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Terrorists to Obtain Flying Monkeys?

As everyone knows, I'm all in favor of science -- I'm scientistic -- with the prominent exception of situations in which science completely subverts human nature and/or destroys the planet outright. That's when I get jittery. Today's Post has two stories -- really, they should have been packaged -- that are rather sobering. The first says that scientists in Japan have figured out how to make monkeys glow in a spooky green fluorescence under ultraviolet light (using a gene taken from a jellyfish), and -- here's the really big advance -- enable the glowing gene to pass from parent to offspring.

That's straight out of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Or maybe The Wizard of Oz: Soon they'll actually be able to make flying monkeys.

Then there's the second story, about a nuclear arms race in South Asia. The great danger there is that the technology will leak away to non-state actors. Like terrorists.

And now I'm thinking: What happens if the terrorists get hold of the flying-monkey technology? I'm thinking flying monkeys as delivery systems for suitcase nukes. I'm thinking cats programmed to be spies in unsuspecting households. I'm thinking snakes that can navigate the sewers and come up into your house and detonate. I'm not paranoid, I'm just following the news to its logical conclusion. Talking horses -- "Mr. Ed" as prophecy.

Calming down now. But look, the world is getting smaller and in many ways more dangerous, with the forces of regulation and oversight constantly playing catch up with the agents of chaos and diabolism. Science actually gives the edge to the good guys in so many ways. But the secret of the atom is that immense power is locked in ordinary matter, a binding agent that, when unleashed, can level a city. The secret of life is that it's just information married to molecules -- no vital force needed. And so we live in interesting times.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 28, 2009; 8:22 AM ET
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Next: Charge Them, and They Will Pay


I had a fever the other night and could of sworn I saw some flyong monkeys.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 28, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

As you can see I am still feverish,should be "FLYING MONKEYS"

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 28, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I've long had the feeling that much of the trouble in this world is due to the fact that we don't have enough real problems to deal with, so we practice by creating stupid problems between human societies -- you know, so we'll be ready when the invading hordes of Winkies attack with their flying monkey air force with the Wicked Witch of the West directing her forces from an agile radar-small target (aka, "a broomstick").

I think what we really need, as a civilization, is some real problems and real invaders. I'm thinking walking crocodiles (get dinosaur evolution back on track). I'm thinking hyper-intelligent bonobos (which, I have recently learned, solve all their social problems by having sex with each other, gender roles be damned! -- should make the treaty talks interesting, when the War with the Bonobos is ended).

I'm thinking sea monsters. Big ones. With frikkin' lasers!

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Sci Tim (whom I still *heart* over yesterday's postings) --

Are you sure about those Winkies? They might just be deep fried Twinkies, which to me are much, much scarier ("more" scarier than Scalia).

Just contributing. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 28, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"I'm thinking cats programmed to be spies in unsuspecting households."

JA is SO behind the curve on this one, as frosti and other fellow feline servants know...


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

No, the real elephant in the living room will be - well, an elephant in the living room. A HALF-HUMAN half-elephant cross! OMG!

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

If I'm not mistaken, Twinkies also glow in the dark if put under ultraviolet light.

I'm not too afraid of flying monkeys. It's flying gorillas I worry about. A squadron of flying 400-pound silverbacks could do some serious damage.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 28, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Deer that glow in the dark when illuminated by regular light would be more useful than monkeys that fluoresce under UV.

I could see the special Spring edition of Cosmopolitas on the new exciting summer clogs and much-less-scratchy bodices.

My union were to have its annual picnic in the mall but it seems that Mother Nature is against organized labour. It winds so much they can’t set-up the tents. It’s a simple event you know.; a hamburger, a few stanzas of the Internationale, some well aimed swipes at the bourgeoisie and its lackey in government and a bit of well-educated-rabble rousing is all. I sure hope they won’t cancel the hamburgers; that was supposed to be my lunch.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Mudge- My favorite headline was "Flaying wuth Bobbie Grill."

Verrrry clever.

Posted by: Gomer144 | May 28, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I bought one James Patterson novel. Once only. "Where the Wind Blows" Genetically altered kids with wings. Never bought another Patterson title thereafter.

Is there an end to tinkering with Mother Nature? Ethical and moral issues? How about injecting monkeys with millions of smallpox viruses so that the monkeys exhibit human symptoms of smallpox, as was done not so long ago at the CDC in Atlanta? See Richard Preston's "Demons in the Freezer." And you wonder where your tax dollars are funded....

Or is the future in Crichton's Jurassic Park, as Tim hinted at in his 10:51? Or the scenario painted in the fairly recent novel, "The Genesis Code?" Get some Jesus DNA and scientists could probably work wonders...

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, I suspect a half-human/half-elephant crossbreed would probably net out as an improvement on the human species, but a downgrade for the elephants.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 28, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Yanno, Gomer, that was my favorite, too. Even made myself laugh (which I don't normally do).

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 28, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Or Frenay's "Pulse: The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things."

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Sure, mudge. The upside would be that the airlines could no longer charge you a fee for luggage, what with the trunk and all.


Posted by: DLDx | May 28, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

JA reminded me why dogs will never make good spies, yet cats seem innately purrfect for the job.


8:00 a.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9:30 a.m. Oh, boy! A car ride! My favorite!
9:40 a.m. Oh, boy! A walk! My favorite!
10:30 a.m. Oh, boy! Getting rubbed and petted! My favorite!
11:30 a.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
Noon- Oh, boy! The kids! My favorite!
1:00 p.m. Oh, boy! The yard! My favorite!
4:00 p.m. Oh, boy! To the park! My favorite!
5:00 p.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
5:30 p.m. Oh, boy! Pretty Mums! My favorite!
6:00 p.m. Oh, boy! Playing ball! My favorite!
6:30 a.m. Oh, boy! Watching TV with my master! My favorite!
8:30 p.m. Oh, boy! Sleeping in master's bed! My favorite!


Day 183 of My Captivity: My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little
dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat
dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and
the mild scolding I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture.
Tomorrow I may eat another house plant. Today my attempt to kill my captors
by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded; must
try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse
these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their
favorite chair, must try this on their bed. Decapitated a mouse and brought
them the headless body, in an attempt to make them aware of what I am
capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed
and condescended about what a good little "cat" I was. Hmmm, not working
according to plan. There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices.
I was placed in solitary confinement throughout the event. However, I could
hear the noise and smell the food. More importantly, I overheard that my
confinement was due to my power of "allergies." I must learn what this is
and how to use it to my advantage. I am convinced the other captives are
flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more
than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird, on the other
hand, has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am
certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the
metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait, It is only a matter of

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Where can I sign up for my glow-in-the-dark feline spy? I hear it's all the rage.

Posted by: schala1 | May 28, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

With my luck, the elephants would always get the aisle seats.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 28, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Wonder if Hannity will be volunteering for this.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Do elephants need Knee Room?

I have never seen an elephant fly with the common folk, so maybe so.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 28, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Now if we had glow-in-the-dark elephants, we could finally answer the question of how they got into my pyjamas...

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all. Well, it's still morning where I am!

The story on Brooksley Born was interesting and illuminating, thanks for the nudge, Jumper and Rainforest!

Harold Meyerson's column this morning provided food for thought on the domestic side.

I was in grad school when Prop 13 passed in 1978. It seemed to be an awful idea then and now the results are coming to roost. Mr. T and I walked along the Santa Rosa Creek greenway this morning. It could be lovely but is overrun with weeds. That's what happens when there is no funding for basic maintenance.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

To Snuke and SciTim -- you realize that there exists a Fourth Law of Physics to accompany and enhance Newton's Three Laws. This Fourth Law is colloquially referred to as the "Feline Law of Physics" and is the following:

"If you stare at a door long enough, it will open, and it's variable over time."

I suspect that you science types will surely agree.

I liked that article on Brooksley Born, as well. She is highly respected in my circles and with good reason.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 28, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

These two different stories certainly do demonstrate different ways Science could come back and bite us in the assumptions we make.

The glowing monkey, despite the obvious commercial opportunities (I mean, I want one) presents the potential for the creation of a permanent Uberclass of Ubermen who do Uberstuff. But I wonder. Creating “genetically superior” individuals might not be as easy as some suspect.

The interplay of different genetic traits is brutally complex, and something that works to the benefit of one individual in a given situation might be deadly, or at least counterproductive, in a descendant.

Even something like increased cognitive capability could be a downfall if inadvertently coupled with some other trait. Like, you know, a fondness for things what go boom.

I assert that it is possible that these unfavorable combinations might be disfavored by evolutionary pressures in the real world and hence not occur naturally as frequently as one might think. At least I hope this is the case, because this is one of the few reasons why nuclear proliferation might not lead to the inevitable destruction of all of humanity. (Which, I contend, would be, you know, bad.)

The overlap between people who can figure out how to create terrorist devices from advanced nuclear materials and those who will actually be willing to do so has thus far proven to be much smaller than many have feared.

Further, there is a small minority of people who feel that nuclear proliferation is good because it will naturally lead to the development of regional stability as well as the required infrastructure to keep nuclear material safe. (I do not prescribe to this view.)

But I *am* of the opinion that it isn’t a foregone conclusion that what can be done be evildoers will be done. Both Counter-Proliferation and Counter-Terorrism (or “CP” and “CT” as the cool kids call them) are considered growth fields. But neither are easy because evildoers are hard to identify.

If only we could make them glow.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 28, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Mudge and LiT, you have both surpassed your normal high standards for posts, thank you both for the laughs.

Is there a purpose to glow in the dark monkeys - it is not like they could be released in the wild as I would think glowing in the dark would make them easy targets for prey/hunters.

Now if we are going to play with nature how about developing plants that have a self defense mechanism agains varmints - bunnies and squirrels in particular - there is something I can use.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm so totally against Coulter proliferation. Oh wait...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Oh thanks, Shriek, really...

*dunking my head in the mind bleach*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Russianthistle, they don't need knee room half as much as they need trunk room.

Also, there's the lavatory issues, and the fact that elephants pay peanuts to begin with.

Ow ow! I need my morning calories and caffeine already, I must be dreaming that I'm typing about elephants and flying monkeys on the A-blog.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 28, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

The search terms most likely to lead to hacking websites have been compiled:

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Manelephants and glow--in-the-dark flying monkeys.
Lit, my cat would probably add some threats to sh1t in front of the entrance of the house if we leave her alone more than 24hres but that was funny anyway.

The comrades make an excellent socialist burger. The hot dog of the people was alittle dry.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Story's beginning to circulate on the Internet, folks:


Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape'

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

What was on the hot dog of the people, SD?

I've decided my favorite burger has the hot dog condiments: mustard, slaw, onions, chili. Wendy's sells it locally as the Carolina burger.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

That must be one messy burger to eat Slyness.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

There was lots of stuff on the condiment and salad table, we are a rich union apparently. I picked mustard, pickles and raw onions for the hotdogs, mustard tomato, lettuce and mayo for the burger.
I would have prefer fried onions but it wasn't available. I'll put in a grievance, maybe.

I think I'll go for a slug of hooch as well. DT makes me see funny things.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

*faxin' Shriek an Altoid* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I believe that the gene for luminiferase is popular for use in recombinant DNA experiments because (a) it is a single gene; (b) it does not create a complex structure, so it does not significantly injure the organism; (c) it is easy to tell whether the gene is present, just shine a UV lamp on the subject. Thus, it makes a good test for technique.

By the way, Joel, you misspelled "fluoresce".

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, dmd, but it's good. I ALWAYS spill stuff on my front (it's a family joke) so it doesn't matter if I make a mess.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm no longer hearing Margaret Hamilton saying "poppies."

Now it's "Fly! Fly!"

Posted by: -TBG- | May 28, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Reading this morning the Mark Arax essay or reporting in "West of the West," about the federal prosecution of Lodi, Calif. ice cream truck driver and Pakistani-American Umer Hayat for alleged terrorism and retired agent, from the Sacramento FBI-office, Jim Wedick, who attempted to come to the defense of the accused.

PBS's Frontline also aired the story titled "The Enemy Within." Photos, interviews:

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, thankee.

Posted by: joelache | May 28, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Hamburgers that have hot dog stuff?

Sounds like you can go all the way to Maid-rite. The Iowa treat!!!!

Maybe its my Irish roots, but I had a wonderful lunch of a homemade french fried potato. Its like dessert.

All this hot dog talk ... so I had one.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 28, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Not quite talking mice...

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now genetically engineered a strain of mice whose FOXP2 gene has been swapped out for the human version. Svante Paabo, in whose laboratory the mouse was engineered, promised several years ago that when the project was completed, “We will speak to the mouse.” ...

In a region of the brain called the basal ganglia, known in people to be involved in language, the humanized mice grew nerve cells that had a more complex structure and produced less dopamine, a chemical that transmits signals from one neuron to another. Baby mice utter ultrasonic whistles when removed from their mothers. The humanized baby mice, when isolated, made whistles that had a slightly lower pitch, among other differences, Dr. Enard says. Discovering that humanized mice whistle differently may seem a long way from understanding how language evolved. Dr. Enard argues that putting significant human genes into mice is the only feasible way of exploring the essential differences between people and chimps, our closest living relatives.

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Now I need to meet the gorilla my dreams.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Well, we do know that Canada is depending on Labrador Retrievers as advance troops for the invasion of America.

Beat me to the Margaret Hamilton reference again, TBG. I'll get you, my pretty!

Loved that DoTBG went to school to dissect. Lunch?

Nice citation, Jumper.

Scotty, good news on the kitteh. :-)

Posted by: -dbG- | May 28, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone made plans to attend the World Science Festival that I read about in today's NYT?

I found this column enlightening in light of yesterday's comments on the Sotomayor nomination.
Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You’re a Liberal
Liberals and conservatives don’t just think differently, they also feel differently.

Here's the link to the pyschology professors' website.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | May 28, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

pre prop 13, I dropped the notion of applying to the University of California at Santa Barbara for grad school due to the arrival of a frightningly nutty new governor, named Reagan.

Not that I would have been accepted.

Princeton University Press continues its flood of ecology and biology books:

The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth. " is critical that we accetp and understand that evolution is a fact of life, and that ecology is far more dynamic than we ever imagined."

Palms of Southern Asia. $90. Yikes!

Resource Strategies of Wild Plants. "Over millions of years, terrestrial plants have competed for limited resources, defended themselves against herbivores, and resisted a myriad of environmental stresses...a few survival strategies hold true for all seed-producing plants." It's Malthusian out there. The author confirms the old notion that trees have far too many leaves for efficient food production. The "extras" shade out competitors.

The "Resource Strategies" book is something of a revisiting of issues developed in two famous older Princeton books.

Supposedly the Press developed its lockhold on ecology when Robert May was on the faculty. He later moved back to England, and was Tony Blair's science advisor for a time. He's now Baron May of Oxford.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 28, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Was luciferase (or luminiferase as you called it) mentioned somewhere? The jellyfish protein Joel mentioned is simply Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)
FYI, yello, YFP is also available.
Nobel prize 2008:

Luciferase is an enzyme that helps oxidize luciferin to oxyluciferin and much of the energy from oxidation and coupled ATP hydrolysis is emitted as light (yay fireflies!). Definitely useful as a marker, as you noted, but a chemical reaction is necessary to detect its presence.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | May 28, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

And some illustrations to accompany LiT's story:

Posted by: DNA_Girl | May 28, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

And finally, Flying Death Kitty!

Posted by: DNA_Girl | May 28, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

DNA_Girl, you have caught me believing too much in my own powers of memory. Thanks for correcting me on that. I believed that I had put 2.3 and 1.7 together to get 4, but I was off by some decimal points, at least.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

I seem to recall that someone's bioengineered GFP Glow in the Dark Cats and was trying to breed them rather than relying on cloning techniques for reproduction. Should get interesting when one of those kitties escapes and goes feral.

Mudge, if you want to see a squadron of flying 400 lb. silverbacks, you should come down to the parking lot of my local bar around closing time. Yes, w-they can be scary, but the local constabulary is typically waiting there, too, ready to send a few to short-term captivity.

And you definitely don't want to be around for that, particularly when the 0-dark-30 political discussions (or monologues) and remorseful sermons start.

The p00-flinging is not a pretty sight.


Posted by: -bc- | May 28, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

ya know, i'd love to know the discussions that went into the research design of this experiment. i mean what other modifications did they contemplate, and how on earth did they arrive and trying to do the glow-in-the-dark enzyme/protein/whatever from a jellyfish?

sounds like comedy to me...

Posted by: LALurker | May 28, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

DNA Girl... that Play, No Play reminded me of the days when I had a toddler in the house.


Posted by: -TBG- | May 28, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Now, imagine a very clumsy 120lbs puppy in the "Play" role...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Okay, DNA Girl, fess up: how do you find the appropriate Sinfests? I cobbled together a Google site search and it runs through the forum comments. Is that your secret?

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and there's a Centreville, VA, kid in the Spelling Bee final tonight! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

An inordinate number of them have gotten stuck in my head...I worry about what got displaced in the process....

And it became much easier to find near perfect ones within seconds when Ishida put in a search function in his archives last year.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | May 28, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Ah, of course. Yeah, a few stick in my mind too. Some, very stickily.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 28, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I knew the Spelling Bee would show up on the home page:

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Some suspect there is a spelling gene. So you could, in theory, end up with glowing monkeys who can handle "bureaucracy" on the very first try.


Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 28, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I think that Virginian boy as all the qualities of a future boodler. Good luck to him.

I definitely did not inherit the spelling gene.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

But could they be persuaded to handle bureaus on the first try in the event that we need help moving?

If we humans are going to grant them cool glow in the dark powers, I don't think it's too much to expect that they pitch in a little around here sometimes. I mean, really.

Posted by: schala1 | May 28, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

The Post's coverage of the Battle of Calvert Cliffs sounds like something out of Miami, where the Turkey Point nuclear plant has crocodiles to complicate any such scenario.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Quite so schala! Of course, I would be happy if my son, to whom I gave some useful genetic material the old fashioned way, would be willing to help.

These kids today.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 28, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Two of top 10 coolest small town in America are in my own Pennsyltucky. Who woulda thunk.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I hate to inform you, RD_P--but the gift of life, food, shelter, diaper changes, vomit cleanup duty, monetary support, and 18+ years of spiritual guidance is just not as cool as glow in the dark powers. Perhaps you should make him an offer?

Posted by: schala1 | May 28, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I skipped both the changing diaper and spiritual advice stages, schala. Much easier and more pleasant that way.

But speaking of which, I just discovered that Arnel Pineda, the new lead singer of Journey (replacing Steve perry), who is Filippino and 42 years old, is almost a dead ringer for my son. Here's Pineda:

I have never heard my son sing, oddly enough, although he loves music and fancies himself a DJ. But I wouldn't object if he suddenly found himself fronting a major rock band.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, that list has me laughing. Owego, NY???? I lived 10 miles from there, and unless the place has undergone some type of Renaissance, it is far from "cool." Obviously those voting overlooked some of the cooler features, such as the closed-down Jamesway. I'll e-mail the article to a friend who still lives near there and see what she thinks.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 28, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I know, RM. I've been through Jim Thorpe. I don't know who could have possibly answered this survey. The countryside is nice, but even so...

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I know, RM. I've been through Jim Thorpe. I don't know who could have possibly answered this survey. The countryside is nice, but even so...

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I know, RM. I've been through Jim Thorpe. I don't know who could have possibly answered this survey. The countryside is nice, but even so...

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

umm...I got three Achenblog error messages.

This thing's been acting screwy for the last couple hours. It even mad me re-register--that's why I'm now Curmudgeon5.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

So there are three other 'Mudges floating around in the ether??? *concerned*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I thought you were budding off to form clone Curmudgeons.

Posted by: Gomer144 | May 28, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be concerned so much as terrified.

Dark skies and appears to be raining here. Radar map shows lots of green surrounding us in the burbs, too.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

My thought on that list of small towns is that only 2 of the 10 are more than 60 miles from an actual city (and most are closer). I make no judgment on their actual coolness, but, speaking as a resident of a town with no city within a 2-hour drive, I say that it's much easier to attract an interesting variety of residents and visitors when a day trip to or from the city is no big deal.

I think I mentioned last week that we were planning to go dancing over the weekend. The dance was in the somewhat bigger small town an hour and a half away. When we first moved here, I laughed at people whose first reaction to mention of that town was, "They've got a mall there!" After 9 months here, including recent misadventures with online clothes shopping, my reaction to our decision to go for the dance was, "We've got to go early; I need to go to the mall!" Plus we got to go to the Thai restaurant for dinner. Great excitement.

I like it here, and the town may even count as cool -- it certainly does in the eyes of the many students who grew up in yet smaller towns. But I'm still adjusting.

Posted by: -bia- | May 28, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

It's when I get to be Curmudgeon 7 of 9 that you really need to worry.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 28, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

There are some truly "magical, insane" comments on this article...

*shaking my head*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

A big ole nasty thunderstorm just rolled through here,thunder so loud it shook the house a couple of times. Oh by the way, back in west by god to do more cleaning.

I have used some neon green glow underwater worms for fishing a couple of times.I am not really sure if they were from Canada or not.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 28, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge in grey spandex and a push-up bra... Yep, I'd worry!!!

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the coolest thing about Owego is that it's about an hour to the Finger Lakes (and surrounding wineries) and to ski areas. It's what I really loved about that area. The shopping? Not so much.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 28, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Owego? Different from Oswego?

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I spent a week in Sayre PA, just south of this NY Sate area. Very nice spot but I wouldn't live there. Very white and very agricultural. Touring the finger lakes area was nice though.

There is a big US army nuclear weapon depot along one of the lake that is home to a population of white deer. Coincidence? (cue-in Psycho music)

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Owego is about 20 miles west of Binghamton, not far from the PA border. Oswego is in the southeast corner of Lake Ontario, north of Syracuse. If mail doesn't have a zip code, it can easily go to the wrong town.

And in my final bit of yawn-inducing western New York trivia, Owego is the home of the Lockheed Martin plant, where the to-be-cancelled presidential helicopter program resides. Big impact to that economy. Aside from LockMart, there *is* no economy.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 28, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

the question you need to ask Mudge is not why you now have so many alter egos, but do any of them glow in the dark.

Posted by: --dr-- | May 28, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I hate to nitpick, but I personally wouldn't consider a place with a population of nearly 10,000 to be a small town. And I'll note that Grinnell IA, Silverton OR, & Rockland ME (the largest places on the list) all refer to themselves as cities on their websites.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 28, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Of course, compared to most of the places I've lived, any place with a population much under 100,000 is a small town. Del Rio, TX (with a population around 30,000, and a mall, and everything!) seemed pretty small to me at the time.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 28, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

bobs... you make me think of the sign you see as you cross the Route 50 bridge...

"Welcome to the Town of Ocean City"

Posted by: -TBG- | May 28, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

TBG - LOL! They're trying to have it both ways, eh? The municipal building calls itself "City Hall", I notice.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 28, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Exciting news for geeks!

JPL has just announced that the second method tried for finding planets (#1 is "just looking", and the least successful to date, has finally paid off with the discovery of an exoplanet. The method is astrometry, the technique of measuring a star's position relative to other stars. Scientists from JPL have finally measured the exceedingly tiny shimmy of a star with a planet. In this case, the planet is about 6 times the mass of Jupiter and the star is about 1/12th the mass of our Sun, making it an M dwarf = red dwarf, barely big enough and hot enough to have nuclear fusion. Because they release energy so slowly, red dwarfs are anticipated to have a total lifetime exceeding the age of the universe so far. The very first red dwarfs to form are still around, still red, and still small.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I have just seen the euphemism "separated from employment" (not in reference to myself, just in a description of unemployment insurance). How cute.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, I was so totally following what you were saying (and downright proud of myself) until I got to the part about it having a total lifetime exceeeding the age of the universe so far. Huh? If you're talking backward, that's Mudge, right? Forward in time, and you're talking Cher?

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Bob S, no question that there's a real qualitative difference between a town of 1,000 and a town of 10,000. And of course the larger places want the respect due to cities. So, yeah, it's a judgment call. To me, any place where I can't find a store to buy clothes to teach in sure feels like a small town. But then, I'm picky. If I didn't care about liking my clothes, I could certainly find something here to cover my nakedness.

Let's see.

Small town: 1 or fewer stoplights, no more than 1 of any kind of store (groceries, hardware, clothes, whatever). Everyone knows everyone and all the details of their lives.

Medium town: 2 or 3 of each kind of store. Plenty of people you don't know (especially as a newcomer), but everyone you meet knows people that you know (no more than 1 degree of separation between anyone in town). No mall. (Yeah, I've become obsessed. And I swear I'm not a big shopper.) No public transportation. This is my town.

Large town: Mall! Possibly more than one major employer. An "ethnic" restaurant or two besides the Chinese buffet. Plenty of people with 2 or more degrees of separation. Probably still no public transportation.

If you've got a bus line in town, I think you're at least a small city. I don't have good criteria for small vs. medium city, but if you've got a metro area, I think that means you're a big city, and not otherwise.

Most residents of a big city probably consider any town a small town. Considering the number of votes they had for each of those towns, it clearly wasn't just the towns' residents doing the voting.

I have thought about this much too much, and I bet the boodle has moved on by now. But I typed it, so I guess I'll post it.

Posted by: -bia- | May 28, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Total lifetime exceeding the age of the universe so far means that the first generation of red dwarfs is from dead. Subsequent generations are even farther from dead.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea that you can identify a "medium-small" town by whether it has any ethnic restaurant besides a Chinese buffet. I assume that lack of even the Chinese buffet indicates a small town?

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"is from dead" ?

Is FAR from dead.


Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Did any of the boodle Tarheels notice: maybe 15-20 years ago, businesses and groups in Chapel Hill started popping up with "village" in their names. When a town starts wanting to brag about how quaintly "village"-like it is, it's a clear sign that it's grown past small/medium town size. If you were still small, you'd want to be called a city.

Posted by: -bia- | May 28, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Like your definitions bia.

Although I would, by your definition call a small town a village. I think of where my parents lived as a small town, rough 7,000, two main streets perpendicular to each other, there were a couple of grocery stores, a co-op outside of town, couple drug stores (one big chain, one small - another large chain store closed when it merged with the big chain).

Our friends live in a village outside of Ottawa towards Quebec, the Beer Store is part of the hardware store - to me that is a small town/village. Our Beer Stores are separate from any other store here keep in mind, usually in a small plaza with and IGA, Liquor Store if the town is big enough and a drug store. Size of that plaza reflects how big the town is - going back to my friends - no plaza just an old fashioned building down a road alongside the river.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

In England, it had to be a veritable hamlet to be lacking a Chinese place and/or a curry joint.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 28, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Hamlet is such a quaint word, in my mind there are no ugly hamlets.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

We used to count the size of a town by how many grain elevators it had. Can't do that anymore.

The most important things to keeping small prairie towns alive seems to be if it has a place to deliver grain, a school and a post office. Towns seemed to be able to maintain themselves so long as these 3 things were part of it. Take out one and the place just fizzles and dies.

Posted by: --dr-- | May 28, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Isn't the size of a town in Canada determined by the number of Tim Hortons? Anything less than 3 is a small town. (Anything less than 2 doesn't exist, does it?)

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I live in a town of 1500. When the boarding school is in session. The library is about the size of an overturned Book Mobile; there's one gas station, one bodega, two bars, two gunsmiths, and three cops. I'd call it a small town.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I live in a town of 1500. When the boarding school is in session. The library is about the size of an overturned Book Mobile; there's one gas station, one bodega, two bars, two gunsmiths, and three cops. I'd call it a small town.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Chapel Hill's status as an academical village was wearing thin by 1970. The last remaining defense (lack of a decent road to Raleigh) fell a few years later.

The semi-attached town of Carrboro was strictly low-rent. I guess the biggest thing there was a miserable A&P, the sort where empty shelves were a regular occurrence.

I currently live in a place with a Mall that's served by a minimal bus system.

The Deluge is continuing. I suspect the local retail establishments might as well shut down at noon in anticipation of afternoon rain.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 28, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dave... Keep meaning to ask.. how's retirement treating you? Are the home improvements finished yet?

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

LiT, I had to google what a bodega was - never heard the term, the top choice was a fine dining french restaurant - so your town either has a really nice restaurant for the local diner or a corner store?

Gunsmith - gun store?

Posted by: dmd2 | May 28, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Morning/evening, all.

Saw a kangaroo whilst on the bus on my way to work this morning, just a stone's throw from Parliament House. (Maybe that means Canberra is a small town?) I haven't been back in Oz long enough to take such a sight for granted, although no-one else on the bus seemed to think it worthy of a head turn and an ear-to-ear grin like I did. (Maybe the'roo would have garnered more attention if it had been fluorescent green.)

Posted by: -Dreamer- | May 28, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Dreamer! Wow, you remembered my Leon Russell obsession (saw him a couple of weeks ago, actually). Have to check out Russell Brand - I've seen him on Letterman, but didn't quite know what to make of him.

dmd, a bodega around here is a small Mexican (or some kind of Spanish-speaking) a corner shop. In Spanish.

Posted by: seasea1 | May 28, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Meant to add that I keep getting an annoying survey request when I click on the Boodle. I wouldn't mind if was a survey about the Boodle, but it's not...

Posted by: seasea1 | May 28, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Chapel Hill has never been a small town, by bia's excellent definition. It has a transit system which is essential to its existence, because there is not nearly enough parking for all the vehicles that would be necessary if the transit system didn't exist. It also has the most expensive real estate in all of NC, or used to. That is so NOT small town.

For all its current charm, Chapel Hill lost an essential part of its being when The Intimate Bookshop on Franklin Street closed. Oh, and I am not impressed with the food at Top of the Hill.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

A bodega is sort of a corner market that generally sells wine. Except ours doesn't sell wine.

A gunsmith is a guy who buys/sells/cleans/fixes/otherwise goofs with your gun. Keep missing that deer a little wide and to the right? Probably your scope is crooked, so you go to the gunsmith. Or the eye doctor.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

. . . but I didn't remember your new handle, seasea1. I will always think of you as mostlylurking.

I almost turned myself inside out laughing at "Russell Brand's Ponderland" the other night. He told of a man named Norbert Cleeverhook who was fired from his job as a department-store Santa for attacking children and then swearing at any parents who tried to intervene. Russell's tip: If anyone by the name of Norbert Cleeverhook applies for a job at you organization -- any job at all -- *do not employ him!*.

Posted by: -Dreamer- | May 28, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Hi Dreamer! What time and what day is it for you?

I would be entranced by the sight of a kangaroo.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Just after 9:00 am, Friday morning.

Posted by: -Dreamer- | May 28, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Now that I think about it, since we don't have an eye doctor, if you're missing the deer wide to the right every time, maybe you should have the scope skewed a tad to accommodate your poor vision. Either that, or lay off the Crown Royal (the drink of choice for hunters in these parts).

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer, I assume that means you are at work. But at least it's Friday!

LiT, I hope you made that appointment with the opthomol, um opthamol...eye doctor.

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer, I'm curious...

Did the kangaroo have to pay an extra fare for the joey? And did it pull the stop rope or just bang on the floor with its big hoppers?

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm terribly sorry.

Couldn't help myself.

I beg your pardon.

Good to see you, Dreamer. *HUGSSSSS* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 28, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dreamer, good to see you. My town is so boring, no gun shops, silos, bodegas or kangaroos. You’d be more likely to see a pickup hauling a boat or lobster traps than a gun rack. Here in MA, towns prefer to be ‘towns’ rather than cities. Framingham (pop. 70k) and Plymouth (pop. 50k) are two of the biggest towns in the state and they do not want to change their status. My town has about 13,000 pop. We have a half empty mall, two grocery stores and various other places to shop but nothing remarkable or exciting. Did I mention how cold it is here? Yesterday we were the coldest place in the lower 48 and there’s been no improvement in temp. today, it’s about 50. Ugh.

Scotty, very glad Midnight is okay. That article you linked to earlier about the trial here, with the comments...I never read the comments on anymore, they are invariably some the dumbest, rudest and most ill-informed comments you can find on the web. I thought Boston had an educated population, but you’d never know it reading that junk.

Posted by: badsneakers | May 28, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Now now, Scotty, you're just perpetuating that stereotype of Americans we have down here, i.e, that y'all think we've got kangaroos hopping on and off of buses in the central business district. Note that I said "Saw a kangaroo WHILST on the bus," not "Saw a kangaroo ON the bus," in anticipation of such confusion/excitement.

Posted by: -Dreamer- | May 28, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Today in Nuatical and Aviation and Small Town History, Especially Hispanic

May 28, 1588: The Spanish Armada, 138 ships strong and loaded with 30,000 soldiers intent upon invading England, departs Lisbon with the Duke of Medina Sidonia in command.
1916: Maiden flight of the Sopwith triplane unfortunately named the Tripehound. Despite its awful moniker, the plane is so maneuverable that Germany produces virtually an exact copy, the Fokker Dr. 1, which becomes famous (incorrectly so) as the plane most used by the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, and his Flying Circus.
1935: Messerschmitt test pilot Hans Knoetzsch flies the maiden flight of the first of an eventual 33,000 Bf-109 fighters (often mistakenly designated as ME-109), best known German airplane of World War II and arch foe of the British Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. Ironically, the prototype had a British Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine, though this was changed to a Daimler-Benz in later models.
1980: The United States Naval Academy graduates 55 women, the first women to do so.

*dusting off hands*

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 28, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

what i wanna know is what kind of monks are we talking about here.

Franciscan, Benedictine, Anglican (...) ?

Do they make wine or ale?

Does the wine and ale glow?

Does one glow if they drink it?

Or does everything just appear to them in day-glo colors ???

PS: Hi Dreamer

Posted by: omnigood | May 28, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Stories of genetically altered animals seem to be in quite a few places today: the Washington Post, the New York Times, and this below from a newsletter emailed this afternoon from NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders).

The biological product called ATryn, made from the milk of genetically engineered goats, has been approved by the FDA for treatment of hereditary antithrombin deficiency. A segment of human DNA responsible for production of prothrombin was introduced into the goat DNA, resulting in production of human antithrombin in the goat milk. ATryn is an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clots. Additional information is available in the following FDA Press Release:

The newsletter also says that narcolepsy may be caused by abnormal immune function.

Posted by: laloomis | May 28, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps a clue for yesterdays extra credit: It's a Mystery.

Posted by: omnigood | May 28, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Well... THIS is on kit, isn't it?

Fly! Fly!

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, nope, haven't made that appt yet. Today got away from me so fast I felt like everyone was on some weird fast forward warp speed while I was just moseying along.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 28, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Megachiroptera, or giant bats, may be the closest thing to flying lemurs.

Posted by: markoller | May 28, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I think I have an aunt named Megachiroptera.

Posted by: TBG- | May 28, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Any relation to my great-great-uncle Pterodactyl, TBG?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 28, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Does she has dark tough leathery skin?
If so, I'd wear a garlic lei at night.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Manscaping, the ultimate frontier.

With a bow to yello.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 28, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.
Nice to see you back, Dreamer.

Kangaroo would be a nice change from all the venison around these days (I prefer the red to the grey, btw) - I'd be very interested in making some chili with it.

LiT, I used to miss everything wide right myself, but I've learned how to settle down and compensate for my natural slice, these days my long game is straight and true. I'm a still a decent opposite-field hitter, though.

*Tim, I got what you meant about the time, but I think they could get a better idea about the star shimmy if they made it wear tassels. And the relative postions to other stars - um, are they bringing a tape measure to the Walk of Fame?

Seriously, that's a pretty cool way to find large extrasolar planets, and a lot easier than (for example) only being able to locate a planet when it transits its star and measuring the minute dimming of the stars' light during the eclipse (can we call that an eclipse?). I mean, how many stars' planetary ecliptical planes could we be on, anyway? [Don't answer that please -- my head already hurts from a minor weight bench accident earlier today involving a 45 lb. plate and my right eyebrow/temple area. And from watching Cleveland squander a 22-point lead in the first half].


Posted by: -bc- | May 28, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I've always viewed the Planet Of The Apes series (particularly Battle For.. and Escape From...) as documentaries. I just didn't realize the apes were going to glow in the dark.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 28, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

A few weekends ago we stayed at a B&B in Wellsboro, PA which has a population of 3,328, so it qualifies for that survey. It was plenty cool including a basement bookstore. My wife discovered it while Googling things to do in Pennsylvania. Since it was 200 miles away we decided to make and overnight trip of it. I brought my bicycle along and rode about 25 miles of the Pine Creek Trail which goes through the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania".

The very odd thing was that on the way back home we kept passing billboards entreating people to visit the stores of Wellsboro. Anybody expecting an outlet mall variety would be disappointed. There were maybe a half dozen total.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 28, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

To my mind, definitive proof why dogs are better pets than cats. (As seen on Olbermann.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 28, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

One of my wife's college classmates was the daughter of the owner of the one Chinese restaurant in the city of Shelby, NC (pop. 19,477). It was through her that I began developing my rather un-PC stereotype about Chinese Restaurant Owners Daughters (CRODs). I had met four of them (well, one was Korean but the restaurant her dad owned was Chinese) and they all showed very similar personality traits. The tended to be flighty and pampered (nice cars, good clothes) but also very socially restricted since they usually had to work weekends waitressing at their parents' restaurant.

The other phenomenon I observed was that there must be some sort of underground network letting entrepreneurial Asian immigrants know which towns were in need of a kung pao chicken outlet.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 28, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

s_d, the question of Personal Topiary for men is one that isn't new to me.

One has to make certain accomodations for proper Gladitoral summer dress and full-scale applications of olive oil, for example.

(On a side note, I was pleased to learn that Just for Men applications are not restricted to above the neck.)

And then there's the lycanthropy...


Posted by: -bc- | May 28, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

It's been a long time since I studied all this Bullfinch's Mythology stuff, but wasn't Lycanthropy married to Megachiroptera? I can't recall the details very well, but it was something about Lycanthropy being half man and half hairball, and Meg (as she was affectionately known by her ghostly-but-horribly scarred father, the Phantom of the Optera) was one of the seven muses, being the one in charge of Lladro porcelin sculptures.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 28, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

About 0.3% probability, for an Earth-like planet in an Earth-like orbit around a Sun-like star to transit. As of Sunday morning, there were 59 announced examples of transiting exoplanets (none of them Earth-size). If "Earth-like" means "gets the same amount of energy from the star as the Earth gets from the Sun", then the orbit around a red dwarf star makes for a much higher probability that a transit would be observable (a probability that I am not prepared to calculate at this moment because I haven't thought about it very much), because the planet's orbital distance would be so very very small, even though the star would only be about the size of Jupiter. Once, until nearly 14 years ago, the thought of planets in couple-day or couple-week orbits would have been just plain wacky. Nowadays we know it to be quite common.

Anyway -- with such a probability, you might think that the odds are bad of ever seeing such a thing. 0.3% probability means that about 3 out of every 1000 stars will sport a transiting planet. Within 100 light-years, there are about 14,600 stars (isn't Google great?), so that means that there should be on the order of 43 transiting Earth-like planets within 100 light-years -- if every star were to have an Earth. The deficit with respect to 43 would tell us what fraction of stars have an Earth. I don't know what is the progress in observing all 14,600 of them. Most of them have never even been specifically cataloged, more than likely.

Except -- this is from a catalog of stars near the Earth, selected for properties suggesting that they formed about the same time as our Sun and in the same neighborhood. Chances are that a good fraction of them formed from the same protostellar nebula. Hard to say for certain, but I suspect that would slightly tilt the odds in favor of more of those stars having an angular momentum axis parallel to the axis of our system, which would increase the odds of planets in a configuration where we could see the transit.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 28, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse


What a memory you have. It's been a year and half since my last waxing and the lower back is getting a little fuzzy. I try to keep the shoulders and upper back under control with the beard attachment of my electric shaver, but that is pretty stop-gap. As for the American Wedding (aka American Pie 3) regions, even I have some notion of what is too much information.

But if anyone ever doubts I'm a natural redhead, I'm willing to go Bernard Mickey Wrangle on them.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 28, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

SD, that is one scary story. I giggled helplessly all the way through it. And Yello, you made me giggle too.

Frankly, I would NEVER request a man I loved to endure such torture. I am okay with the hair, chest and back. In fact, it was one of the things that attracted me to Mr. T. I assume that proves that I am a crone. And proud of it!

Posted by: slyness | May 28, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

I go by Mrs. Doubtfire's statement: "I like them short, furry, and funny."

I'll take two out of three, but the last thing I want is a guy with less body hair than I do.

So I found that story funny but very squeamy.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 28, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, ow!

But there's some value - and I guess a higher percentage - in noticing the transit of larger planets.

Also, are we seeing more of the short/close orbit planets simply because there are more of them, or because there's more data on them because of the frequency of the transits.

If an extrasolar observer of our solar system only had the capability to resolve for Jovian-type planets (for example) they'd have to wait up to 12 years just to see Jupiter *if* everything lined up correctly and they were looking at the right time. Miss it for whatever reason, and you're waiting another 12 years. Saturn, nearly 30, Neptune 160-something years.

Uranus is another story, too as you could be waiting a lifetime to see it -- 84 (human/Earth) years.

The big, hot, fast planets may just be most of the data we can actually resolve at this point, rather than constitute a higher percentage of planets than we originally thought.

But I'm no expert, and I'm not staying at a Holiday Inn. Plus, I conked myself in the noggin with a 45 lb. iron weight today.


Posted by: -bc- | May 28, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

hey bc . I hear roo tastes like rabbit

Posted by: omnigood | May 29, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Not really, omni. Roo is less chickeny and more beefy than rabbit.

Posted by: -Dreamer- | May 29, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Re: home page article..."We've got mail...from A. Lincoln":

One of Mr. Lincoln's early presidential appointments was to name his doctor [Anson G. Henry] as surveyor-general of Oregon, where he acted as the Administration's eyes and ears. Dr. Henry visited Washington in the spring of 1863 to try to prevent the dismissal of a friend, Robert J. Stevens, from his job as superintendent of the San Francisco mint and to try to obtain the dismissal of a political rival, Victor Smith, from his job in Oregon. Henry was unsuccessful on the first mission and successful on the second. President Lincoln wrote Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to "remove Victor Smith as collector of the customs at the Puget Sound district. Yet in doing this I do not decide that the charges against him are true; I only decide that the degree of dissatisfaction with him there is too great for him to be retained." Despite Mr. Lincoln's willingness to find another job for Smith, Chase took offense and submitted his resignation, which was rejected. At issue, noted biographer Carl Sandburg, was not just a test of strength between Smith and Henry, but a test of strength between Chase and President Lincoln.

Out with Stevens and in, at the San Francisco Mint, a few years later, with family member-by-marriage Charles Norton Felton, brother-in-law to George Loomis.

Posted by: laloomis | May 29, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. TGIF.

A big day for our friends up in Haute Maine, with two major items, one sad and one proud:

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

May 29, 1500: Death of Bartholomew Dias, the Portgugeuse nobleman and explorer, who is believed to be the first European ever to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, in 1488 in his ship São Cristóvão (Saint Christopher). Dias had wanted to go all the way around to India, but his crew refused. He died on a subsequent expedition to India in a violent storm off the cape, when four ships foundered.
1914: At about 1:55 a.m the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Empress of Ireland (Capt. Henry G. Kendall) is rammed amidships in heavy fog by Norwegian collier (coal freighter) SS Storstad (Chief Officer Alfred Toftenes) on the St. Lawrence River near Rimouski, Quebec. The Storstad tore a 14-foot hole in the boiler room of the Empress, which capsized in only 14 minutes. The Storstad and other rescuers saved 465 people, but 1,012 were lost, making it the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history, and the second worst peacetime maritime disaster (after the Titanic) up until 1987. The Empress had departed Quebec the evening before, about to make her 96th Atlantic crossing to Liverpool. She was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had a contract with the British government to transport mail from Hong Kong to Liverpool by way of Canada, thus giving the ship the right to the prefix RMS instead of the usual SS (steamship).
1950: The St. Roch, a 104-foot schooner owned by – of all people – the Royal Canadian Mounties, completes the world’s first circumnavigation of North America, being only the second vessel ever to sail through the Northwest Passage (38 years after Amundsen’s voyage in the Gjoa). The St. Roch was skippered by the RCMP’s Sgt. Henry Larsen, a Norwegian by birth and an Arctic explorer who emmigrated to Canada and joined the Mounties to serve on the St. Roch, used by the Mounties for its Arctic patrols and to deliver supplies to RCMP outposts in the Far North. The ship was designated a Canadian National Historic Site in 1962 and even now resides at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 29, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Re: the Empress of Ireland. There is a nice small maritime museum in Pointe-au-Père with many artifacts and stories about the E o I. Umlike the Titanic, that is an impossible dive, this wreck keep on killing people. Divers still go on her but it is a very dangerous dive, deep into the middle of a busy shipping channel and ripped with tidal currents.
The musuem also has the Bras d'Or, a record-breaking hydrofoil of the late sixties. The guy who hired me at DND worked on this project before switching into the navy proper.
There is also the O-boat HMCS Onondaga, a retired diesel-electric submarine. If you see her with the ballast casing off, note the very well inspected insert aft of the port diving plane...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 29, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

If anyone is interested tickets are still available for the Bush/Clinton do in Toronto today - shocked that it is not a sell out :-)

Posted by: dmd2 | May 29, 2009 7:13 AM | Report abuse

'morning all.
I should always wait for the second coffee to kick in before posting.

I've had roo twice on my short visit in Oz. An excellent steak (very much like horse meat in my opinion) at a good steakhouse in Canberra and a very chewy stew at a gunmint cafeteria in Melbourne. So like all meat it can go both ways depending on the cook and cooking method.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 29, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Real men manscape with a WeedWhacker...


And let me say, manscaping is becoming more appealing as the heat and humidity rolls in... *SIGH*

And now we have to get Midnight's pancreas under control... *SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH*

*TGIF-even-though-it's-been-a-short-week Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 29, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle. Another beautiful day on the plains, with a prediction of the hottest day of the year so far.

Lilacs are beginning to emerge, along with some blossoms on the trees outside my window.

A big night out with friends last night. Much fun was had.

And casual Friday to boot. All is as it is should be my small world.

Posted by: Yoki | May 29, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Morning Al!

Re: manscaping. While a prefer something less hairy than a silverback gorilla, I find the current hairless trend a bit disconcerting. Particularly when combined with 3-day growth on the face.

Most excellent definition of small town, etc bia. "Small town" aptly describes where I grew up. Heck, not even a stop light until about 25 years ago. Now it has two. *shudder* It appeared about the time that the McDonald's did. No Chinese buffet, though. Just two pizza joints and a most excellent diner. Mom eats there 2-3 times per week. Heck, if we had something like that here, I might never cook again.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 29, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Retirement brings on its own busyness. The house is finally in good order, inside. Outside, there's still a lot of gravel sitting around waiting to be cleaned of leaves and returned to a strip between the house and the sidewalk (a simple block one) that surrounds it.

I don't like having shrubbery or mulch right up against the outer walls.

I was impressed, once, that lilacs seemed happier in Wyoming than Pennsylvania. Maybe lack of borers? Aren't they native to Iran?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 29, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Poutine I can handle. And I once tried a piece of blubber (it was like trying to chew a pencil eraser marinated in seawater). I have no problem with various and sundry venison and steaks and chops made from moose, caribou, and whatever other large creatures you Canuckis have up there. But now I think you've gone to far. I suspect this is a new trend that will NOT catch on:

Handsome looking lady, though.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 29, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, just sounds like Canadian Anticuchos

Gimme some salsa verde!!!!

Posted by: russianthistle | May 29, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Isn't our GG a beautiful woman? Even more stunning in person; absolutely radiant.

Great life story, too.

Posted by: Yoki | May 29, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all. I may be on the left coast, but I'm still pretty much on east coast time.

Carry on.

Posted by: slyness | May 29, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

DotC, that makes sense to me. Iran is pretty high and dry and, in winter, cold. Snow is not unusual, at least in the north of that big country. Or maybe it is all that natural gas? More things in common with Wyoming and Alberta than might seen obvious at first blush.

Posted by: Yoki | May 29, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

After a day on the icepack bludgeoning seals to death with a hakapik there's nothing like a snack of still quivering seal heart. It's a good thing we are a peaceful people. Neighbours would understandably worry.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 29, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boodle!

s'nuke-kitty lovins sent your way, apply as needed. I see you corrected JA about feline espionage, well done.

bia-your analysis of small towns was dead on. Our Fair City is only a city through a quirk of MN law, we'd be a village or hamlet in some states. I am not a shopper either, but when in St. Paul I almost always find myself ducking into a store that doesn't sell firearms or fishing licenses along with a "full line of women's clothing." Note to snooty fashion writers who say mean things about MN-we know crocs and fleece are not the most fashionable things in the world, but when it's that or go naked...

Busy day today but Mr. F is headed this way, and the weather is supposed to be very fine. Maybe we'll get a chance to go fishing. Time to get to work.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 29, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Yoki, do I deduce you've met her in person? I just read her rather lengthy Wiki write-up, and am quite impressed. Can you give me guidance on the proper pronunciation of her name? I'm guessing from the Wiki thing it is on the order of Mih-KAY-a-lah, yes? Do you pronounce her last name like Gene, or the French way, swallowing the "n"?

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 29, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

By the way, SD, the quality of the inspection work on the insert aft of the bow plane on HMCS Onondaga is legendary through the world's submarine services, and is often commented upon by my neighbors next door at the Washington Navy Yard, as I'm sure Don from I-270 will attest. We're talking about the one on the port side, of course; the one on the starboard side is hardly ever mentioned, except in passing.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 29, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the laugh mudge.

Mee-ka-elle (like elle McPherson)
Soft G- Jan
(ginseng, no hint of a dg-dj sound. The "an" is of the very open French variety. I can't think of an Engish word in it. I'll find a cbc extract with the correct pronunciation later)

Just got my back pay for our lavish pay raises from 2007-08-early 09. It pays for the door! Yoohoo!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 29, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I assume drinks for lunch are on Shriek... Do I hear a second?

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 29, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

There you go

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 29, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, it's It's mi.ka.ɛl ʒɑ̃

or, "Mi-ka uhl"

The last syllable ʒa is "jean"-- said zhah^n , with the a nasalized.

ʒ is the same as the "s" in "treasure" or the si in "precision".

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 29, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The Royal Palace had no comment. That cracks me up for some reason.

Posted by: TBG- | May 29, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, friends. Glowing monkeys, and the possibility of inheriting said gene, all for science. Interesting and scary too.

As for small towns or villages, I live in a town called Hamlet, need I say more? I'm assuming the parent naming this town had run out of names or he was a big literature buff. Either way, b o r i n g.

Slyness, what coast are you on? Mudge, Yoki, Scotty(glad the kitty is better) Martooni, and all the gang, have a great weekend.

Posted by: cmyth4u | May 29, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

There was a large dose of irony behind that "lavish" Scotty. I'm not sure that about 4.1-4.2% for the past 3 years covers inflation.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 29, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Frostbitten, I think Minnesotans are very clothes-conscious.

After all, what other state has a law against sleeping naked in bed?

However, I can understand your need for a certain variety in fashion shopping. Indeed.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 29, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I assume the little umbrellas in the drinks for lunch are on Shriek, then?

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 29, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: laloomis | May 29, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Ah, got it, thanks. Mee-kay-square-square-square. Just like it looks.

Spookily like Mikhail Gorbachev, actually.

Jean like in Jean-luc Pichard (Gene-Luke Pitch-erd).

Mercy beauchamp.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | May 29, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: libing0755 | May 30, 2009 3:21 AM | Report abuse

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