Aug 24,2007 00:00
40 - Percent more likely to survive a crash if sitting in the rear of a plane
13.5 - Minimum water content, as a percentage, that a hard popcorn kernel must contain to properly pop
Sources: David Buss and Cindy Meston, University of Texas, Austin; Popular Mechanics; "Random Kinds of Factness" by Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo (2005)
Can you decipher these phrases?
1. timing ti ming
3. 1D 2R 3A 4C 5U 6L 7A
It is not a simple life to be a single cell, although I have no right to say so, having been a single cell so long ago myself that I have no memory at all of that stage of my life.
- American Physician and Essayist Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
POETRY FOR SCIENTISTS
Some aliens landed nearby
And borrowed our neighbor, old Sy.
They returned him intact,
But tattooed with exact
Instructions for shipping by sky.
- Jane Auerbach
BRAIN SWEAT ANSWER
1. split second timing
2. income tax
3. Count Dracula
The news is bound to make grumpy old men (and women)grumpier: Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis suggest that age-related cognitive decline is at least partly the reason why older adults seem to have a tougher time understanding jokes than younger people.
The researchers tested a pool of older adults and undergraduate students at the university, giving each of them a standardized exam called the Joke and Story Completion Test, then other tests that measured cognitive abilities such as abstract reasoning, short-term memory and mental flexibility. Older adults performed less well on tests of both humor comprehension and cognitive ability. The findings support an existing theory that cognitive decline over time affects people's ability to process and understand humor.
If you want to see someone (or something) who is truly humor-impaired, check out your nearest robot. Artificial intelligence scientists have avoided trying to duplicate human humor in robots because it's too subjective, too complex and probably way too hard to program.
Until now. A pair of researchers at the University of Cincinnati has written a basic computer program that "understands" at least one kind of joke: Puns, such as "A man walks in to a bar. Ouch!"
To create the program, researchers compiled a database of words derived from a children's dictionary, to keep things simple, then supplied examples how words can relate to each other in various ways to create different meanings.
Presented with a phrase, the program analyzes the meanings of the words involved and how they relate. If it finds an incongruity, it looks for similar-sounding words. If any of those words fits in better with the rest of the sentence, it deems the phrase to be a pun.
Whether it's actually funny is an entirely different matter.
How do you know when you're out of invisible ink?
Frisbees were originally called Pluto Platters.
WHAT IS IT? ANSWER
If you answered "a bird," obviously you're right. But not just any bird.
The recurve-billed bushbird is among the rarest in the world and this is one of the first photos ever taken of it, courtesy of the Colombian bird preservation group ProAves.The bushbird is found in a tiny, remnant patch of bamboo forest in northeastern Colombia. Only a few dozen are believed to remain. The bird uses its specialized beak (which makes it look like it's smiling) to open hollow-stemmed bamboo shoots and extract grubs and other invertebrates.