Sunday, November 21, 2010

6 Ways Plants Are Used as Weapons

Sure they may look harmless, but in the hands of the right people, a plant can be just as deadly as a shotgun. Plants have been an integral part in weapons manufacturing and advancements for thousands of years.

1. Arrows and Darts

First of all, it is worth noting that these weapons all originate from plants:
• Bows
• Arrows
• Spears
• Darts

All of the above are all derived from the ash, elm and other species of tree. However, assuming that bats, clubs and other wooden objects are too easy, let’s examine how these plant-weapons are enhanced using other plants.

Arrows found dating back to thousands of years ago were found to have grooves cut in the tips with trace elements of such poisons as tubocurarine and curare. These poisons derived from plants act as a paralytic, adding asphyxiation to the arrow or dart wound. Though it sounds dangerous to be used in hunting, cooking the meat renders the poison ineffective, and therefore there are no chances of second hand exposure.

2. Poisons

Not only do we have the Egyptians to thank for paper, sandals and Brendan Fraser’s career, but we also can thank them for much of the knowledge of poisons we have today.

It is widely believed that the Egyptians were responsible for discovering the poisonous properties of arsenic, henbane and strychnine long before modern medicine existed. Their experimentation with distillation, fermentation, and eating things that might have been poison single-handedly gave us most of the information we have today about naturally occurring poisons.Whether they were using the seeds, leaves or roots of plants, the Egyptians discovered many a way to weaponize flowers.

3. Barbed Wire

Although stronger, more flexible versions have been created and implemented since, the first roll of barbed wire was actually a plant.

The Scottish Thistle is a thorny little cactus flower that possesses hundreds of sharp edges and barbs. This plant is responsible for saving Scotland from a sneak attack by Norsemen during the 13th century. Because the Norse were barefoot, their cries of pain from stepping on the thistle alerted the Scottish of their invasion and thereby thwarted their plan. The Scottish thistle is still honored and held in high regard by the people and government of Scotland.

4. Biological Weapons

Biological weapons are perhaps the most disturbing and least ethical of all instruments of war, but what many people don’t know is that not all toxins are created in laboratories.

Cytotoxons and mycotoxins, like ricin from the castor bean and various types of fungi, all have serious nerve disrupting properties. Although much more damaging chemical weapons such as Anthrax has been developed, the amount of raw “mess-you-up” power that occurs in nature is still astonishing. While most often these sorts of biological weapons are used in crop dusting and pesticide application, they are still capable of bringing about damage in a war.

5. Curry bomb

It was only a matter of time before Indian food was utilized for its destructive power, and that is precisely what the curry bomb does. An 88-mm grenade filled with phosphorous, red hot chilies and pepper, this bomb can bring victims to their knees in seconds.

Designed specifically for smoking terrorists out of caves and other hiding places, the curry bomb creates a smoke screen of intense, eye watering, debilitating chili powder in as little as 5 seconds. This technology can be tank-mounted or hand-held, and is sure to be the single most contributing factor to a decrease in terrorism and an increase in awful action movie lines.

6. Gunpowder

Stick with me here. Although it is mostly a product of chemistry, gunpowder (and therefore every firearm, rocket launch and nuclear bomb since) can be attributed directly to plants.

Created by the Chinese over a thousand years ago, gunpowder’s active and most powerful ingredient is potassium nitrate. By mixing straw (plant), wood ashes (burned plant), and manure (used to be a plant) into a hole and letting the mixture sit and get all scientific on itself for a year, the remaining by product is the incredibly flammable potassium nitrate. Although the involvement of the plant in the average gun battle seems inconsequential, it is in fact rather vital.


Plants have been used for evil since the dawn of time. While they are pretty to look at, lovely to smell, and an excellent get-out-jail-free card for married men around the globe, never underestimate the raw stopping power that lurks just beneath the surface of the average plant.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bah? The Internet!

In 1995 Newsweek said that nobody would ever buy books or airline tickets on the Internet:

After two decades online, I'm perplexed. It's not that I haven't had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I've met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I'm uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

Consider today's online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is tht the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them—one's a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn't work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question, and my search is periodically interrupted by messages like, "Too many connections, try again later."

Won't the Internet be useful in governing? Internet addicts clamor for government reports. But when Andy Spano ran for county executive in Westchester County, N.Y., he put every press release and position paper onto a bulletin board. In that affluent county, with plenty of computer companies, how many voters logged in? Fewer than 30. Not a good omen.

Point and click:
Then there are those pushing computers into schools. We're told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun. Students will happily learn from animated characters while taught by expertly tailored software.Who needs teachers when you've got computer-aided education? Bah. These expensive toys are difficult to use in classrooms and require extensive teacher training. Sure, kids love videogames—but think of your own experience: can you recall even one educational filmstrip of decades past? I'll bet you remember the two or three great teachers who made a difference in your life.

Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn't—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who'd prefer cybersex to the real thing? While the Internet beckons brightly, seductively flashing an icon of knowledge-as-power, this nonplace lures us to surrender our time on earth. A poor substitute it is, this virtual reality where frustration is legion and where—in the holy names of Education and Progress—important aspects of human interactions are relentlessly devalued.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can Vitamin C Prevent or Treat Cold Symptoms?

Vitamin C has been studied for many years as a possible treatment for colds, or as a way to prevent colds. But findings have been somewhat inconsistent. Overall, experts have found little to no benefit for vitamin C preventing or treating the common cold.

In a July 2007 study, researchers wanted to discover whether taking 200 milligrams or more of vitamin C daily could reduce the frequency, duration, or severity of a cold. After reviewing 60 years of clinical research, they found that when taken after a cold starts, vitamin C supplements do not make a cold shorter or less severe. When taken daily, vitamin C very slightly shorted cold duration -- by 8% in adults and by 14% in children.

But researchers found the most effect on people who were in extreme conditions, such as marathon runners. In this group, taking vitamin C cut their risk of catching a cold in half.

So what does all this mean?

The average adult who suffers with a cold for 12 days a year would still suffer for 11 days a year if that person took a high dose of vitamin C every day during that year.

For the average child who suffers about 28 days of cold illness a year, taking daily high-dose vitamin C would still mean 24 days of cold illness.

When vitamin C was tested for treatment of colds in 7 separate studies, vitamin C was no more effective than placebo at shortening the duration of cold symptoms.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It Would Be Far Easier for Americans to Elect Black President Than Unmarried President

Marriage has a Darwinian ability to endure. It alters itself however necessary to continue to be relevant and useful in people's lives. It is a shape shifter. It is like cockroaches and alligators. Marriage will be here long after humans are gone.

People will always want intimacy with one chosen person and you cannot have intimacy without privacy, which is why couples draw circles of privacy around themselves. They demand that family, neighbors and the law respect their union, and that is why we have marriage.

As for the idea of creating such a thing as secular civil unions that would offer couples every legal advantage of marriage without using the language of marriage—as they now do in Europe—this makes perfect sense...or rather, it would if we Americans did not happen to hold the concept of "marriage" in such rapturous reverence. The problem is, in this country, a civil union will always be seen as a badge of second-class citizenship.

The Europeans do not share our innate cultural reverence for marriage, at least not the northern Europeans. The Portuguese still do. Here's the thing: the unit of reverence in Europe is the family, which is why a child born today of unmarried parents in Sweden has a better chance of growing up in a house with both of his parents than a child born to a married couple in America. Here we revere the couple, there they revere the family. This is also why homosexuals in Europe have no comprehension of why homosexuals in America are fighting for the right to marry: They are perfectly happy to simply have equal civil rights, without the language of marriage. But here in America, marriage still has a mystical, intangible power: It is a passport to adulthood and respectability and to a certain extent citizenship. Any relationship less than "married" is considered temporary and not worthy of honor.

It's unfortunate that there exists only one path in America to complete social legitimacy, and that is marriage. For instance, that it would be far easier for Americans to elect a black president or a female president than an unmarried president. That would truly feel like cause for suspicion. Which means—of course—there is a massive pressure to apply this particular shape to one's relationship. Which might explain why Americans marry more—and, sadly, divorce more—than anyone else in the industrialized world. So the downside is that there is a rush to the altar—couples want to earn that badge of instant respect—when they perhaps are unready, or not mature enough, to actually take on that commitment.

In the ancient world, marriage was a tribal bond—a means of legitimizing heirs and building family dynasties. In the medieval world, marriage was an economic bond—a means of safely passing wealth from one generation to the next. During the height of the Catholic church's power, marriage was a religious bond—a lifelong, unbreakable contract to God, sealed by a priest. During the Industrial Revolution, with the rise of prosperity across the Western world, marriage finally gained the luxury of becoming a bond of love, an expression of individualistic choice.

Today, marriage is a curious amalgam of all those things. Modern marriage is first and foremost a romantic and private union, but the tax laws and inheritance laws and religious implications that still surround this institution indicate that marriage has evolved without casting away its earlier purposes or assumptions. It's like we just keep building on this thing, piling new advancements on the old model.

Modern marriage as a car strangely fashioned out of an old abandoned horse carriage, built upon the framework of a mule cart. All the original engineering is still there, underneath it all.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we carry into our modern marriages the expectations and social memory of thousands of years of history, as well as our own set of newfangled tools that we use to tinker daily with the old machine. We alter and customize the thing every century, every generation, every day—both in the courts and in our own homes. And marriage accepts our modifications gracefully. Marriage adapts, evolves and somehow keeps chugging along.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Can Your Microwave Oven Really Measure Speed of Light?

Can your microwave oven really measure the speed of light? Yes, it can be done. And since many of the suggested experiments also involve chocolate, it will be done. Oh yes, it will be done.

First, a brief summary of the facts:

Fact One:

Microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum includes radio waves, infrared waves, visible light, and ultraviolet, and can best be described as a bunch of things that behave the way visible light does, even though we can't see them, which is a shame, since that would eliminate the need for recreational drugs. Microwaves move at the same speed that light does.

Fact Two:

Microwave ovens produce microwaves in a special configuration, called a standing wave. A standing wave. A standing wave is a wave that so perfectly fits its container that it looks like it looks like it's standing still. Most people have created standing waves as children playing with jump ropes. If you lift and push at just the right times, the jump rope will have one place that moves into peaks and valleys, while staying still at the two ends. If you put a little more effort into it, you can make the jump rope have two places that form peaks and valleys, and three points where it seems to be holding still.

This s-like curve is one wave, and the length of it is one wavelength.

Inside the microwave, the peaks and valleys of a standing wave translate to big time oscillation, and that oscillation cooks the food. The nodes, or places where the jump rope seems to stand still, translate to no oscillation.

That's why the microwave tray rotates. It has to move the food in order to make sure that every part of your frozen dinner is exposed to the places of highest oscillation. If it just stayed still, the peas would be roughly at the temperature of the center of the sun, and be little green time bombs waiting to nuke your tongue, while the tater tots would be frozen, ready to break your teeth when you bite into it. Because frozen foods hate us as much as we hate them. It's inarguable. That's why I put it in the ‘facts' section.

Fact three:

The number of waves that blow by a certain point per second is said to be the frequency of the waves. The frequency, the wavelengths, and the speed of waves have been established as having a set relationship with one another.

(Frequency) x (Wavelength) = Speed

This makes sense both logically and experimentally. For example, if you were sitting on the side of a one mile loop trail, and a runner ran past you once every ten minutes, you could determine their speed like this:

(6 loops per hour) X (1 mile per loop) = A speed of six miles per hour.

If six full waves cycled past you in one hour, the speed would be the same.

And so, we are armed with all the theoretical knowledge we need. Into the fray!

Every site I've been to agrees that you'll need a metric ruler and a microwave with the product label still attached, but the rotating tray brutally ripped out. They disagree, however, on the proper experimental material to nuke. Some sites say you'll need whipped egg whites on a plate. Others favor marshmallows in a dish. I'm going to recommend you go with the ones that recommend either wide chocolate bars or a layer of chocolate chips over a tray. Unless you can find chocolate marshmallows.

The brandy snifter is optional.

Whatever sacrificial material you use – put it in the microwave and nuke it. Keep an eye on it as it cooks, and take it out just as you see spots on it start to melt.

Since the tray isn't moving, it won't melt evenly. Certain points will have begun to bubble and smoke while leaving the rest of the food unharmed and undeservedly smug. Use the ruler to measure the distance between those two points. That is half the wavelength of the microwaves that the oven produces.

Double that distance, and you'll have the wavelength of the waves emitted by the microwave.

This is the tough part. I kept it from you until now because I didn't want you to bail on your education. The information of label on most microwaves is on the back. Yes, I know that's where the spiders and rotting pieces of tuna are, but you have only yourself to blame. You should have cleaned more regularly.

On the label, there will be information as to what frequency the microwave emits waves at. After that, it's simple.

(Frequency) x (Wavelength) = Speed of Light.

And then you get to eat the chocolate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Michael Jackson Had a Patent

Patent number 5255452, filed in 1992, shows how Michael Jackson and his dancers could lean at 45-degree angles during live performances of the song "Smooth Criminal".

A system for engaging shoes with a hitch mans to permit a person standing on a stage surface to lean forwardly beyond his or her center of gravity, comprising:
at least one shoe having a heel with a first engagement means, said first engagement means comprising a recess formed in a heel of said shoe covered with a heel slot plane located at a bottom region of said heel, said heel slot plate having a slot formed therein with a relatively wide opening at a leading edge of said heel and a narrower terminal end rearward of said leading edge, said recess being larger in size above said terminal end of said slot than is said terminal end of said slot; and
a second engagement means, detachably engageable with said first engagement means, comprising a hitch member having an enlarged head portion connected by a narrower shank portion to a means for raising and lowering said head of said hitch member above and substantially level with or below said stage surface, said head portion being larger in size than said terminal end of said slot and said shank portion being narrower than said terminal end of said slot, wherein said hitch member can be moved through apertures in said stage surface between a projecting position raised above said stage surface and a retracted position at or below the stage surface, and when said head portion of said hitch member is raised above said stage surface, said first engagement means can be detachably engaged with said projecting hitch member, thereby allowing a person wearing the shoes to lean forwardly with his or her normal center of gravity beyond a front region of said shoes, and maintain said forward lean.