Aliens on Titan, creepy robots, Joan of Arc kicks butt, and instant Harry Potter

  • Trigger for autoimmune disease? Bacteria in the intestine could be the trigger for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, and many more. The findings of a study at Harvard Medical School seem to show conclusively that the introduction of segmented filamentous bacteria into arthritis-prone but otherwise healthy mice triggered the onset of arthritis within a matter of days. See the full article at Science Daily. Photo below: This might be segmented and filamentous, but it’s not the segmented filamentous bacteria. (It’s actually a balloon animal made by aliens on a Saturnian moon — perhaps. Read on.)
  • Aliens on Titan might make balloon animals like this.

    Methane-based creatures on Titan: It sounds way too much like something from a low-budget sci-fi movie, but in fact there’s at some evidence to suggest that on Saturn’s moon Titan there might be — long-shot might be — some strange new form of life that is based on methane. If such a thing could exist it’s theorized it would feed on acetylene (yes, the stuff used for fuel on welding torches) (I’m not making this up) and hydrogen. Based on extensive data from the Cassini space probe, something on Titan does seem to be consuming hydrogen and acetylene, and in theory that could be a sign of very primitive and certainly exotic creatures. (I think it could also be very advanced and very artistic aliens who make hydrogen-filled balloon animals and welded metal artwork, but that theory doesn’t seem to be in the running.) See the full story — it’s really rather interesting, though I’m not giving up on the alien balloon animals.

  • Have you watched the Harry Potter movies? No? I have, and they’re OK if there’s no other movie on the flight. But there’s a better way: Harry Potter in 5 seconds. (Well, it actually runs 26 seconds.) If you want to quick-watch some other films you’d rather skip there’s All Rocky movies in 5 seconds, The Matrix in 5 seconds (optional: How The Matrix should have ended), and Transformers in 5 seconds. Trust me, with the 5-second versions of these movies you’re not missing anything.
  • Feed your Prudent Paranoia: All your Web communication should be private from prying eyes. Unfortunately it’s not: 99+ percent of what you send and receive over the web is in the clear, readable by anyone at Starbucks or anywhere else where your wire or wireless can be reached. So here’s a solution (or at least a good start at a solution): the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in for the FireFox browser. It’ll ensure all your communication with supporting sites (some of the most common ones like Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, and the list keeps growing) will be HTTPS encrypted at all times. That’s a very good thing.
  • “But what if I’m not using Firefox?” Simple: Then you’re not serious. Get it — it’s free (the maker, Mozilla, is a non-profit corporation), it works very well, and the myriad free plug-ins available make it by far the best browser going for any platform (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, others). Really, Firefox is the only real choice if you’re serious about your privacy and security.
  • Self-assembling robot: Watch this. Then see the full article.
  • On this day in history: In 1429 Joan of Arc kicked some English butt at the Battle of Patay, turning the tide of the Hundred Years’ War. Less than a year later she was captured in battle by the Burgundians (yes, the ones who make the red wine). She made an amazing escape by jumping out a window 70 feet high into a soft moat, but captured again. The weaselly French king for whom she had so valiantly fought, Charles VII, refused to ransom her, so she was in effect sold to the same English whose derrière she had so recently punted. Under the English she was convicted by an ecclesiastical kangaroo court, sentenced to death (very irregular on a first conviction for heresy, but it was a most kangaroo of courts), and on May 30, 1431 she was burned at the stake. After she expired in the flames the English executioner (who later feared for his soul for having executed her) raked back the coals to expose her body to prove to onlookers she had not escaped, then burned her body twice more to ensure there would be no relics to collect, and finally her ashes scattered in the River Seine. But that was not the end of it: Twenty-one years later in 1452 Pope Callixtus III authorized a new investigation of her case, a formal appeal was filed in 1455, theologians from all over Europe studied the testimony of the 115 witnesses against her, in June 1456 she was declared a martyr, and on July 7, 1456 she was formally declared not guilty. It was most unfortunate that, even after having been declared not guilty, she was still dead.

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