images of Toutatis may be seen at Scott Hudson’s Earth-Crossing, and Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 4179 Toutatis page [Scott Hudson has made various images of Toutatis from radar images made by JPL/NASA scientist Dr. Steve Ostro].

end notes

  • quoted exerpts taken from
    1. The Economist print edition
    2. Alain Maury’s the Toutatis home page [Alain Maury helped take the photographic plates on which Toutatis was found]
    3. NASA’s Asteroids and Comet Impact Hazards news

  1. The mean distance of the moon is 0.0026 AU = 384,400 km = 238,900 miles.
    1 AU is approximately the mean distance of the earth from the sun = 149,597,870 km = 92,955,810 miles.

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modern intellectual feminists find new pursuit

“ "These are energy vortexes,'' explained Rabbi Shaul Youdkevitch, head of the Kabbalah Center in Israel. "It is known among Kabbalists that you can go there and recharge yourself with positive energy.''

“ Madonna's interest in Kabbalah became public when she was spotted wearing its traditional red string bracelet. Since then, celebrities including Britney Spears and Courtney Love have been seen sporting the bracelet. ”

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fossil media try to manufacture consent

“LCI, French cable news channnel, showed the Kerry sisters on the MTV Music Awards with the booing edited out and an added commentary on how Kerry is coronated by American youth.”

lead from aoiko

“far more interestingly, barbara bush is actually quite cute! makes a nice change from the kerry sisters, who are almost as ugly as their father.”

Pics at first and last links for those wishing to do a beauty contest.

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please mister, can we have your tax dollars? [PDF file]

Please, no giggling at the back! But it is worth reading, if you can stomach the mumbo-jumbo.

How can we solve the mystery of dark energy? Recent measurements with telescopes and space probes have shown that a mysterious force - a dark energy - fills the vacuum of empty space, accelerating the universe’s expansion. We don’t know what dark energy is, or why it exists. On the other hand, particle theory tells us that, at the microscopic level, even a perfect vacuum bubbles with quantum particles that are a natural source of dark energy. But a naïve calculation of the dark energy generated from the vacuum yields a value 10^120 times larger than the amount we observe. Some unknown physical process is required to eliminate most, but not all, of the vacuum energy, leaving enough left to drive the accelerating expansion of the universe. A new theory of particle physics is required to explain this physical process.”

“ Our quest to discover the fundamental laws of nature has led to the revelation that the laws of physics, and the particles they govern, exist because of underlying symmetries of nature, some of them lost since the big bang. One such lost symmetry might be supersymmetry. Just as for every particle there exists an antiparticle, supersymmetry predicts that for every known particle there also exists a superpartner particle. Part of the strong theoretical appeal of supersymmetry, an essential part of string theory, is its possible connection to dark energy and the fact that it provides a natural candidate for dark matter, the neutralino.”

You will be enlightened to realise that:

“Ultimately, unification of all the fundamental forces requires an understanding of quantum gravity and the associated exotic phenomena, such as black hole evaporation. Progress could come serendipitously from a discovery of extra dimensions at the LHC, or of anomalous gravity wave sources with LIGO, or of unexpected events in ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, including cosmic neutrinos.”

“Nine interrelated questions define the path ahead.
1. Are there undiscovered principles of nature: new symmetries, new physical laws?
2. How can we solve the mystery of dark energy?
3. Are there extra dimensions of space?
4. Do all forces become one?
5. Why are there so many kinds of particles?
6. What is dark matter? How can we make it in the laboratory?
7. What are neutrinos telling us?
8. How did the universe come to be?
9. What happened to the antimatter?

You can read a version with some mostly irrelevant pictures here!
They'll even send you a free copy from this page.

related material
On CP violation

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high-class karaoke

“Web Operas featuring All of the Music and The Full Lyrics and Dialogue of Twenty 19th and Early 20th Century Light Operas

“[They] include midi files for all of the music in the opera, plus the lyrics and dialogue, allowing you to sing-along with the entire opera while listening to the midi files. They are loads of fun, and a good way to learn more about these operas.”

Sing your favourite Gibert and Sullivan – the Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance – as well as other, perhaps, lesser known works such as Princess Ida. Also offered are works by authors like Cups and Saucers and A Greek Slave.

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