Italy Charges Seismologists with Manslaughter for Failure to Predict Deadly Earthquake

Italy has filed charges of manslaughter against the president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, and six other scientists, for failing to predict the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake that killed 308 people.

While most scientists believe that earthquakes are inevitable – and that their occurrences are usually not matters of “if” but of “when” – they also agree that it is virtually impossible to predict when they will strike.

The decision to try the six members of a committee tasked with determining the risk of an earthquake in the area (along with a government official) was announced by Judge Giuseppe Romano, according to the American Associate for the Advancement of Science.

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the indictment on manslaughter charges says the seven defendants provided “imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information,” in a press conference six days before the deadly quake struck. In so doing, they “thwarted the activities designed to protect the public.”

Scientists have searched for indicators of pending earthquakes for centuries, monitoring everything from small quake “storms” to animal behavior in the hours and days before quakes have hit. To date, there are no known methods considered valid or reliable for accurately predicting earthquakes.

Those crazy Italians, huh?


University of Colorado Sues Manufacturer Over ‘Defective Toilet Paper’

Crappy toilet paper creates quite a stink on campus

Apparently there’s such a thing as defective toilet paper. No moving parts. No electronics. By all accounts, toilet paper is a pretty simple concept.

So what exactly constitutes defective toilet paper, you ask?

Let’s check in with the University of Colorado, who is suing companies in San Diego and Phoenix over defective toilet paper after amassing $40,000 in plumbing fees over the past few years.

Apparently, defective toilet paper has created quite a stink in Boulder: bubbling toilets, toilets that wouldn’t flush – and toilets that have overflowed –  causing flooding and backed up drains.

The university claims there were flooding issues in 27 buildings in the spring of 2009 alone, which begs the question: Why did it take two years and a toilet-flooding epidemic before anyone thought to check out the toilet paper? I’m no toilet paper engineer, but that’s one of the first things I’d consider under such crappy circumstances.

Steve Spangler, an author known in Boulder as “Science Guy,” says toilet paper manufacturers must walk a fine line between producing tissue that is too thin and will tear too easily, and making tissue that is too tough and will not disperse properly when flushed. (Not to mention the other – more relevant – issues related to “tough” toilet paper.)

Spangler speculated that thecompanies may have over-corrected – following earlier complaints – by toughening the toilet paper too much. Ouch.

“Maybe there was a complaint that it was not as strong as it needed to be, and someone made an adjustment and didn’t go back and test it again,” he said. “I have a feeling their research and development department will be much stronger after the lawsuit.”

One wonders just exactly what transpires in the research and development department of a toilet paper manufacturer? Never mind.

Study Claims Swearing Can Help Relieve Pain

Screaming #$@%! just might help things after all

The next time you hurt yourself, try screaming your favorite swear words at the top of your lungs. It just might help numb the pain. That’s what new research suggests anyway.

Scientists at Keele University have found that swearing can have a powerful painkilling effect, particularly for people who don’t normally swear. (Relax, there’s still some benefit in it for the rest of us.)

To test the theory, student volunteers placed their hands in buckets of ice cold water while swearing repeatedly.

The exercise was conducted a second time with the volunteers uttering harmless phrases throughout instead of swearing.

Researchers found that the students were able to keep their hands submerged in the icy water for longer periods of time while repeating swear words — establishing a link between swearing and an increase in pain tolerance. They also found that the pain-numbing effect was four times more effective in volunteers who did not normally swear. (No %@!#?)

According to the researchers, the study proves that the response caused by screaming obscenities is not only emotional, but physical as well. This may explain why the age-old practice developed in the first place, and why we persist in embracing it with such exuberance today. (Well #%!& me, I would’ve never guessed)

Dr Richard Stephens, who worked on the project, said: ”Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon.” (No $%#@, Sherlock)

”It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Our research gives us one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists.”

It’s about %$#&*!! time somebody figured this %$#@ out.

So You Think Things Couldn’t Get Any Worse, Huh?

It’s happened six times in our peaceful little planet’s violent past

Have you ever wondered what would happen if an asteroid hit the earth, just as one did over four billion years ago? Actually, come to think of it, I have. Let’s assume that asteroid is 300 miles in diameter — larger than the main island of Japan. Oh yeah, it’s the same size as the one that dropped by last time.

First, the crust of the earth would be “peeled away like an orange skin.” Debris the size of city blocks would be hurled into space. The rim of the crater would be higher than any mountain range on earth today. After that, things take a turn for the worse:

So you’ve been in situations where you’ve felt “the heat?” Let’s talk about HEAT. The earth could get as hot as the surface of the sun. Accordingly to Brown University’s Dr. Peter Schultz, the energy would “literally fry all living organisms” on the planet. (Thus depriving health nuts of requesting broiled salmon for dinner that evening)

One day after impact, all life on the planet would be vaporized and the earth would look like this:

The oceans would start to bubble and boil. One month later, they would be gone completely. (Which of course, would have a devastating impact on ocean-front property values)

Scientists believe similar impacts have happened six times in the earth’s history. Were it to happen today, the only upside I see is politicians and special interest groups wouldn’t be around to blame each other.

Wanna see more scary details? Watch the video:

In the spirit of “it could be worse,” yep, it sure could. Our goofy pal in the upper right hand corner might even agree. Or maybe not.

These Are Some Ugly-Ass Creatures

Sam, the Chinese Crested. The ugliest dog on the planet. Discussion over.

The Aye Aye of Madagascar. Maybe more weird than ugly. Either way, wouldn’t want him in my lap.

The Sphynx Cat. Ugly – and hairless on top of it.

The Blobfish. Creature from the Black Lagoon looking, isn’t it?

The Star Nosed Mole. Snotty looking creature too.

The Naked Mole Rat. Damn.

The Tarsier. Okay, maybe not ugly, but REALLY CREEPY.

The Hatchet Fish. I got nothin’.

The Goblin Shark. Looks like a 5th grader made this for science class, doesn’t it?

The Proboscis Monkey. If you like big noses, this guy makes Jimmy Durante look like Brad Pitt.

It’s What’s for Dinner

You might want to rethink that trip to New Guinea

Remember the Beef Industry Council’s advertising campaign several years ago featuring the Sam Elliott voice-over? “Beef, it’s what’s for Dinner.” Loved that. Usually made me hungry too.

If you’re planning your own little National Geographic type safari to the jungles of Papau New Guinea anytime soon, you just might want to give some serious thought to booking a different trip. Perhaps a ride or two on Disney World’s Jungle Cruise would be a bit more appetizing – or should we say less appetizing?

Okay, this is no laughing matter for members of one particular tribe in New Guinea. Especially those who have been eaten by other members. The “what’s for dinner?” question takes on a whole new meaning with these people.

Yep, there’s a tribe in Papua who “meats” out justice by eating members who end up on the wrong side of the local witch doctor. (yeah, I knows it’s “metes” but I couldn’t resist.) Following a ritualistic sing-sing ceremony, the name of the offending party mysteriously ends up in the ear of the “magic man.” Needless to say, this is a rather unfortunate turn of events for the soon-to-be main course.

These folks proceed to kill and eat those potentially tasty, yet unfortunate souls whom they believe have “caused illness” which brings harm to their village. The tribe is perfectly fine with their dinner selection (buffet style) since they no longer view suspected culprits as human; they have become witches; witches who must be snacked on to be destroyed.

So how often does this happen you ask? Apparently not frequently enough for human entrées to show up as “daily specials” at any of the jungle’s popular dining establishments. Once every six months or so appears to be the norm, although I’m sure more than a few members of the tribe would say that’s often enough, thank you.

Okay, let’s get down to the morbid nitty gritty: What exactly do people taste like? “Rather delicious,” says one tribe member. I was hoping “chicken” would be the answer. Not only did a bit of research on the subject prove to be inconclusive; I’m now afraid the police are gonna show up at the door asking: “Why did you Google ‘what does human meat taste like?’” While nobody seems to know for sure, rumor has it that human pot roast tastes similar to veal, or a “sweet” variation of beef.

Okay, I could get by without knowing that.

At any rate, human meat is an excellent source of protein and it does cure witches. You can’t say that about your mom’s pot roast now, can you?

Call me crazy, but I’ll betcha “eat me” is not a very popular saying in the jungles of Papau New Guinea.

Flipping Off the World: One Finger at a Time

The universal gesture of mankind

There are many variations to it, and there are many names for it: “flipping the bird, “giving the finger,” “the highway salute,” “the New York hello,” “the double barrel salute,” “the one-finger victory salute,” just to name a few.

Call it what you will; we’ve all done it, and we’ve all had it done to us. Most of us assume that the act of giving someone the finger is a contemporary gesture. In reality, this non-verbal method of telling people to “stick it where the sun don’t shine” can be traced back to ancient Rome and the Greco-Roman Empire.

So who flipped off whom first?

Perhaps my favorite explanation of the origin of “the finger” dates to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, when French soldiers, anticipating victory over the English, proposed cutting off the middle fingers of all English prisoners. Without their middle fingers, the story goes, it would be impossible for them to draw their renowned English longbows and would therefore be incapable of fighting in the future.

This famous weapon was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as “plucking the yew,” or “pluck yew.” Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English achieved a major victory and began mocking their defeated rivals by wagging their middle fingers and proclaiming: “See, we can still pluck yew! PLUCK YEW!” I’m sure you can extrapolate from here.

While it sounds like the perfect beginning for our favorite obscene gesture, allusions to the middle finger go back as far as early Mediterranean cultures and variations of it can be tracked across every civilization with a written history.

It is identified as the digitus impudicus (impudent finger) in Ancient Roman writings, while reference to the use of the middle finger is also found in ancient Greek comedy as a means of insulting another person. The Emperor Caligula insulted people by making them kiss his middle finger instead of his hand. Augustus Caesar expelled entertainers from his presence with an obscene wave of his middle finger.

The earliest recorded mention of the finger is in the play “The Clouds,” written by the Greek dramatist, Aristophanes in 423 B.C. Even then, the use of the middle finger had a clear, obscene connotation. Most experts doubt that the ancient Greeks were the original flippers of the bird however. More likely, bird flippage goes all the way back into prehistory. Just imagine it for a moment: Cave guys flipping off other cave guys for ogling their cave babes!

The extension of the middle finger and the long arm of the law

So where does the law come down on flipping the bird? In most jurisdictions, while it’s not technically illegal to give someone the finger, flipping off the wrong cop at the wrong time can cost you some money, land you in jail, or both. If you do end up in the pokey, it will likely be based on a charge of disorderly conduct or creating a public nuisance.

So, you may get off with as little as a $20 fine, or you may spend up to a year in jail, depending on extenuating circumstances. Either way, think twice before you honor that police officer with the single finger salute. (Although, if I thought I could do it and get away with the $20 fine, I’d probably go for it too.)

Completely logical reasons for flipping someone off

Legal, shmegal. Regardless of potential jail time or fines, there are instances when it’s not only appropriate to flip someone off, it’s damn necessary. Particularly when you’re too out of your mind to say anything intelligent, or you’ve concluded that the only other viable alternative is to break the enemy’s face:

  • When someone cuts you off in traffic. Use both hands if you even suspect the idiot did it on purpose. If you’re positive that he intentionally cut you off, roll down the window and scream “F**k You” as loud as you can while extending both arms out the window to make sure the bastard sees them.
  • In response to a bad call by a referee or umpire. In most cases, you should also scream obscenities at the offending official at the top of your lungs. The larger and more boisterous the crowd, the louder you must scream. If the official reacts by glaring at you like he wants you dead, you’ve scored.
  • During a meeting when someone interrupts you. While this is completely eligible offense, proper discretion is advised: If you wear glasses, pretend to adjust them on the bridge of your nose with your middle finger. It’s critical to make a fist with your other fingers so the obnoxious jackass will have no doubt about what just happened. This method is considered to be very impressive if at least one other person sees you do it. The more, the better. This option is also very appropriate in church, bookstores, educational settings, and all other quiet places.
  • When you’re being chased by someone you’ve just insulted.While flipping off the occupant(s) of the other car can be extremely satisfying, there are multiple factors to consider before you pull the trigger:
    • Whether or not you’re driving the faster car
    • The number of bad guys in the other vehicle
    • Regardless of what a bad ass you are, they could be packing heat
    • In the event that the enemy catches you, your degree of confidence that you can beat his ass. The chance of this outcome decreases proportionately with the increase in the number of equally pissed-off occupants in the other car.
  • When you’re losing an argument with your significant other. This is without doubt the most common reason of all for flipping someone off, but you’ll need a few basic skills to achieve the desired result:
    • It’s much more effective if you simultaneously scream “F**k You” at the top of your lungs.
    • The closer you get your face to that of your beloved, the more impact you’ll have. If you can get close enough so the spit flying from your mouth lands on your honey’s face, it’s a home run. (that you’ll replay over and over in your mind as you’re trying to sleep on the couch.)
    • Don’t flip your sweetie off too often though; it will lose its impact during those times when you really need a victory.

Next time you give someone the finger – get creative!

While most of us have perfected our own personal styles when it comes to giving someone the finger, here are a few of the more creative methods you can use to impress bad drivers, significant others, irritating strangers, and anyone else who deserves to be flipped off.

The Snake Charmer: Make a fist with your left hand and hold it, knuckles out, in front of your chest. Grab your Punji flute in your right hand and begin to play traditional Indian snake charming music. Rock the Punji side-to-side as you play. Slowly raise the middle finger of your left hand, rocking it side- to-side as well, until it is fully extended.

Bad Reception: Make a fist with your right hand and hold it to your right ear. Act as if you are in the middle of a phone call. Pretend you’re experiencing weak signal strength, perhaps by saying “What? What? I can’t hear you,” for maximum effect. With your left hand, grab the tip of the middle finger on your right hand and raise it to its full extension. With your middle finger fully extended in your adversary’s face, say: “It’s for you.”

The Usual Suspects: Make a fist with your hand and hold it about a foot in front of your face. Raise your pinky, look at if for a second, shake your head and say, “No, it’s not that guy.” Next, raise your ring finger and repeat the same words. Do the same with your middle finger. Now raise your index finger and exclaim, “Wait, go back to that last guy!” Lower your index finger and raise your middle finger again, saying, “That’s the guy; I’d recognize ‘F**k You’ anywhere!”

The Divorce: Extend the index and middle fingers of your right hand and spread them apart. Make your index finger say, “I love you.” Your middle should reply, “I love you too.” At this point bring your two fingers together so they are snuggly fitted against each other. Now say, “Aww, how sweet.” But there’s trouble in paradise: Slowly separate the fingers as you ad lib a fight between them until they have returned to their starting positions. Finally, make your index finger say, “I’m leaving you,” to which the middle finger replies angrily: I’m leaving you and I’m never coming back!” Lower your index finger, leaving your middle finger extended. Say, “F**k you,” as if calling after the index finger. Then look into the eyes of your victim and say, “F**k You Too!”

The Curl: Lower both arms to the sides of your body and extend your middle fingers. Slowly, and with a lot of feigned effort, raise both arms as if curling a barbell. For added effect, shout out phrases such as, “Get Jacked!” or “That’s it, that’s it, you’re almost there!”

Flipping the bird around the world

For all you world travelers, I suggest you familiarize yourself with bird-flipping customs around the globe. In the event you find yourself in an emotionally charged situation in a foreign land, you’ll want to be sure to use the culturally-proper gesture. This will not only ensure that you achieve the desired effect; you’ll also impress your host(s) by demonstrating your respect for their respective culture(s).

While flipping someone off is a universally recognized symbol of disrespect as far away as India, Pakistan and other South Asian nations, other cultures have proudly developed their own variations.

For instance, the two-finger method, delivered with the back of the hand facing the subject of the insult, is practiced in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand. The Russian equivalent is the bent elbow, which is also used in Poland, Italy and the Ukraine.

In certain African countries and the Caribbean, flashing all five fingers at someone with the palm facing the recipient is analogous to calling the person a bastard child with five fathers. Damn.

A similar gesture – with fingers spread widely – is the “moutza,”which is Greece’s contribution to the world of obscene hand gestures.

And of course my hands-down favorite is China, where the pinky finger is used instead of the middle one. (Hmm, wonder why that is?)

So there you have it. If you’ve read this far, you now know more about the middle finger than you ever thought you would, huh? The next time that rude idiot takes your parking spot, or your loved one irritates the living hell out of you, just remember as you’re firing up the bird; the simple gesture you’re about to make has a very rich history my friend. Respect it.

We may have thrown Latin onto the dustbin of history, but the middle finger is more popular today than ever. Aristophanes would be proud indeed.