Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Prescription Handguns?

Firing handguns can be difficult for folks with arthritis, as the recoil puts a good deal of stress on the wrist and hand joints, and squeezing the trigger can be impossible. Constitution Arms of Maplewood, New Jersey has created the pictured Palm Pistol, a double action 9mm single shot that supposedly is easier to control than traditional pistols by people with bad hands.

More. The device apparently is FDA approved and may soon be reimbursable under Medicare.

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December 6, 2008 Posted by | Guns, Health Care, Weirdness | 1 Comment

Betting on God

Since opening its book just two months ago, punters hoping to have their faith rewarded have placed £5,000 with Paddy Power.

It began taking bets on the question that has plagued thinkers for centuries in September, to coincide with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider that physicists hope may lead to the discovery of an elusive sub-atomic object called the “God particle”.

Initially the odds that proof would be found of God’s existence were 20-1, and they lengthened to 33-1 when the multi-billion pound atom smasher was shut down temporarily because of a magnetic failure.

But interest in the wager has increased greatly following the recent launch of a campaign to have atheist adverts placed on London buses declaring that “there’s probably no God”.

As a result of a flurry of small bets Paddy Power, which also runs books on who will be the next Pope and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has cut the odds on proof being found of God’s existence to just 4-1.

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November 7, 2008 Posted by | Science, Theology, Weirdness | Leave a comment

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

It’s rather old, I know, but I found this transcript of an internet chat involving Koko the “talking gorilla” unintentionally hilarious. Some excerpts:

HaloMyBaby: Is Koko aware that she’s chatting with thousands of people now?
LiveKOKO: Good here.
DrPPatrsn: Koko is aware.
HaloMyBaby: I’ll start taking questions from the audience now, our first question is: MInyKitty asks, Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?
LiveKOKO: Pink
DrPPatrsn: We’ve had earlier discussion about colors today
LiveKOKO: Listen, Koko loves eat
HaloMyBaby: Me too!
DrPPatrsn: What about a baby? She’s thinking…
LiveKOKO: Unattention
DrPPatrsn: She covered her face with her hands….which means it’s not happening, basically, or it hasn’t happened yet.

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August 15, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights, Weirdness | Leave a comment

How to Be Batman

Battling bad guys. High-tech hideouts. The gratitude of the masses. Who at some point in their life hasn’t dreamed of being a superhero? Impossible, right? Or is it? Possessing no supernatural powers, Batman is the most realistic of all the superheroes. His feats are achieved through rigorous training and mental discipline, and with the aid of fantastic gadgets. Drawing on his training as a neuroscientist, kinesiologist, and martial artist, E. Paul Zehr explores the question: could a mortal ever become Batman? Zehr discusses the physical and skill training necessary to maintain bad-guy-fighting readiness while relating the science underlying this process, from strength conditioning to the cognitive changes a person would endure in undertaking such a regimen. In probing what a real-life Batman could achieve, Zehr considers the level of punishment a consummately fit and trained person could handle, how hard and fast such a person could punch and kick and the number of adversaries that individual could dispatch, what it would be like to fight while wearing a batsuit, and the amount of food one would have to consume each day to maintain vigilance as Gotham City’s guardian.

More. An interview with the author in Scientific American can be found here.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Weirdness | Leave a comment

Chessboxing

Mathematics student Nikolai Sazhin, 19, competing under the name “The President” knocked out a 37-year-old German policeman Frank Stoldt, who served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo until recently.

The loser said he was simply too punch-drunk to fend off checkmate.

“I took a lot of body-blows in the fourth round and that affected my concentration. That’s why I made a big mistake in the fifth round: I did not see him coming for my king,” he said.

Berlin is home to the world’s biggest chess boxing club with some 40 members and it is in an old freight station here that the two men settled the matter early yesterday.

The match began over a chess board set up on a low table in the middle of a boxing ring.

Stripped to the waist, wearing towels around their shoulders and headphones playing the lulling sound of a moving train to drown out the baying crowd, the men played for four minutes.
Then off came their reading glasses and on went the gloves and the mouthguards.

For three minutes they beat each other and then, when the bell went, the chess board was back in the ring and they picked up the gentlemanly game where they had left off. Continue reading

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Sports, Weirdness | Leave a comment

Rules of the Road

Suppose the government were to announce tomorrow that it was no longer going to enforce any of its traffic laws. Stoplights would continue to work, parking spaces would still be clearly marked according to type, etc., but if a cop saw you run a red light or park in a no parking zone, he would be powerless to do anything about it (other than give you a dirty look). What effect would this new policy have on people’s behavior?

My guess is that things would change a lot less than we might expect. Continue reading

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Driving, Law, Weirdness | Leave a comment

Veggie Rights

Sometimes is seems like every day the line between parody and reality gets a little harder to draw. To wit.:

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring “account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms.” No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” is enough to short circuit the brain.

A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim “absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.” Continue reading

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Environmentalism, Humor, Morality, Weirdness | Leave a comment

Words Fail Me

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Election, Weirdness | 3 Comments

The World’s First Vegetarian

The world’s first vegetarian, Cain*, was also the world’s first murderer. Coincidence? Not according to the folks at the aptly named VegetariansAreEvil.com:

In Genesis , Chapter Four, Eve bears Cain and Abel. ‘And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.’ That ‘but’ in the middle of the sentence is the first clue to disapproval. This disapproval is confirmed by verses three to five. Abel and Cain bring offerings to God: Abel of his sheep and Cain, the fruits of the ground. God, we are told, had respect for Abel’s carnivorous offering, but He had no respect for Cain’s vegetarian one.

Never forget – it was the vegetarian Cain who murdered the shepherd Abel. Continue reading

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights, Humor, Scriptire, Weirdness | Leave a comment

If Reanimating the Dead is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right

The theme of bringing people back from the dead has been a theme of science fiction and horror at least since the time of Mary Shelley, generally with the underlying moral lesson being that it’s bad bad bad. But as Eve Tushnet notes, the moral argument underlying such a message is often lacking:

most “came back wrong” stories rely on an over-easy assertion that it’s wrong to cheat death without any sense of why that might be true. My most blatant example of this is the Buffy episode right after “The Body”–I can’t remember the title, but if you’ve seen it you know the one I mean–where there’s an explicit conversation about why bringing back the dead might be wrong, but you never get anything beyond, “Uh, it might not work.”Pet Sematary, I think, actually shows the protagonist’s confusion of love with self-comfort and self-projection from fairly early on in the story–what he wants back is only partly the dead beloved. Mostly he wants to stop hurting–which is incredibly sympathetic… but not quite the same thing. And so it makes sense to me that he gets back nothing but a familiar skin filled with projected horror.

Part of me wants to say that the reason it’s hard to give a justification for the claim that it’s wrong to bring back the dead is because the claim is false. Continue reading

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Morality, Weirdness | 2 Comments