Posts Tagged ‘geekery’

Elf or chemical?

Can you tell which is which? (I’m not going to post an answer key.)

  • Amorolfin
  • Amrod
  • Caranthir
  • Cefaclor
  • Celecoxib
  • Curufin
  • Duilin
  • Elemmakil
  • Elemicin
  • Elurin
  • Elured
  • Enerdhil
  • Enediol
  • Enol
  • Etodolac
  • Fenoprofen
  • Finarfin
  • Fingolfin
  • Furfural
  • Galathil
  • Geraniol
  • Ibogaine
  • Maglor
  • Nylidrin
  • Oropher
  • Sildenafil
  • Sulindac
  • Tadalafil
  • Thingol
  • Threitol
  • Tolmetin
  • Vardenafil
  • Volemitol

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If you (a) are a huge dork, (b) are fairly lazy and have thought of being a “mad scientist or something” for Hallowe’en because you still have that labcoat and goggles from first year chem lying around somewhere, and/or (c) own or have access to a pet, you can quite easily construct a “real” scientist costume that incorporates your companion animal. This is probably only a good idea if you’re going to be staying home and answering the door. It also helps if you can cope with no one knowing what your costume is meant to be—though they should be able to figure out that you’re a scientist, at the very least.

Here are my suggestions. Obviously I’m going to be Schrödinger, myself.

If you are a cat “owner”:

If you are a dog owner (hopefully you’ve trained it well):

If you have a guinea pig:

If you have fish (please don’t take them trick-or-treating):

If you own finches, pigeons, iguanas, or, um, barnacles:

  • Charles Darwin

If you have mice or rats (ideally, as pets, not pests) (also I originally typed “rice or mats”):

  • Pretty much anyone, even just a generic scientist

If you’ve successfully domesticated a giraffe:

If you’re one of those people who insist on having a pet rock:

If you can afford a domestic fox:

If you own an exotic pet:

  • Sorry, you’re a douchenozzle.

If you’ve got a horse:

  • Why would you be a scientist when you could have the best headless horseman costume?

Not recommended as a costume: any fruit fly researcher.



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1. Comet strikes; everyone dies.

2. Comet strikes; everyone dies except Davos.

3. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

4. Everyone discovers the True Meaning of Friendship.

5. It was all just a dream. (Bran’s, of course.)

6. Cthulhu wakes; chaos.

7. Best. Thriller. Flashmob. EVER.

8. Comet threatens to strike; space travel and nuclear weapons hastily invented; disaster averted and everyone discovers the True Meaning of Friendship.

9. As in #8, except nuclear war breaks out and everyone dies.

10. As in #9, except Davos.

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It takes a certain strange sort of imagination to put a plant at the centre of a horror story—the sort of imagination that not only sees the twigs brushing a window as tapping fingers, but that also assumes that the tree itself has hands.  In the spirit of my recent review of The Day of the Triffids, here is a brief, undoubtedly incomplete list of horror/weird fiction featuring botanical antagonists. Anyone with additions, please chime in in the comments. (All links are to free full texts when they’re available.)

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

As discussed in my previous post, this is an eerie dystopian book in which most of the population goes blind and is then preyed upon by mobile stinging plants. Subtle, unsettling, and deep.

The Willows – Algernon Blackwood

“It’s the willows themselves humming, because here the willows have been made symbols of the forces that are against us.”

Two friends go on a canoe trip down the Danube. When they stop to camp on a willow-covered island, strange things begin to happen. Things go missing, strange prints appear in the sand, and the canoe is mysteriously damaged. All the while the river is rising, and the tangled willows seem to have a mind of their own. In addition to being charged with suspense, this tale has some lovely descriptions of the riparian scenery.

The Man Whom the Trees Loved – Algernon Blackwood

“It really is extraordinary,” said a Woman who Understood, “that you can make that cypress seem an individual, when in reality all cypresses are so exactly alike.”

This Blackwood guy has a thing for evil trees. In this short story, an artist by the name of Sanderson has a knack for painting trees. And to him, each tree is indeed an individual, and they seem to know that he knows this. They seem to call to him, and he is drawn out into the forest around his house for longer and longer walks. It sounds incredibly cheesy, I know, but it’s phenomenally gripping, as the view shifts from that of the artists who really gets trees to that of his wife, who fears but can’t quite believe that the trees are after her husband.

Specimen 313 – Jeff Strand

It’s basically Little Shop of Horrors with an added love story—featuring not the gardener but the plant. And somehow, that’s adorable.

The Tree – H. P. Lovecraft

An old beekeeper tells the tale of an ancient, gnarled, sinister-looking olive tree, a tale of a competition between two skilled sculptors in ancient Greece. One of them sickens and dies, first instructing his friend and rival to bury olive branches by his head. As the surviving sculptor finishes his statue, an unusual tree grows above his studio. It’s far from HPL’s best work, but unusually understated; one that leaves you scratching your head.

The Tree on the Hill – H. P. Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel

Just your standard dimension-jumping cosmic horror tale. A man sits down under an odd-looking oak and glimpses an evil dimension. His learned friend hastily prevents humanity’s doom at the expense of his sanity. The usual, but not up to HPL’s best—I’ll blame Rimel.

The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

LotR has some classic nasty vegetation. The Ents, of course, are only horrific to Saruman’s lot, but Fangorn forest has an evil reputation. But when I first read the saga as a young’un, I was really creeped out by the Old Forest outside the Shire, which Frodo et al. have to cross as they flee towards Bree. The menacing trees trip people deliberately and gradually channel the travellers towards the river Withywindle, where they are nearly devoured by a sly old willow.

The Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling

Vines…vines are great subjects for creepy stories, the way they twine around things and climb up walls. My memory of this is dim, but in Philosopher’s Stone, a trapdoor in Hogwarts hides a Devil’s Snare vine that tightens as its victims struggle. And, of course, the Whomping Willow (again with the willows!), introduced in Chamber of Secrets, has it in for anyone within reach of its bludgeoning boughs.

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Seafloor Explorer

Ever wanted to be a marine biologist? Now, from the comfort of your own home, you can!

Seafloor Explorer is a citizen science project that asks participants to identify substrates and creatures in pictures of the ocean’s floor. The pictures—millions of them in the database—are all taken along the northeastern coast of the U. S. by HabCam, an underwater vehicle created by a collaborative team that includes the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and local fishers and engineers. It’s quite simple to do: a tutorial teaches you how to classify the substrate as sand, shell, gravel, cobble, or boulder. Then you mark any fish, crustaceans, seastars, and scallops in the image and note whether there are any other creatures present. There are many unexpected delights to be found, like this – a pair of eels over a gravel bed (with some scallops and a crab; click to enlarge):

All images in this post courtesy the HabCam group, a collaboration between the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, commercial fishers, and independent scientists.

Or this image, showing a squid in the lower right and anemones in the upper right:

The data from Seafloor Explorer will allow scientists to study habitat and species distribution and abundance. Even more exciting, though, is the chance that we’ll see something we’ve never seen before. Already (the site was launched Sept. 13th), members may have identified a new species! Tentatively called the “convict worm“, it appears to live in sandy tubes and has a white body with narrow black bands.

If you’re more keen on actual stars than seastars, there’s also the Galaxy Zoo project, which asks for help classifying images of distant galaxies.

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New species and weird scientific name news that has found its way to my browser over the past few months. Enjoy.

Pictures of tropical fish that will BLOW YOUR MIND. New and non-new species.

Potential cryptic species of sharks

Giant extinct turtle

Random Wikipedia browsing reveals that there is at least one species (a spider) named for Cthulhu

More cryptic species, in this case of skinks

The Taxonomic Name Resolution Service – searchable record of plant scientific names, including all documented synonyms – important for those describing new species, as well as for those trying to find historical research on species whose names have changed

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Hint: it’s haikus. Especially science haikus. Especially clever, well-written science haikus.

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