March 1, 2016

You’ve Been Warned!


Ian K. asks: Why are taxes due on April 15th?

As Ben Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter to Baptiste Leroy, “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Depending on your belief in vampires, this is most certainly true. But did you know that income taxes in the United States didn’t exist until 1861? In fact, it wasn’t until 1913 when the income tax became the official law of the land.

The first document that governed the United States was not the Constitution, but rather the Articles of Confederation. The AOC asked each state to “enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.” What it didn’t do was give Congress, or the federal government, the power to tax. The framers of the AOC feared any centralized government, a direct result of being subjects of the British empire and forced to pay taxes with little to no say nor representation in Britain’s government. After all, “no taxation without representation” become a rallying cry used by many, including George Washington when he protested the policy in 1769 by bringing a series of resolutions before the Virginia House of Burgesses. Needless to say, the newly formed country was pretty sensitive to taxation in general. …

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: The first official tax day was March 1, 1914.

Colbert rips Trump for blaming KKK fumble on ‘bad earpiece’: ‘Take responsibility for the mouthpiece’

Stephen Colbert said Donald Trump failed the easiest political test of all when he fumbled a chance to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and arguably its most famous former leader.

The Republican presidential candidate told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he would need to do more research on the KKK or its former grand dragon, who said he’s backing Trump in the election.

“Trump needs to know before condemning David Duke or the KKK — it’s not like they’re Muslim or born in Mexico,” Colbert said. …

The Conservative Case for Donald Trump Is Laughably Thin

Hugh Hewitt is one of the most prominent figures to make the case for supporting the frontrunner if he secures the nominations—and its weakness is telling.

Some prominent movement conservatives have declared that they won’t support Donald Trump even if he wins the Republican nomination. The law professor and talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt, though, says he will support the populist businessman if he makes it to the general election. In doing so, he has become one of the most prominent right-leaning intellectuals to formulate a case that conservatives should prefer Trump to Hillary Clinton.

And the case that he makes is strikingly, tellingly weak.

“If Trump is the nominee,” Hewitt declared Monday, “I will support him for six reasons.”As it turns out, the first “three” of those “six” reasons are judicial appointments:

The first three are the existing and probable two additional Supreme Court nominations he will get to make. Judges Diane Sykes and Bill Pryor are two fine judges that Trump has mentioned as possible nominees and he made the right commitment on religious liberty to me on stage Thursday night. He won’t screw these up. More precisely, it is a lock that Clinton would screw them up and at least a fighting chance he wouldn’t.

Obama Didn’t Create Trump

The GOP’s opposition to Obama did.

Everything that’s wrong with America is Barack Obama’s fault. That’s what Republican politicians have told themselves and the public for eight years. It began before Obama took office, when Republicans blamed him for a recession that started on their watch. Now they’re blaming Obama for the rise of their own presidential front-runner, Donald Trump.

The delusion that Obama caused Trump has been building since last year. This week, it reached the last bastion of rationality on the right: New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Douthat has a long track record of fairness and good sense. When the madness infects even him, it’s time to clear the air. No, Obama didn’t cause Trump. What caused Trump was the GOP’s decision to negate Obama in every way, and thereby become the party of Trump. …

Why the Winner of Marco Rubio Versus Donald Trump Might Be John Kasich

Marco Rubio has reprogrammed his political strategy overnight. Before Thursday’s debate, his strategy relied on making himself the candidate of pan-Republicanism. His favorite and most crowd-pleasing line in debates was “I like everybody on the stage. No one is a socialist. No one here is under FBI investigation.” As recently as hours before the debate, he (or his campaign) was still using the message “I am committed to running a positive campaign.” Rubio ditched that strategy during the debate, debuting numerous new attack lines against Donald Trump. The next day, he escalated dramatically, calling Trump a “con man,” taunting that the front-runner had peed his pants during the debate, and impugning the length of his sexual organ. This was probably the only strategy available for Rubio at this point; he needs to stop Trump soon before he runs away with the race. But it also carries risks for Rubio himself.

The old Rubio strategy was not successful at winning primaries, but it was successful at making people like Rubio. Rubio has ranked at or near the top of lists of voters’ favorite second-choice candidates. As Nate Cohn points out, Rubio has time to catch up and overtake Trump, even if he loses every state on Super Tuesday. But Rubio’s strategy hinges upon successfully taking down Trump without losing his own currently wide, but relatively shallow, base of support. Will Republicans still like the new, mean, pee-pants-calling, dick-length-mocking Rubio just as much as the old, winsome version? Maybe so. …

10 Unbelievable Times Politicians Pretended Science Didn’t Exist

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the serious intellectual who once made a show where he pretended to fly a spaceship around the universe, warned that politicians “cherry-picking science” for political gain is “the beginning of the end of an informed democracy.”

Well, Neil, that “informed democracy” you speak of is well and truly over. Politicians are so ill-informed these days that they come out with some pretty ridiculous and unscientific nonsense.

10. Ted Stevens vs. The Internet

Net neutrality (also known as open Internet) has returned to the news, with communications companies fighting the FCC to give some sites priority use of their bandwidth. Under the current legislation, all Internet is created equal, with no traffic getting precedence.

In 2006, when this argument was being fought in the Senate for the first time, late Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens suggested a planned amendment to allow ISPs to control data usage. He then mounted an argument that was just plain weird. He started by talking about the then-imminent introduction of Netflix as a streaming service:

Ten [movies] streaming across that Internet and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got, an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday [a Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.

As Stevens had it, the Internet was so clogged up that “an Internet” (presumably an email) sent from his own office didn’t reach him for several days. And how did he explain the mechanics of the backlog? “The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes.” …

Angry Americans: How the 2008 Crash Fueled a Political Rebellion

► Great Recession looms large over primary-season insurgencies
► U.S. economy outpaces peers but falls short of past rebounds

The one story about the U.S. economy that has virtually no traction among American voters right now is that it’s doing OK.
Anyone inclined to tell that story, as President Barack Obama did in his final State of the Union address in January, can find headline data to back it up. But primary-season revolts — the Donald Trump mutiny against the Republican establishment, and the fiercer-than-expected challenge from Bernie Sanders against a Democratic frontrunner with all the advantages — are driven by fed-up Americans saying it isn’t so. And looking behind the headlines, the numbers might be on their side.

Unemployment at an eight-year low? Yes, but by most measures of the labor force, participation is down. More than six years of almost uninterrupted growth? Better than much of the industrialized world, for sure, but at a pace that won’t see the economy closing its output gap until 2026 at the earliest. Wage growth finally edging higher? Maybe so, in the aggregate, but not by much — and anyway, whose wages? …

As Evangelicals Lose Faith In Cruz, His Campaign Could Be Beyond Resurrection

The crux of Ted Cruz’s campaign has long been mobilizing the Christian right to his side, working to galvanize enough evangelical voters to topple Donald Trump.

The Texas senator even launched his campaign at Liberty University, which claims to be the world’s largest Christian college, declaring that “God isn’t done with America yet.”

Cruz talks with the cadence of a megachurch pastor, and exhortations of his faith are a mainstay at every campaign rally. His strategy in targeting the most conservative religious voters worked in Iowa, but the wheels came off in South Carolina and Nevada.

Now, if he can’t fully convert religious voters in many critical Southern states set to vote on Super Tuesday, his campaign could be beyond resurrection. …

10 Fascinating And Trippy Works Of Art

Art is a way for people to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. For people who use drugs or have psychiatric disorders, their artwork may provide some insight into the unusual inner workings of their minds.

10. Brian Pollett

Brian Pollett is a 20-year-old graphic designer who also goes by the name Pixel-Pusha. As a project, he decided to go on a 20-day drug binge during which he created a new design each day.

Pollett said that he tested each drug to ensure its purity and then created artwork in his studio while listening to his favorite music. The drugs included alcohol, cocaine, and more.

Pollett put his finances and his reputation on the line for this project. He said that taking the psychedelic drugs truly changed him. He believes that he is “more open, honest, empathetic, forgiving, and courageous. I am perpetually in awe at the beauty surrounding us on a daily basis.” …

China just announced one of the largest single layoffs in history

China may soon have a rust belt of its own.

Chinese officials announced plans to lay off roughly 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries, as part of president Xi Jinping’s politically difficult effort to restructure the world’s second-largest economy. It’s unclear as to the time frame for the cuts, which were announced by Yin Weimin, China’s minister for human resources and social security.

In recent decades, China built its economy on heavy state investment in export-oriented manufacturing industries. Those investments created large numbers of jobs for low-skilled people flooding China’s fast-growing cities.

But China seems to have over-invested, leaving a glut of capacity in the heavy industrial sector that has forced plants to cut prices deeply. The low prices mean those factories are effectively operating at a loss subsidized by the state. …

Italians Compare the Arrival of Starbucks to the Apocalypse

Here’s how Americans do coffee: We stroll into shops and order our lattes, often sprinkled with a dose of cinnamon or mint syrup, and hang around, sipping luxuriously on our drinks. We enjoy the Wi-Fi and the cushy couches. Sometimes, we’ll bring our laptops and try to get a couple hours of work done.

This isn’t how it works in Italy, where people stand at the espresso bar, chat for five minutes about current events or sports, and throw back a shot right there. Then they’re out. None of this lounging or taking cups on the go while hurrying to work.

Despite that great divide, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says the world-famous chain he founded was inspired by a trip he took to Italy thirty-three years ago. Even so, Starbucks never dared step foot in the country—until now. Starbucks says it plans to open its first Italian retail store in Milan by 2017. Needless to say, Italians have some opinions about this news. …


In 1983, Paul Mockapetris proposed a distributed database of internet name and address pairs, now known as the Domain Name System (DNS). This is essentially a distributed “phone book” linking a domain’s name to its address, allowing you to type in something like instead of the IP address of the website. The distributed version of this system allowed for a decentralized approach to this “phone book.” Previous to this, a central HOSTS.TXT file was maintained at Stanford Research Institute that then could be downloaded and used by other systems. Even by 1983, this was becoming a problem to maintain, which ultimately led to the Domain Name System.

In these Wild West days of the internet when domain names first began to be registered for commercial use, with kicking things off when it was registered to Symbolics Computer Corp. on March 15, 1985, few people had any idea how big the internet was going to be in the coming decades. As a result, the value of domain names was underestimated to an almost comical degree. Examples of domain names that were snapped up in the halcyon days of the early 1990s by savvy internet denizens include, (sold in 2004 for $7 million), (sold in 2011 for $11 million) and of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention which was so highly sought after a guy engaged in an Ocean’s 11 style caper to steal it. He was successful and began earning millions per year running ads on the landing page for the site before ultimately being forced to flee to Mexico five years later when he was ordered to pay $67 million to the original owner, Gary Kremen, founder of (Fun fact, Kremen stated he knew was a success when his girlfriend left him for a guy she met on…) …

People trusted this robot in an emergency, even when it led them astray

How do we stop humans putting so much faith in technology?

When it comes robots, humans can be a little too trusting. In a series of experiments at Georgia Tech that simulated a building fire, people ignored the emergency exits and followed instructions from a robot — even though they’d been told it might be faulty.

The study involved a group of 42 volunteers who were asked to follow a “guidance robot” through an office to a conference room.They weren’t told the true nature of the test.

The robot sometimes led participants to the wrong room, where it did a couple of circles before exiting. Sometimes the robot stopped moving and a researcher told the participants it had broken down.

You might expect those problems to have dented any trust people had in the robot, especially in the event of a life-or-death situation. But apparently not. …

A Thousand Midnights: A Short Film Examines the Legacy of the Great Migration

2015 marks the centennial of the beginning of the Great Migration, when six million African Americans relocated from the rural South to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West from 1915 to 1970. This short film by Carlos Javier Ortiz explores how the event created what we now consider the modern American city, particularly Chicago. Ortiz has crafted an artfully made reflection of the hope that once was very much alive for African Americans leaving the South, juxtaposed with today’s harsh economic and social realities. This film was supported by the journalism nonprofit the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. …

Tech workers are increasingly looking to leave Silicon Valley

A growing number of engineers and tech workers from the San Francisco Bay Area are looking to leave Silicon Valley for burgeoning tech hubs such as Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, according to a job-search site’s data. found that the share of searches from within the Bay Area for tech jobs outside of it is on the rise. As of Feb. 1, 35% of tech job searches on from the region were for jobs elsewhere, data from the company shows. That share, which is based on 30-day averages and adjusted for seasonal factors, was up about 30% year-over-year. …

5 Weird Ways The World Screws People With Dyslexia

Dyslexia doesn’t sound too bad, right? You simply read some letters backwards now and then. Aside from that time you tried to order your Lord Of The Rings-loving niece a 12-inch Bilbo figurine online, what’s the worst that could happen? But after talking to real dyslexics Wayne Bellamy and Thomas Ferry, we discovered that the disorder is in fact more serious than we ever thought. For example …

#5. Real Dyslexia Looks Nothing Like You Think

According to pop culture, if you want to know what it’s like living with dyslexia, check out Charlie Day’s character on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. While real dyslexics do struggle like that, the condition is a lot more complicated. There are actually 37 symptoms of dyslexia, ranging from acting disorderly to having problems concentrating or possessing poor motor skills.

As Wayne explains it: “You know that Siri question where you ask why firetrucks are red, and [she] says, ‘Because firetrucks have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight is twelve, and there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, etc’? That’s pretty much how my mind goes. I’ll appear to zone out in a conversation and then talk about something that appears off-topic [because] my brain has gone off on four tangents and arrived at Kevin Bacon.”

“Shit, his middle name is Norwood?”
“Sir, if you’re not going to order, please exit the drive thru.”

Lack of sleep alters brain chemicals to bring on cannabis-style ‘munchies’

Sleep deprivation may cause overeating by boosting chemicals for appetite as well as those that increase the pleasure of eating sweet or salty high-fat foods

Too little sleep may bring on a form of the marijuana “munchies”, say scientists who found that sleep-deprived people craved crisps, sweets and biscuits far more than healthier foods.

The US researchers believe that skimping on sleep alters brain chemicals in much the same way as the hunger-boosting ingredient in cannabis, which has long propped up snack sales at 24-hour convenience stores.

After several nights of poor sleep, healthy volunteers who took part in the study reached for snacks containing more calories – and nearly twice as much fat – than ones they favoured after sleeping well for the same period, the scientists say.

When sleepy, the participants had terrible trouble resisting the snacks, even when they were full, said Erin Hanlon, who led the study at the University of Chicago. …

Apple Wins Round One in Its Encryption Fight With the Government

A federal judge in New York rules in the company’s favor on the same legal principle that the FBI is using in California.

A federal judge in New York ruled Monday that the government can’t use a 227-year-old law to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone that may contain information useful to a criminal investigation.

The 1789 law, the All Writs Act, is also the cornerstone of the government’s argument in a related case in San Bernardino, California, where the FBI and Apple have faced off in an uncharacteristically public manner.

The Monday decision came from James Orenstein, a magistrate judge in Brooklyn, who had previously expressed doubt that the All Writs Act sanctions the government’s request of Apple.

In his opinion, Orenstein pointed to two reasons why he rejected the government’s reasoning. Orenstein said that Congress already considered legislation that would grant the government the power to ask for the assistance it seeks—but did not end up adopting it. He’s referring here a proposed extension to CALEA, a 1994 law that requires telecommunications companies to provide certain information and assistance to law enforcement. Congress debated expanding CALEA to include companies like Apple, but ultimately didn’t do so. …

10 Real People Who Might Have Inspired Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have become so ingrained in our culture that we rarely question where they came from or what may have inspired them. As is often the case, the possible truth behind these tales, and who inspired them, may be stranger than fiction.

10. Hans Christian Andersen ~ ‘The Ugly Duckling’

Hans Christian Andersen, known for writing classic stories such as “The Snow Queen,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Ugly Duckling,” may have made the latter story more autobiographical than readers might guess.

In the end, it turns out that the “ugly duckling” was really a swan whose egg accidentally rolled into a duck’s nest. Similarly, although Andersen grew up poor as the son of a shoemaker and a washerwoman, it was long rumored that he was the illegitimate son of the crown prince of Denmark. In other words, he wasn’t an ordinary duck, but rather a noble swan. …

Japan recognises ‘right to be forgotten’ of man convicted of child sex offences

Court orders Google to hide news reports of Japanese man saying criminals are entitled to have their private lives ‘respected and rehabilitation unhindered’

Japan has taken another step towards recognising “the right to be forgotten” of individuals online after a court ordered Google to remove news reports about the arrest of a man who, according to the judge, deserved the chance to rebuild his life “unhindered” by records of his criminal past.

While Japanese courts have demanded the removal of information strictly for privacy reasons, the recent ruling by Saitama district court is the first in the country to cite the right to be forgotten – something that has been enshrined in law in the European Union – in demanding the removal of personal information online, according to legal experts.

The decision in December, which was only revealed in recently unearthed court documents, is expected to ignite a debate in Japan over whether authorities can reconcile an individual’s right to have expunged details of, say, a crime committed in the distant past with freedom of information and the public’s right to know. …

The Ancient Romans That Healed Through Pleasure

Many physicians of the Classical era employed brutal practices including bloodletting and burning, but some treated patient pain with baths, naps, and wine.

When the Greek-born physician Antonius Musa successfully cured the emperor Augustus of a stubborn, life-threatening disease in 23 B.C.E, he was treated like a demigod. The people of Rome voted to erect a statue of Musa next to that of the healing god Aesculapius. Musa’s rise to fame also meant an explosion of interest in the physician’s methods. How had he managed to cure Augustus when so many others had failed? As it turned out, Musa had been trained in the teachings of the so-called Methodist sect or school of medicine, so called because its practitioners relied on practical method, methodos in Greek, rather than abstract medical dogma.

The Methodist sect had been founded about eighty years earlier by a former struggling orator named Asclepiades of Bithynia. According to the Roman encyclopedist Pliny the Elder, the self-styled doctor was no more than a snake-oil salesman who attracted patients (and filled his pockets) by promising to treat them with wine and naps rather than the more standard bloodletting and induced vomiting. Pliny explains,

[Asclepiades] devised also other pleasures, such as suspended beds, so that by rocking them he could either relieve diseases or induce sleep; again, he organized a system of hydropathy, which appeals to man’s greedy love of baths, and many other things pleasant and delightful to speak of…

The reputation of Asclepiades’s type of medicine contrasted sharply with the reputation of physicians more generally in the ancient world. Rome’s first professional physician, a Greek named Archagathus, was welcomed into the city with fanfare in 219 B.C.E., but public sentiment soon turned against him “because of his violence in cutting and burning,” according to Pliny the Elder. Soon Archagathus was nicknamed “carnifex”—the executioner—and was driven out of the city. …

This Guy Spent Four Years Creating an Imaginary Reddit for 3016

What will the Internet look like in 3016? Well, the Huffington Post will have a new name, the Galactic Security Administration will be the focus of conspiracy theorists, MindTube will tap videos right into your grey matter…and Reddit will look pretty much exactly the same.

At least according to Reddit 3016, a daily-updating art project built almost singlehandedly by Blair Erickson, which imagines the Frontpage Of The Internet for the distant future’s viral news. “There’s a ton of amazing cool shit in the site that nobody has found yet,” Erickson told Gizmodo. “Secret stuff that might blow a few minds.”

Erickson, 37, is the CEO of Jamwix—a San Francisco-based software and VFX company he founded to finish post-production on his film Banshee Chapter. He’s also a veteran Redditor, the former moderator of r/futurology, and the person responsible for one of the site’s most popular posts in 2012: a photoshopped front page set 1,000 years in the future, complete with snarky observations on the types of posts that were getting traction at the time (“Only 2990’s kids will remember this game.”) …


Jan B. asks: Who invented cottage cheese and why did they call it that?

The ancient Mesopotamians made a type of salty, sour cheese very similar to cottage cheese that dates back to at least 3000 B.C. A common legend is that it was invented when a desert traveler filled his sheep stomach saddle bags with milk prior to beginning his journey. As the traveler and his camel traversed the hot environment, between the sloshing of the bags caused by the camel’s gait, the heat of the sun, the milk and the natural rennet from the sheep stomach, the entire process produced cheese curds.

There’s probably nothing much to this story. Perhaps it was a marketing ploy of the imaginative Ancient Arabian Dairy Association… What we do know for sure is that cheese (in any form) predates recorded history. It may have originated accidentally in Arabia like the story goes, or it could be European. Wherever it happened, it does seem somewhat plausible that the practice of storing liquids in such things as bags made from animal stomachs may really have led to the accidental invention of cheese because of the rennet potentially found within. Rennet is a cocktail of enzymes that, among other things, curdles the casein in milk and is found naturally in the stomachs of ruminant mammals. …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)

How do you bring a nearly complete T. rex back to life? You send the fossils to Canada where craftsmen create a creature of steel. Come 2019, the Nation’s T. rex will live at the Smithsonian.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.