Quirkology and the Amazing Color-Changing Card Trick

I was introduced to Professor Richard Wiseman’s “Quirkology” through Michael Shermer’s “Skeptic” column in Scientific American. I really enjoy Shermer’s writing and was intrigued by Shermer’s descriptions in his November and December columns. He also had high praise for Wiseman’s book, also entitled Quirkology. (The term, according to the web site, is “a term coined by Prof. Wiseman to refer to psychological research that is quirky. Much of this work uses mainstream methods to investigate unusual topics, or unusual methods to investigate mainstream topics.”)

I was exploring the web site and really enjoyed this video: “Colour-changing Card Trick”:


(Be sure to watch the video prior to reading any comments, just in case!)

Celestial Self-portrait

Astronaut Clay Anderson (see below)
Source: wisebread.com. Credit: NASA.

I came across this on wisebread.com; apparently the photographer and subject is astronaut Clay Anderson. It’s a beautiful picture—he is facing Earth and taking a photograph of himself, so the Earth is reflected in his visor. Sadly, I was unable to find this on NASA’s web site; they have a couple pictures of visor reflections but none as beautiful as this, in my opinion.

Minnesota Joins Sixteen States to Sue the EPA

I was pleased to read Minnesota Public Radio’s report that Minnesota will join the sixteen-state coalition suing the Environmental Protection Agency.

Background: Despite its role to protect the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency had previously refused to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles, stating among other reasons that they did not have the authority. (See my previous post.) Twelve states and thirteen environmental groups sued, and the Supreme Court ruled that yes, the states had the right to sue the EPA; yes, the EPA does have the authority to regulate these emission; and perhaps the EPA can decide not to regulate them, but must reconsider. Meanwhile, California had requested a waiver to set more strict tailpipe emissions standards than those of the federal government. In December 2007, the EPA denied this request. This has prompted the now seventeen states suing the EPA.

It is incredible that the EPA has resisted taking action and now is actively impeding attempts to combat climate change. As Ansel Adams said, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment” (attributed). But at least our state governments are taking action, even as the Bush administration does its best to stymie progress.

Military Deaths in Iraq, 2007

portion of graphic showing troop deaths in Iraq
A small portion of the graphic featured in the New York Times opinion piece, “A Year in Iraq”.

I enjoy seeing different methods used to present and visualize data, and so I found “A Year in Iraq”, an opinion piece in the New York Times by Adriana Lins de Albuquerque and Alicia Cheng to be quite interesting. “The chart … gives information on the type and location of each attack responsible for the 2,592 recorded deaths among American and other coalition troops, Iraqi security forces and members of the peshmerga militias controlled by the Kurdish government.” See the article (free registration required) for the whole graphic and story.

How to Reuse or Recycle Things You Didn’t Know You Could

The Environmental News Network has a nice article on what you can do with several types of old items — how you can give them so others can reuse or recycle them.  For instance:

  1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances, www.goodwill.org, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN, www.recycle-steel.org.


Some are rather cumbersome, but several would actually not be too inconvenient. Certainly reducing use and consumption would be best, but at least this way you can still help decrease waste and the production of new products.