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Comment Bomb Threat at Bomb Drill (Score 1) 186

Actually, the HHG0A was ideal. Sucker the bomb squad in, make them think it's a false alarm and then kill them as they stand around the HHGOA laughing.

Years ago, there was a mass casualty drill at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Near the end of the drill, someone put a large bag in the decon area. I don't know if this was something the Feds did as part of the drill or if someone just left a bag in the wrong place.

Someone attempted to declare an emergency and cordon off the area. By that point, most people were exhausted and sick of the drill--and they simply ignored the cordon. The drill fell apart at that point. They "knew" it wasn't a bomb.

I was cold, soaked from d-con and only wearing a pair of swim trunks when I walked past the suspicious bag. I remember thinking that if someone had wanted to kill a whole lot of EMS, police and fire (even most of the victims were off-duty public safety), a bomb in that bag would have done it. And at that point, I didn't care.

That's exactly the sort of stuff that gets you hurt or killed.

I'm in a new line of work now.

Comment Re:Wouldn't it be crazy... (Score 3, Interesting) 110

I did a calculation a while back, assuming that the rule of thumb on earth held on Titan: reaction rates drop 50% for 10 degree drop in temperature. Using an estimate for the time required to develop life on Earth, the calc indicated it would be unlikely to have developed on Titan within the lifetime of the universe.

Of course, there are quite a few problems with that analysis:
  1. Different chemical system might make the reaction rate different.
  2. That's a long way to push a law that obviously fails at the freezing temp of water.
  3. If life formed on Earth much sooner than the estimate I used, again the number might be off.

Then again, what would be the information molecule? DNA is a polymer with subunits that can encode information. There aren't a lot of methane-soluble polymers that would make for good information storage.

Then again, maybe I'm not thinking outside the box and something radically different would be used.

Life on Titan is unlikely, but I think we'd be making a big mistake assuming it's impossible.


Submission + - Hydrocarbon Rain Swells Titan's Lakes (

Rob Carr writes: "According to the Cassini team, 'Recent images of Titan from NASA's Cassini spacecraft affirm the presence of lakes of liquid hydrocarbons by capturing changes in the lakes brought on by rainfall.' The northern lakes are now larger following a period where hydrocarbon clouds covered their skies. This change adds to the evidence these areas are indeed hydrocarbon lakes. But this discovery raises several more questions: where is the methane in the atmosphere coming from and, how long can this complex hydrocarbon cycle on Titan go on? The new evidence emphasizes the need for another mission to Titan."

Comment Re:They could also tell a lot about (Score 1) 62

  1. Not all environments provide unlimited food at all times. Don't forget, in Australia, parrots are often considered agricultural pests. Until significant farming took place, they didn't have such an availability of food as they do now. Macaws in the Amazon have to eat clay to be able to deal with the toxins in their environment. Picking undigested food out of their poop may provide an advantage, the clay having leached many of the toxins out already.
  2. Many parrots are ground birds (African greys have a digging instinct that's hysterical) or live in such large groups that poop is unavoidable (budgerigars).
  3. Our African greys are fastidious about their poop, although they're surprisingly fond of getting their poop on other birds or humans (my grey targets me--never does it to my wife, of whom she's jealous.
  4. There are significant variations between individual birds, various species,health and possibly even "pecking order" in the flock.

Note: If you own a pet bird, cleanliness of the bird and the bird's environment is very important. In this discussion, I've mixed a combination of wild behaviors with what parrots often instinctively do in captivity. Poop does provide healthy bacteria, but it can also provide a vector for diseases. Except for rare cases like treatment with powerful antibiotics or hand-feeding from day 1, keep all dirt to a minimum to keep your parrot and you healthy.

Comment Re:They could also tell a lot about (Score 1) 62

Our two African greys don't seem to like regular TV. They may need HD, too.

The cockatoo loves TV. He will watch Barney the dinosaur until my eyes and ears bleed, and hates raptors on Animal Planet. Strangely, he likes Corwin Presents, except for that episode with the anaconda.

He hates the weather channel, too, but he was rescued Hurricane Andrew. Not a fan of big winds.

Comment Re:They could also tell a lot about (Score 4, Interesting) 62

Parrots can engage in corporophagia--they eat parrot poop. If they didn't digest the food completely the first time, they'll get it the second. Their guts are short so their food has a short residence time. The things you do for flight!

It's also how they spread good intestinal bacteria among the flock. If we are forced to hand-feed a parrot chick from day one, we mix some of the mother's feces in the formula for the first week or so. Survival rate improves dramatically, although feeding a bird the size of your little fingernail is still iffy (parakeets and bourkes).

If the recent information on termites is correct, sharing feces may be one strategy for forming societies.

Finally, if you really want to get freaked out, read about treating intestinal infections with feces transplants.

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