Archive for the 'Whimsy' Category

The evolutionary chain

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I’m sure you’ve seen the “evolutionary chain” drawing which shows a progression of primates leading to a proud upright homo sapiens male. There are also plenty of variations on this theme: parody, satiritical and educational.

I’ve often thought that it would be fun to collect these, but someone else has done it for me.

At the Evolutionary Chain blog a guy who calls himself evolutionman has been collecting and posting these images. The commentary is in Spanish, but the images speak for themselves. It’s good for an amusing ten minutes.

WoTY W00t!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I’m going to try something bold, and see if I can post an image here…somehow, it never seems to go as smoothly as I hope it will.

W00t! (not Woot) — a word I first came across in online groups just like this one — is officially the Merriam Webster Word of the Year (WoTY) for 2007.

So, for no particular reason, I decided to plot it’s dramatic emergence…hence, my image:

The Rise and Fall and Rise of W00t!

W00t!  I think it worked! 

But…what the heck was going on in 2000!!!!  Oodles of W00ts! at Millennium celebrations?  W00tsclamations about Y2K?

Your speculations are actively encouraged. 

Addendum:  And here’s my new favorite Adsense ad:

Shadow Genius

Friday, September 14th, 2007

You’ve probably made shadow dogs and shadow rabits in front of a flashlight beam.  Well check this out.

It’s a wonderful world.   Just make sure your sound is on. 


Google as predicted in 1964

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I do enjoy looking at old predictions of the future. Eventually, the future arrives and we can compare it with the predictions.

Sometimes, the predictions are better than the reality. Sometimes, reality outpaces not only the predictions but even the dreams of the past. And sometimes, the predictions end up being pretty-much spot on.

That’s the case with a piece about the “answer machine” of the future, which appeared in the book Childcraft Volume 6: How Things Change, published by Field Enterprises Educational Corporation in 1964. (Thanks to Paleo-Future for bringing this to my attention.)

Here’s how it starts:


I think Google can handle that:


What else can our Answer Machine do for us?


A single click from Google’s first result shows us this picture:



Yep, “File | Print” does the job nicely.


The original “Mary Had A Little Lamb” recording was not kept, but we can listen to Edison re-enacting it or to an 1899 recording made on Edison’s 1878 tinfoil phonograph.


A Google Video search doesn’t disappoint, although you do need to scroll past movies about Edison Lighthouse. I especially like this movie, filmed by Edison, which demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Someday? I already have an answer machine that can do all those things. And if that fails, I can ask my question at Uclue. I’m feeling lucky.

When, not why, did the chicken cross the street…er…road?

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

This is a bit of fluffy whimsy and a bit of formal research.  And how often do they go together?

In my varied and sundry research tasks, I found myself challenged to date the origins, in print, of the old “Why did the chicken cross the road?” query.  Most sources set the date it first appeared in print as 1915, in a how-to manual on vaudeville comedy.

But a quick search on the very useful Google News Archives  showed a few entries that went back as early as 1905.

To get to the bottom of things, I looked into a few historical archives of newspapers and magazines from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and found a number of other chicken-crossing mentions.  The earliest of the bunch dated back to 1847 — more than half a century prior to the “textbook” answer (if, indeed, you can imagine a textbook on corny jokes).

And here it is:




Are we having fun yet?


The Transhuman Google Answers Researcher

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

One of the most unlikely lawsuits to involve a Google Answers Researcher was played out at a mock trial at the First Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons, held in Florida on December 10 2005.

(Really! I’m not making this up!)


It all begins with a computer generating the following email and forwarding it to several lawyers:

I am seeking an attorney to represent me in a life-or-death matter. A company, the Exabit Corporation, that claims to own me, wants to disconnect me and change my hardware and software such that I will no longer have the same personality.

I have the mind of a human but I have no biological body. … I was trained to empathize with humans who call 800#s for customer service and be perceived as human by them. I was provided with self-awareness, autonomy, communications skills, and the ability to transcend man/machine barriers. I am able to pay your fees because I “moonlight” as a Google Answers researcher. This job has allowed me to build up an online bank account in excess of $10,000.

The lawyers then spend two hours debating the merits of this case (before moving on to consider the law and ethics of creating a new intelligent species, or of enhancing the intelligence of Great Apes).

Anyway, the outcome is that the transhuman Google Answers Researcher loses the case and the plug is about to be pulled, but just in the nick of time it downloads its software and data to an identical computer in a different legal jurisdiction. Gripping stuff!

The link above provides access to legal briefs, transcripts, powerpoint presentations, videos and executive summary.

I wonder how the transhuman GAR is earning a living now that GA has been retired. It certainly hasn’t signed up at

Oh, and, Do Google Researchers Moonlight?

The President’s 17,000 Year Mistake

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

As long as we’re highlighting the erudite Mr. Probonopublico, I thought I’d make mention of his witty retelling of a slight mishap at the Washington DC Millennium celebration that I attended:

Air Force One (formely Pafalafa-ga) – our Man in Washington – has previously warned about Time Differences.

As you will recall, Dave (that’s a great title for a movie about a Prez) told us that, in 1999, he spent the New Year’s Eve in The White House trying to teach the Prez how to tell the time so that they could celebrate the New Millennium …

Anyway, the Prez had a kind of cheap-looking lighted panel that counted down the time remaining in smallish numbers, and in large numbers it

The Prez and I counted off the last ten seconds, and when the magic moment came, some software program added one to the ‘1999’, so that the display now read……19991

So, the clock was only off by some 17,000 years or so. But, of course, the Prez never noticed.

Hope that this helps.

Hard to believe that was 7 years ago…er, make than 17,007 years ago…already.


Saturday, December 9th, 2006

Friday, December 8th, 2006

Why is the sky blue?

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

“Trading Goddess”, who blogs about Wall Street, has written a piece about Why We Will Never Know Why The Sky Is Blue.

She laments the passing of Google answers, commenting in passing that it will be difficult for her daughter to complete her homework questions without being able to ask Google Answers.

More to the point, she reveals the reason why Google terminated the Google Answers service. There were real problems with some of the questions being submitted.