Tag Archives: urban legend

The Global Genetic Coronal Phosphorescent Thermohaline Economic Asteroid-Earthquake Singularity War That Will Doom Us All

“The Last Day of Pompeii” by Karl Briullov.

In the real world, disasters aren’t just a matter of scale – they’re a question of preparedness and of a society’s capacity to handle the fallout. Vaccines, rapid-response teams and early-warning systems can move the needle from calamity toward recovery, while poverty, corruption and ignorance slide it toward catastrophe. So, cue announcer: “In a world … where real disasters aren’t single events that arise from simple problems that are solvable in 93 minutes  …”

10 Possible Future Disasters

A Bizarre Bazaar of Food Facts

Smashed buildings and detritus litter a flooded street following the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919.
The aftermath of the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919. Photo courtesy Globe Newspaper Co.

Food is both mundane and magical, ephemeral and essential – the ultimate cultural touchstone. Our religions proscribe taboo foods, oblige sacred meals and employ food as a conduit for sacred power. Our myths abound with divine edibles that grant gods immortality, while our folktales counsel against feasting in fairyland lest we trap ourselves forever.

But for all the reverence we pay them, many comestibles arose from humble, bizarre or even disgusting sources, while what we choose, or are compelled, to eat is driven by everything from necessity to neurosis. For better or worse, food scientists, molecular gastronomists and, yes, marketing  firms channel these impulses in profitable (if not always healthy directions). The results are, shall we say, appetizingly bizarre …

10 Weird-but-true Food Facts

The Science Behind Weather Superstitions

Photo of Grounghog Day from Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Ignore the shadow of the lowland marmot at your peril! (Or not). Photo by Anthony Quintano.

Weather. It can destroy homes and harvests, shut down entire regions and re-sculpt coastlines in a matter of hours. It’s small wonder we tend to be a bit superstitious about the subject, or that we’re loath to let go of the received wisdom of family, friends and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Then again, maybe those old wives tales contain a kernel of truth. Sometimes there’s a reason to the rhyme, as I reveal in this list of …

10 Scientifically Sound Weather Superstitions

The Scientist and the Sea Serpent

Monstrous tree roots break the surface of the sea, silhouetted by the sun.
Sea monster — or tree trunk? Photo by Colin Park.

Most seafaring cultures have sea monster myths or folktales. They are preserved in manuscripts, in the margins of old maps, on the walls of Hindu temples and in the rock carvings of American Indians. Tales tell of monstrous sea gods and their fearsome servants as well as other assorted briny beasts. But is there a drop of truth to any of these tall tales? And how might we find out? Join me as I explore…

How Sea Monsters Work

The Causation-Correlation Conflation

Not equal signThe question of cause  has haunted science and philosophy from their earliest days, in part because humans are wired for pattern-matching and confirmation bias. For all our supposed rationality, we confuse coincidence with correlation and correlation with causality.

Consequently, scientists must carefully design and control their experiments to remove bias, circular reasoning, self-fulfilling prophecies and hidden variables. They must respect the requirements and limitations of their methods, draw from representative samples and not overstate their results. Sometimes, however, that’s easier said than done. Read on to hear about…

10 Correlations that are Not Causations