“Lonesome Octopus” by Bob Bellem and Mel Millar, 1946
Written and produced by Bob Bellem with art by Mel Millar. Comic is full-color, 20-pages in standard-size comic format. From the “Talking Komics” series published by Belda Record & Publishing Co., Pasadena, Ca.
Giant instruments are giving us a sea of data. Can science find its way without any big ideas at the helm?
Philip Ball writes: Whenever I visit scientists to discuss their research, there comes a moment when they say, with barely concealed pride: ‘Do you want a tour of the lab?’ It is invariably slightly touching — like Willy Wonka dying to show off his chocolate factory. I’m glad to accept, knowing what lies in store: shelves lined with bottles or reagents; gleaming, quartz-windowed cryogenic chambers; slabs of perforated steel holding lasers and lenses.
It’s rarely less than impressive. Even if the kit is off-the-shelf, it is wired into a makeshift salmagundi of wires, tubes, cladding, computer-controlled valves and rotors and components with more mysterious functions. Much of the gear, however, is likely to be homemade: custom-built for the research at hand. Whatever else it might accomplish, the typical modern lab set-up is a masterpiece of impromptu engineering — you’d need degrees in electronics and mechanics just to put it all together, never mind making sense of the graphs and numbers it produces. And like the best engineering, these set-ups tend to be kept out of sight. Headlines announcing ‘Scientists have found…’ rarely bother to tell you how the discoveries were made.
Would you care? The tools of science are so specialised that we accept them as a kind of occult machinery for producing knowledge. We figure that they must know how it all works. Likewise, histories of science focus on ideas rather than methods — for the most part, readers just want to know what the discoveries were. Even so, most historians these days recognise that the relationship between scientists and their instruments is an essential part of the story. It isn’t simply that the science is dependent on the devices; the devices actually determine what is known. You explore the things that you have the means to explore, planning your questions accordingly.
John Horgan writes: “What does woman want?” Freud once whined. Turns out quite a few women want fantasy sex with T. rex, Sasquatch or a boar-headed god. That, at any rate, is the implication of “monster porn,” which serves up X-rated versions of such demure classics as Leda and the Swan, King Kong or Beauty and the Beast.
Also known as “cryptozoological erotica” or “erotic horror,” monster porn has flourished in the Internet era, which offers abundant platforms for self-publication. According to a report in Business Insider, some authors—most apparently female–are making serious moola peddling tales of humans—most apparently female—coupling with “creatures of every possible variety, from minotaurs to mermen, cthulhus to leprechauns, extraterrestrials to cyclops.”
Prudes have attacked monster porn for promoting sexual violence and bestiality. In response, Amazon and other purveyors have at least temporarily blocked access to some e-books, like a popular series featuring Bigfoot. Defenders of monster porn accuse Amazon of inconsistency, noting that the company still offers works of the Marquis de Sade, who extolled the joys of sexual torture and murder.
Trying to explain monster porn’s appeal, freelance writer Bonny Burton, host of the “Vaginal Fantasy Book Club,” writes: “Regular male characters in romance books tend to be over-the-top perfect glistening warriors and knights, but I want an imperfect monster who needs love to show that he can be just as sweet as his human competition… Why deprive the imagination of a great romance just because the protagonist happens to live for 600 years or has the occasional bout with fleas?”
Frances Martel reports: The attorney heading the internal investigation into potential unfair targeting of conservative groups by the IRS is a frequent and significant donor to both the Democratic National Commission and President Obama, Rep. Darrell Issa revealed today, in what he calls a “startling conflict of interest” that jeopardizes the investigation.
Rep. Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder revealing new information that reached the committee on who is conducting the internal investigations at the IRS regarding the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups. Seeking an explanation as to why the FBI has been unresponsive to the committee, Rep. Issa noted that current and former IRS officials revealed Barbara Bosserman, a trial attorney within the IRS’s Civil Rights Commission, is leading the internal investigation.
Bosserman’s leadership raises all sorts of questions about the investigation’s fairness. Rep. Issa’s investigations revealed that she has been a loyal financial backer of the DNC since 2004 and has donated multiple times personally to President Obama’s two campaigns. Her personal donation total reaches $6,750 to both the party and President Obama.
[VIDEO] MASHUP: Dennis Rodman and Marylin Monroe Sing Happy Birthday to North Korean Ruler Kim Jong-UnPosted: January 8, 2014
This item, from FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP), demonstrates that even hardened criminals aren’t as tough as they used to be.
Authorities said the inmate escaped from a minimum security facility in Lexington on Sunday. As temperatures dropped into the low single digits Monday, officials say the man walked into a motel and asked the clerk to call police.
Robert Vick, 42, of Hartford told the clerk he wanted to turn himself in and escape the arctic air, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.
Vick was checked out by paramedics and returned to Blackburn Correctional Complex, Roberts said.
“This was definitely of his own volition,” she said. “It’s cold out there, too cold to run around. I can understand why the suspect would turn himself in.”
Vick would have been dressed in prison-issued khaki pants, a shirt and a jacket when he escaped, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said. Wind chill readings were 20 below zero Monday in Lexington.
Okay so Aubrey Lee Price isn’t a teacher-turned meth-cooking criminal mastermind bent on building an empire, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his murderous wake, like fictional character Walter White. But he is an example of a white-collar average joe who went dark. No longer content with middle-class aspirations and conventional morality, Price used his professional knowledge for criminal gain, embezzled a fortune, and tried to go off the grid. With millions stolen from investors, Price attempted to screw the system by pretending to be dead.
This meets punditfromanotherplanet’s standard, and serves as a working definition of a real life Breaking Bad scenario. Do you know of any Breaking Bad situations that happened in real life? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Russ Bynum (AP) reports: A former Georgia banker accused of stealing millions from investors before vanishing for 18 months pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal bank fraud charges and agreed to remain jailed without bond pending trial.
Aubrey Lee Price, 47, didn’t speak as he sat hunched between his court-appointed lawyer and an attorney who’s a family friend and has agreed to assist with his case for free. Though prosecutors say he misspent, embezzled and lost $21 million, Price was able to show the court that he doesn’t have enough money to hire a lawyer, said U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith.
Authorities say Price faked financial records in an attempt to cover his tracks before he disappeared in June 2012. He sent letters to his family and acquaintances saying he was “incapable of continuing in this life” and other strong hints that he planned to commit suicide. A Florida judge declared Price dead a year ago. Meanwhile, the Montgomery Bank & Trust, a rural bank near Vidalia at which Price served as a director since 2010, closed because its assets and reserves were depleted.
Top Saudi Prince Alwaleed: New shale oil discoveries ‘are threats to any oil-producing country in the world’Posted: January 8, 2014
Thomas Lifson writes: It is worthy paying close attention when a certain Saudi prince speaks his mind. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is sometimes described as the most powerful Arab in the world, thanks to his enormous wealth, business acumen, and influence in the Saudi royal family, which runs the Kingdom as a family fiefdom. Western-educated, he has shown himself to be an effective power broker, owning a 7% stake in News Corporation and donating $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown Universities, arousing suspicions of undue influence.
The good prince let the world know what the real stakes are in the battle over fracking. Michael W. Chapman of CNS News reports:
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a billionaire businessman and nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, said the production of shale oil and natural gas in the United States and other countries, primarily done through fracking, is a real competitive threat to “any oil-producing country in the world,” adding that Saudi Arabia must address the issue because it is a “matter of survival.”