What to call residents of each US state

    See below. Yes, the U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual refers to residents of Hawaii as "Hawaii residents." This change occurred last year thanks to Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) who pushed for clarification that not everyone who lives in Hawaii is a Native Hawaiian.

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    Fantastically deep history of plug & play videogame consoles

    Back in the early 2000s, cheap plug & play videogame consoles became ubiquitous. I remember spotting them for sale everywhere from toy stores to Walgreens. Self-contained systems, they integrated one or many games instead of allowing users to swap in cartridges or CDs. Today, Frank Cifaldi of the Video Game History Foundation shares the deep and geeky history of plug & play as a launching point for his research on the TV Guide Quizmaster, "something so rare it might not even exist." Below are a few bits from the thread. See the whole thing on Twitter!

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    Man who repeatedly put sleeping pills in wife's coffee sentenced to just 60 weekend days in jail

    After Therese Kozlowsk of Macomb County, Michigan filed for divorce from Brian Kozlowski, he secretly put sleeping pills in her coffee on a regular basis. When Therese felt suspiciously sick, she put hidden cameras in the kitchen and caught Brian on video. In court for the crime, Brian pleaded no contest, but he was only sentenced to spend 60 weekend days in jail. The Macomb County Prosecutors called the sentence a "slap in the face" to Therese and will appeal. From ABC News:

    "He put eight sleeping pills into that coffee pot every single day for weeks. An adult dosage according to the packaging is one. I was being hunted by a dangerous predator, but in this nightmare the predator was Brian," Therese Kozlowski told the court Thursday. “I believe this was attempted murder. Once Brian realized he lost me and there was no getting me to stay in this unhealthy marriage, his goal was to eliminate me..."

    "You shouldn't be able to commit at 15 year-felony by poisoning someone and only have to serve weekends," Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said. "It's unbelievable to me."

    image: "Cup of Coffee" by Julius Schorzman (CC BY-SA 2.0) Read the rest

    The Decoy Effect, a psychological trick that can influence what you buy and who you vote for

    The Decoy Effect is a simple but powerful trick that marketers use to influence you to buy something that is bigger or more expensive than you need or want. I fall for this every time I go to the movies and think I'm going to buy the medium popcorn but end up getting the large because it costs just a few cents more. The medium popcorn is the decoy that nudges you to buy the large. But social psychologists have also studied the Decoy Effect outside retail environments. From the BBC News:

    The decoy effect might also influence our voting in elections, and recruitment decisions. In these kinds of situations, the “decoy” may appear by accident rather than having been deliberately placed in the selection, but if you do come across two candidates who are similar, but one is slightly superior to the other, it will heighten your regard for them compared to the other competitors...

    On a more positive note, scientists in the UK have also started to consider whether the decoy effect might be used to encourage people to make healthier life choices. Christian Von Wagner, a reader in behavioural science and health at University College London, for instance, recently explored people’s intentions to undergo a vital – but unpleasant – screening for colorectal cancer. He found that given the choice between arranging an appointment for the screening or not having the procedure at all, many people chose not to go. But if he also presented them with a third option – an appointment at a less convenient hospital with a longer waiting time, ie, the decoy – the uptake was greater.

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    Fantastic Atari commercial from 1982

    This outstanding 1982 TV commercial makes me want to play my son's collection of vintage Atari 2600 games. Except, of course, for Pac-Man.

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    This tiny robot bug can survive getting stepped on

    This tiny "soft" robot, just 3cm long, zips along at 20 of its body lengths per second. It can also carry heavy things, like peanuts in the shell, but that slows it down a bit. And amazingly, you can step on it and it won't die. Over at IEEE Spectrum, Ivan Ackerman writes about the little robot developed by researchers from Tsinghua University and UC Berkeley:

    It takes a scanning electron microscope to actually see what the robot is made of—a thermoplastic layer is sandwiched by palladium-gold electrodes, bonded with adhesive silicone to a structural plastic at the bottom. When an AC voltage (as low as 8 volts but typically about 60 volts) is run through the electrodes, the thermoplastic extends and contracts, causing the robot’s back to flex and the little “foot” to shuffle...

    The researchers also put together a prototype with two legs instead of one, which was able to demonstrate a potentially faster galloping gait by spending more time in the air. They suggest that robots like these could be used for “environmental exploration, structural inspection, information reconnaissance, and disaster relief,” which are the sorts of things that you suggest that your robot could be used for when you really have no idea what it could be used for. But this work is certainly impressive, with speed and robustness that are largely unmatched by other soft robots. An untethered version seems possible due to the relatively low voltages required to drive the robot, and if they can put some peanut-sized sensors on there as well, practical applications might actually be forthcoming sometime soon.

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    Watch these wonderful bloopers and outtakes from Mister Rogers

    Nary a curse word in the neighborhood. Read the rest

    Movie theaters host "clown-only" screenings of IT: Chapter Two

    Those with coulrophobia are advised to avoid Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas during their upcoming "clown-only" screenings of IT: Chapter Two. Back in 2017, they had clown-only screenings of IT at two theaters so based on that fun, they've expanded the extravaganza to 17 locations across the country.

    According to Alamo Drafthouse, guests are “encouraged to come dressed as a clown – the wig, the makeup, the oversized pants and suspenders, the blood-curdling makeup — and sit through this coulrophobia-inducing fright fest with a theater full of fellow clowns.”

    What could possibly go wrong. Read the rest

    Child had 500 extra teeth extracted and he's going to be fine

    In Chennai, India, a 7-year-old boy went to the hospital with a swollen jaw and mouth pain. Turned out he had more than 500 extra teeth. According to Prathiba Ramani, the head of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at Saveetha Dental College and Hospital, the teeth were contained in a sac tucked inside his lower jaw. From CNN:

    "There were a total of 526 teeth ranging from 0.1 millimeters (.004 inches) to 15 millimeters (0.6 inches). Even the smallest piece had a crown, root and enamel coat indicating it was a tooth," she said.

    The boy was released three days after the surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, Ramani said.

    Ramani said the boy was suffering from a very rare condition called compound composite odontoma. She said what caused the condition is unclear, but it could be genetic or it could be due to environmental factors like radiation.

    "Doctors find 526 teeth in boy's mouth in India" (CNN) Read the rest

    Barn owls' hearing inspires new electronic devices for wayfinding

    Penn State engineers have devised a circuit inspired by the way barn owls can so precisely determine where a sound is coming from and track their prey in the dark. Eventually, this fine example of biomimicry could lead to more accurate electronic navigation devices. Essentially, the owl's brain calculates the difference between when a sound arrives at the left ear compared to the right ear and uses that information to locate the source of the sound. After that is when things get interesting. From Penn State:

    The speed of sound is faster than the owl's nerves can function so after the owl brain converts the sound to an electrical pulse, the pulse is slowed down. Then the brain's circuitry uses a lattice of nerves of different lengths with inputs from two ends, to determine which length is where the two signals coincide or arrive at the same time. This provides the direction.

    Saptarshi Das and his team have created an electronic circuit that can slow down the input signals and determine the coincidence point, mimicking the working of the barn owl brain...

    The team created a series of split-gate molybdenum sulfide transistors to mimic the coincidence nerve network in the owl's brain. Split-gate transistors only produce output when both sides of the gate match, so only the gate tuned to a specific length will register the sound. The biomimetic circuitry also uses a time-delay mechanism to slow down the signal...

    "Millions of years of evolution in the animal kingdom have ensured that only the most efficient materials and structures have survived," said Sarbashis Das.

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    Monkeys can discern the order of items in a list, a skill that may help them manage their social lives

    Many non-human animals, from apes to rats to crows, appear to be able to keep track of the order of items in a list. Read the rest

    Live mortar shell turns up at Goodwill

    Someone dropped donated a live mortar shell to Goodwill in Placerville, Califonia. While the shell, thought to be leftover from World War II, would likely have fetched more than the usual bric-à-brac on offer, the organization is clear that they don't accept donations of live ammunition. From CBS Sacramento:

    Goodwill says people often drop off items in boxes that haven’t been looked through, and sometimes the donations are from a deceased war veteran...

    “As we sort through those things we often find war memorabilia, grenades, it’s rare that we find a live grenade or any live ammunition, but when we do we have protocols in place to make sure that we dispose of it safely,” said Richard Abrusci, President and CEO of Goodwill Sacramento.

    In the case of this potentially explosive mortar, the bomb squad came in to take it away and disposed of it at Travis Air Force Base.

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    Whose rocket was bigger?

    Insert phallic joke here. Read the rest

    How the Apollo 11 rocket was projected onto the Washington Monument

    Earlier this month, I was in Washington DC during the Smithsonian's festivities around the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first human moon landing. As you likely saw, UK-based creative studio 59 Productions and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collaborated on an astonishing audiovisual experience centered around a lifesize Saturn V rocket projected onto the Washington Monument. Read the rest

    Accidental massive wave in amusement park 'tsunami pool' injures dozens

    In Longjing, China, more than 40 people were reportedly injured at the Yulong Shuiyun Water Amusement Park when an electronics failure at their "tsunami pool" generated unexpectedly massive waves. Read the rest

    Delightful deepsea encounter with a wildly cute and weird piglet squid

    This darling denizen of the deep is a Helicocranchia, aka a piglet squid. Scientists on the Ocean Exploration Trust's E/V Nautilus caught footage of the rarely seen creature at a depth of 4,544 feet near Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Pacific Ocean. The commenters' delightful descriptions really make the clip.

    (MNN via Kottke) Read the rest

    Watch boxer's incredible ability to dodge punches

    via Gfycat

    On Saturday night, junior featherweight boxer Tremaine Williams won two regional title belts by beating Yenifel Vicente. Check out this astonishing clip from the eighth round when Williams masterfully ducked and dodged punch after punch. And don't miss the slow-motion replay below.

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