Convergent Evolution

•February 23, 2008 • 5 Comments

You know how on Star Trek every one of the aliens is just some stupid actor with a really messed up looking face?

For example, take Worf:

worf.jpg

Now, I’m not a fan of star trek, but this theme has bled over onto other types of science fiction. For example, Star Wars is full of aliens that look like humans but with weird facial traits, like our friend Bib Fortuna:

bib-fortuna.jpg

And, I was recently playing a game called Mass Effect that has various alien races, each with some kind of weird looking trait differences, but overall pretty much human:

mass-effect-aliens.jpg

I’m bringing this up because for a very long time I thought that science fiction writers and designers were either limited with their choices of make-up (i.e. Star Trek) or were just somewhat uninspired. Either that or they found it too difficult to work with something that didn’t have similar body structure to humans. I never really thought too deep into why this choice was made. But are we really expecting aliens to have similar traits to humans? I realize the idea is far fetched, but what if we did make contact with a species from another world?
Do you think they would walk upright and have two arms and two legs?

My answer? I think that the idea is at least plausible.

The reason for my thinking is due to something I read recently called Convergent Evolution. The definition (taken directly from Wikipedia):

“In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches. It is the opposite of divergent evolution, where related species evolve different traits.”

By the way, Monophyletic in that sentence means that they do not have the same ancestors.

So, take a planet similar to Earth, high in water and that has carbon-based life. Through evolution, that planet just might produce some of the same kinds of things as we have here, due to a similar environment. A perfect example of this is these two cacti:

cacti1.jpg

cacti2.jpg

One is an African plant, and one is an Asian plant. They are 100% completely unrelated to one another, yet evolved in almost exactly the same way. Because the only life we know about is sourced from a planet like ours, it’s absolutely conceivable that if we ever do come across an alien species that they might look like us. Or at least, they will look like something we are familiar with.

I personally can’t wait to meet aliens that look like huge platypuses.

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Ride your music

•February 19, 2008 • 1 Comment

There is a program you can download called Steam. Essentially, Steam allows you to purchase video games from companies without having to buy the CD’s – you just download them and install. It’s pretty cool and if you have friends who have it, you can see what games they’re playing (and join in, if you also have said game). In that way it’s somewhat like xbox live, but for the PC.

I was on Steam last night and they were advertising a new game called Audiosurf. The tag, like the title of this post, is “Ride Your Music.” I’ve always been a fan of music rhythm based games (like Dance Dance Revolution) so this piqued my interest.  At only 10 bucks, it’s a pretty decent deal.

Essentially you get a little spaceship that is traveling along a little highway.  The highway’s turns and gradient are based on the music.  You use the mouse or arrow keys to guide your ship into colored boxes that appear, which then go onto the grid below your ship, which translates into points.

Here’s a screenshot (note, this is squished down from a fullscreen shot, I promise it looks much more crisp):

audiosurf.jpg

So yeah, it’s an interesting game, right?

The thing that makes it so cool is that  THIS GAME USES YOUR OWN MUSIC COLLECTION!!!

That’s right, the game is smart enough to take any mp3 that you own, and convert it into a level, and it does it very well.   Kind of a very fun way to listen to your music on your computer.

Did I mention you can compare your scores to other people who have played the same mp3?

Sweet.

The Body Farm

•February 18, 2008 • 2 Comments

I recently got an HDTV.  It’s 50” of gorgeous plasma.  If you don’t know much about HDTV I won’t go into a lot of detail, suffice to say that you need to get a new cable box so you can get HD channels.

Unfortunately, you don’t get a lot of choice, there are only about 35-40 HD channels.  This problem is compounded by the fact that once you get HD, you are totally spoiled and don’t want to watch “regular” tv, because it looks like shit.

What the hell does this have to do with the title of this post?  Over the weekend I was flipping though the HD channels and I came across the National Geographic channel.  I don’t know exactly when this happened, but apparently now they are trying to appeal to a younger crowd by calling themselves NAT GEO.  Anyway, they had this program on called Taboo.  Sounds…naughty!

(Before I continue, if you’re squeamish, don’t continue reading)

So I flip it on, and the first thing I see is a time-lapsed video of some guy decomposing.  No jokes, a real dead guy, really decomposing.  A few days crammed down into about 30 seconds.  He gets all bloated and gross and then like liquifies, and eventually ends up a pile of bones – and oh the insects!

Now, my first reaciton to this was complete revulsion.  Especially because it was being shown in HD.  However, my second, more logical thought was “how the fuck did they get a time-lapsed video of a body decomposing?”  Then the show started talking about The Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee.

What happens is people literally donate their bodies to this place (they get about 30-50 a year), whereupon they are dumped in the backyard in various places.  Some of them are in cars, some are in shallow graves.  Others are exposed completely, sometimes with clothes, sometimes naked.  As I’m sure you’ve guessed, they are there because the scientists are using them to gather information on how people decompose, in order to solve murders.

I realize this kind of thing needs to be done.  They even gave an example of one of the many ways they can determine how long a body has been there.  This example involved looking at the size of the maggots.  If there are no maggots, and the body is pretty much intact, it hasn’t been there long.  If there are small maggots, then it’s been there a few hours to a few days.  If there are large maggots, then it’s been there even longer, and if there are no maggots (they hatched into adult flies) and the body is very decomposed, then it’s been there a very long time.

So it’s necessary.  But I can’t imagine the type of person who would be into this.  Well here is his picture:

bodyfarm.jpg

“Hi.  I like watching dead people decompose.”

You know what?  I take it back.  This creepy old guy is exactly what I would think of if someone said “imagine the kind of person who would want to study dead people.”

/puke

Seriously what the hell

•February 17, 2008 • 7 Comments

pitera.jpg

This person’s name is Nick Pitera. Nick looks like a guy, yes? A little bit nerdy, maybe even somewhat flamboyant, but absolutely male.

See I think Nick looks like a guy. But Nick can’t be a guy. Nick sings too much like a girl. And I don’t mean that it (I will not use the pronoun “he”) has a high pitched voice, I mean it really sounds like a girl. And a girl with a really, really good singing voice. Don’t believe me? Check out the video:

Girly singing

And no, there’s no dubbing. This shit’s for real.

 

Edit:  As this post tends to generate a lot of traffic on my blog, I’ll take the time right now to ask you to visit the rest of the site. Thanks.

Ronald Jenkees

•February 16, 2008 • 2 Comments

jenkees.jpg

If your first thought was “this is Pat from SNL” then you and I are on the same track. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then please come out from under that rock:

pat.jpg

Anyway, why am I linking a picture of someone who is clearly a sociopath?

Because he’s a musical genius.

The picture up there is the album cover of his “CD” – it’s on iTunes. And yes, I did download it. It’s fucking sick.

Some people think he’s just putting on act, and he isn’t really as weird as he seems. I’m not exactly sure what I think about him, to be honest. I mean, not very many people would readily wear those glasses, and the way he talks is very strange, but there’s something genuine about him. You be the judge:

“Disorganized Fun”

Just give it a chance for the beat to kick in. And just so you know, all of his beats are his own creations, made on FL studio.

Cocaine

•February 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

No, not the drug.

Cocaine THE DRINK!

I don’t know if this works when you link to the site, but if you go to www.drinkcocaine.com, there is a Parental Consent Advisory before you’re allowed to go in. As if that’s going to stop anyone. Pretty awesome though. I kind of want one on this site.

Before I say anything more, if you’re the type to get all up in arms about something like this, fuck off. Seriously.  Kids these days are not super-impressionable and will not start actually snorting Cocaine the drug because of this drink.   I remember when I was a kid there were these life savers that were creme flavored.  My friends and I called them “crack” because they were “addictive”  We were being dumb kids, but only one of us actually turned out to be a crackhead (JUST KIDDING! – it was two).  To say that this product promotes actaul cocaine use is akin to saying that video games with violence promote school shootings (by the way, if you believe that, please read this).

Back on track:

Let’s break it down. At it’s core, it’s a brilliant marketing strategy, and I respect the company (Redux is their name) for coming up with something this intelligent.  The best way to get attention is to piss off a bunch of people.  Not only that but it fits perfectly.  Everyone knows Cocaine amps you up, so why not make an energy drink with the name? And while they’re at it, they went and put it in red cans very similar to Coke. People will immediately recognize this product, and they are talking about it.  Even me writing about this right now makes me guilty of their viral marketing, but I’m happy to do it, because this idea is so shit-kickingly awesome. And to top it off, their website (if you haven’t clicked already) has really hot girls in Cocaine t-shirts:

cocaine.jpg

Look at that face.

It says “I’m hot and cool and love Cocaine. Also lets have sex.”

Did I mention you can buy these shirts? (they even come in a Valentine’s day gift pack!!) They retail for $16.99.

Anyway, it’s an interesting and funny name for a product, but the company did go a little too far. They have another site that they link to called www.lovecocaine.com. It’s basically a “fansite” where emo-looking kids can post videos about themselves and how Cocaine fits into their life. This is a little too much. But it could be worse, I guess. They could have called it AIDS.

Getting right to it: Time to blow your mind

•February 15, 2008 • 2 Comments

This blew my mind the first time I saw it.

First, some stats:

Eath is 12,756km in diameter. We all know how big that is.

Jupiter is 142,984km in diameter.

The Sun is 1,392,500km in diameter.

Now, if I were to say “there is a star our there that is 905,125,000km” that would seem like a huge number. But we don’t really get an idea of how big that really is. That’s why I am going to link you to something that will SHOW you what that size really means (btw that 905,125,000 star is Betlegeuse – and it’s nowhere near the biggest we know about):

The Size of Our World

If you’re a lazy asshole and don’t feel like looking at that, then just look at this picture. It’s our Sun compared to the largest star known:

sizeofworld.jpg

In this picture, The Sun is over 100 million miles from the surface of VY Canis Majoris. To give you another perspective, Earth is about 93 million miles from The Sun. And at that distance, VY Canis Majoris would take up the entire sky in every direction. That’s how fucking big it is.

And what is even more interesting is that this star is in our own galaxy. There are millions of galaxies out there, so it’s more than likely that VY Canis Majoris isn’t even close to the largest star that’s ever existed.

Feel insignificantly small yet?