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lundi 30 novembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"There are a lot of free lunches happening every day. Just because no one invited you doesn't mean you should try and ruin it for everybody else."

    - Leon Trotsky

vendredi 27 novembre 2015

Animals that don't Exist

The Liquor Fish

The liquor fish, Trutta liquore, is a member of the trout family, and is mainly found in mountain streams in the Atlas region of northern Africa. Like other animals, the liquor fish, when making an anaerobic effort (meaning that the muscles have to produce energy without a sufficient supply of oxugen), produces alcohol as a by-product. In other species, this by-product is then simply ecavuated along with other cellular waste. But the liquor fish stores it in a special compartiment in his body, called the “liquor pouch”, which is situated near its intestines.
Prof. Andrew Daniels, of the University of Jacksville, believes that this peculiar morphological feature has evolved as a defense against predators. When eating the fish, they would get drunk off the aclohol, and that this would discourage further predation of the species.
Due to its effects, the fish was rarely hunted by humans in the region, most of them being muslims, and thus shunning alcohol. A few local tribes did catch the fish for special occasions of revelry, and there was a small but constant market for it with some muslims, who saw it as a way to bypass their religion's ban on alcohol, but the population seems to have remained stable up until the late 18th century, when french colonialists discovered its existence.
The french found its flesh to be delicious, and, finding that the inhebriation that inevitably followed the consumption of the fish only made the experience more pleasurable, started catching and selling it in earnest. It did not take long for the liquor fish to become a sought-after gourmet pleasure in France, and as commerce of the animal intensified, natural populations started to come under heavy pressure, and fell rapidly.
After decolonisation in the 60's, commerce continued to drive the species towards extinction, and it seemed that it would not be long before the liquor fish was no more. However, recent conflicts in the region have discouraged most to go look for it, and populations have been recovering slowly but steadily for the past ten years. Whether this trend will continue once the situation stabilizes remains to be seen.

mercredi 25 novembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

In mid-2016, the swiss people, sick and tired of being screwed around with, launched a popular initiative to make lying a criminal offence for anyobdy acting in an official capacity granted by popular election. The initiative was voted in by a vast majority, and its effects where immediate. Over half of the acting politicians were soon stripped of office and either fined or imprisoned for breaking the new law. The political vacuum thus created had to be filled fast, but, afraid of the consequences their habits could now cause, most politicians refused to stand for election. Those who did where either a far cry away from mainstream politics, or kept their speeches to a bare minimum. The slogan of one candidate simple stated that "If I am elected, I will become an official elected by the people."
As time continued, the two strategies showed very different results. People voted consistently for the candidates making real commitments, and, after a period of "political selection", only those who did everything in their power to honor those commitments remained. And for a time, all seemed well.
Sadly, after a few years, the political elite has started to rally their troops. Trained in double speak, and backed by an army of lawyers and linguists, they spent most of their time in office fending of criminal charges. And the swiss government became little more than a reality show.
However, the people did not mind. While the political class was busy trying to prove that when they said "A", they actually meant "B", the people started making the changes they wanted to see come true by themselves. Citizen projects flourished all over the country, and a sense of solidarity and purpose took a hold of the whole country. As one citizen put it, "Once we got the politicians otherwise occupied, we where finally able to get stuff done."

lundi 23 novembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"Death is the last thing you'll ever experience, so make sure you enjoy it."

    - Anon

vendredi 20 novembre 2015

Animals that don't Exist

The Sailing Crow

The sailing crow, Corvax marinus, is a bird of ill repute and strange fascination that lives off the coast of the Irish Isles. At home on fishing boats or cargo ships, the sailing crow is said to be of foul mood and nasty temper, and there are more than a few sailors who have lost a finger to it. Yet none of them would ever try to shoo it away.
Sailing crows are said to have the ability to sense storms, and warn the crew from impending disasters. Many stories are told all over Ireland of how they saved a vessel, and of how they let another one sail to its demise after the sailors had chased it away.
Prof. Ellen Paragoda, of the Dublin Institute of Occult Biology (DIOB), has been studying the animals for several years, and has found that the science backs up the stories. Indeed, a series of laboratory experiments have confirmed that the animals can sense changes in air pressure and humidity, as well as subtle shifts in temperature, which allows them to predict the weather.
When we expose them to the same conditions that you would have on the sea when a storm is approaching, the get very agitated. They are unpleasant fellows to begin with, but they become downright nasty when they think they are in danger. I suppose some crews couldn't take it, and threw them out just before the storm hit. And others could see the warning signs for what they were, and got out of there in time.”
In recent years, due to advance in availability and capability of modern technology, the birds are less and less welcome on most ships. But there are still some sailors who believe that there is more to it than just science.

mercredi 18 novembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

After the Paris attacks of 13.11.2015, shock and outrage took a hold of France. Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy in particular could not believe the reaction of the Hollande government. "For years, my party has spent millions campaigning for less immigration, stripping criminals of their french passport, and a higher budget for the military in general and mass surveillance in particular, and we got nowhere. And now these seven guys come out of nowhere, with a measly budget of a couple thousand euros, and in less than a day, they achieve what we have been trying to do for years. It's disgusting." However, he assures voters that his party will not make the same mistakes twice. "We have a team of analysts working around the clock, and we will learn our lesson from this. Why spend hundreds of thousands on public events, when a couple of kalachnikovs will achieve the same goal in seconds?"
Meanwhile, the leadership of Les Republicain (the new name for the UMP party headed by the ex-President) has decided to sue the Hollande government for copyright infringement. "They have clearly stolen our ideas, copying our policies almost word-for-word. We believe that this is a clear case of copyright infringement, and an unethical move to confuse voters before the 2017 elections, and we will go to trial as soon as we find an open courtroom.", they said in their press-release.
Hollande responded by saying that there was "no reason" for the right to have a monopoly on totalitarian policies. "Look at Stalin. Look at Mao. The left has just as much to offer in regards to surveillance and police state than the right, if not more so.", the President was quoted as saying.

lundi 16 novembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"One hundred years after Einstein, human stupidity is still the only truly infinite quantity in the universe."

    - Stephen Hawnking, November 2015

vendredi 13 novembre 2015

Animals that don't Exist

The Dancing Mouse

The dancing mouse, Mus aliqua, is a subsepcies of the common house mouse that seems well on its way to complete speciation. As of yet undistinguishable by physical traits, it is its peculiar mating behavior that has caused the dancing mouse to be granted the status of sub-species, and which makes it very unlikely that it will mix with other, related, mouse species.
Indeed, like a number of other animals, the dancing mouse finds a partner through dance. A more or les elaborate choreography is performed by males and females together, and if both are satisfied, they will mate. Laboratory studies by Prof. Wuan Chop have shown that an essential factor determining the “success” or “failure” of the ritual is synchronization between the two partners. Which might explain the habitat preferences of dancing mice during the mating season.
Although dancing mice usually occupy a large variety of urban habitats, during mating season, they seem to gather in buildings where music is regularly played. From concert halls to night clubs, and even the occasional melophile home, it seems that dancing mice in heat are drawn to a good tune. Prof. Chop believes this is due to the fact that the constant rhythm helps them stay in synch with their partner, and increases the chances of a dance leading to mating.
We have done several experiences in the lab, and even the presence of a simple metronome will increase the chances of success by a significant margin”, he told us. However, it seems that there is more to it than just rhythm. More complicated melodies seem to have less of an impact on mating success, but correlate strongly with offspring fitness. “The trend we are seeing right now has many different aspects, and it seems that dancing mice are still trying out this new behavior. We are at the state where evolution still has to make up its mind, and the mice are trying out all sorts of combinations that might lead them to better fitness.”
If you do see a dancing mouse, please note the time, place, and location, as well as the tune it was performing to, and post them in the comments of this blog. We will then relay them to Prof. Chop, who is interested in following the evolution-in-the-making of this peculiar species.

mercredi 11 novembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

As 2015 became the first year on record to be, on average, more than one degree warmer than in pre-industrial times, this fact was not lost on american presedential candidates. Not one to let an opportunity pas by, Donald Trump quickly assured voters that if he was elected president, he would quickly change this. "In the last hundred years, and with a coordinated international effort, we only managed one degree. If I am president, I promise you that we will reach two degrees before my first term is over!"
Other candidates were quick to retaliate. Some criticised Trump's statement, saying that it would be impossible to reach the two-degree mark in less than four years in a "sustainable way", arguing that even if Trump managed the feat, temperatures would plummet again shortly afterwards, maybe even below the one-degree mark they had fought so hard to achieve. Jeb Bush said he was working on a long-term plan to suprass the two-degree mark, and that, if America was made great again, "the sky will be the limit".
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, said that immigrants would be necessary to provide a new influx of human capital that was vital to any prolonged warming, and that the republican candidates' refusal to accept this made their proposals irrealistic, if not utterly ridiculous.
After two weeks of back-and-forth, candidates were kindly informed that the goal was to reduce global temperatures, but by then it was too late. United for once, they criticised the scientific and ecological community for not being able to "think outside the box". And climate change remained one of the main subjects of the election campaign.
Not all hope is lost however, as one reader pointed out. "Seeing the track record of politicians, and how they deliver on their campaign promises, this might just be what we need to stop global warming."

lundi 9 novembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"The world better it wasn't back in the day. Ignorant of all the shit that was going down, you were."

   - Yoda, during one of Luke's "I can't do this" rants.

vendredi 6 novembre 2015

Animals that don't Exist

The Earworm

The earworm, Lombricus auris, is a parasitic species of worm that can infect a large number of mammals. Rather small in size, earworms are deadly in most cases, and responsible for a number of deaths each year. Although infections of humans have decreased significantly since the worm was first discovered in 1892 by Dr. Humphrey Earbog, the worm population seems to be thriving nonetheless, probably through a rise in infections of animal hosts.
Earworms mate only once, at the beginning of their life, and after that, they start searching for a host. The host can be almost any mammal. The worms lodge themselves in the ear of their victim (hence the name), and start manipulating the auditory signals received by their hosts. They have special appendages, called ceruchus (latin for string), which they vibrate to produce a sound that hypnotizes their victims. The host is put into a sort of trance that will cause him to wander aimlessly, which will usually result in his death through accident, either by falling down a cliff, or being attacked by a predator, etc. The worm then lays its eggs in the dead body, which will serve as nutrients for the offspring once they hatch. The young worms will feed of the cadaver, and, after mating, leave in search for their own host.
The effects of the earworm have been described by a number of historic populations around the world, from the celts of ancient britain to the Indians of South-America, and it is believed that the earworm is present all over the world.
Even though cases of death have become rare in humans, and, with the advent of modern medecin, the infection can be treated since the 1980s, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the species, driven mainly by the intelligence community, who is trying to reproduce the hypnotic effects of the worm's “song” for their own ends. Recent leaks of classified documents lead us to believe that there have been several attempts in this direction, from Britney Spears to Justin Bieber, but most of them seem to have obtained mediocre results at best.

mercredi 4 novembre 2015

Politics that didn't Happen

In late 2015, after the Safe Harbour ruling by the EU Court of Justice and the US passing CISA, many european countries decided that something should be done about the unilateral exploitation of private customer data by tech firms and the US government. Aided by the fact that, since the last elections, it contained more nationalist representatives than ever, the European parliament passed several laws which heavily restricted US access to EU data, and made the operational models of several multinational tech companies all but impossible in the EU.
Used to getting their way, the companies decided to keep doing business as usual, while threatening to relocate should the EU decide to uphold its new laws. But, due to recent tax scandals, it became clear that relocation would be far less of a loss of revenue for the concerned states than thus far believed, and, for once, states decided to enact their laws regardless.
As a consequence, most of these companies ceased to do business in the EU. But, as people were now used to, if not dependant on, these services, it didn't take long for EU-made alternatives to appear, and the market was quickly re-established. This of course caused a surge in the EU economy, just as the US one took a nosedive while the rest of the world followed the european example. However, the ball was now rolling, and it did not stop there.
Differences in national laws, as well as the prospect of boosting ones internal economy, caused the the exchange zones to become smaller and smaller, and the world slid back away from a global economy to a local one. As the size of the area of operations of each company shrunk, the salaries of the top earners did as well, while the average pay stayed relatively stable. This caused a diminution of inequality not seen since the second world war, and tensions between countries are now at an all-time low, as each one of them focuses inward to boost its own economy. Which just goes to show that, the less you have to do with others, the better you get along.

lundi 2 novembre 2015

Citations that weren't Made

"The thing I hate about sleep is that, sooner or later, you wake up."

   - Snowhite