Friday, April 25, 2008
America, founded in secularism as a beacon of eighteenth century enlightenment, is becoming the victim of religious politics, a circumstance that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over adult people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world. It gains crucial electoral support from a religious constituency whose grip on reality is so tenuous that they expect to be 'raptured' up to heaven, leaving their clothes as empty as their minds. More extreme specimens actually long for a world war, which they identify as the 'Armageddon' that is to presage the Second Coming. Sam Harris, in his new short book, Letter to a Christian Nation, hits the bull's-eye as usual:
It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver-lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen: the return of Christ . . .Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and ¬intellectual emergency.
Does Bush check the Rapture Index daily, as Reagan did his stars? We don't know, but would anyone be surprised?
My scientific colleagues have additional reasons to declare emergency. Ignorant and absolutist attacks on stem cell research are just the tip of an iceberg. What we have here is nothing less than a global assault on rationality, and the Enlightenment values that inspired the founding of this first and greatest of secular republics. Science education - and hence the whole future of science in this country - is under threat. Temporarily beaten back in a Pennsylvania court, the 'breathtaking inanity' (Judge John Jones's immortal phrase) of 'intelligent design' continually flares up in local bush-fires. Dowsing them is a time-consuming but important responsibility, and scientists are finally being jolted out of their complacency. For years they quietly got on with their science, lamentably underestimating the creationists who, being neither competent nor interested in science, attended to the serious political business of subverting local school boards. Scientists, and intellectuals generally, are now waking up to the threat from the American Taliban.
Scientists divide into two schools of thought over the best tactics with which to face the threat. The Neville Chamberlain 'appeasement' school focuses on the battle for evolution. Consequently, its members identify fundamentalism as the enemy, and they bend over backwards to appease 'moderate' or 'sensible' religion (not a difficult task, for bishops and theologians despise fundamentalists as much as scientists do). Scientists of the Winston Churchill school, by contrast, see the fight for evolution as only one battle in a larger war: a looming war between supernaturalism on the one side and rationality on the other. For them, bishops and theologians belong with creationists in the supernatural camp, and are not to be appeased.
The Chamberlain school accuses Churchillians of rocking the boat to the point of muddying the waters. The philosopher of science Michael Ruse wrote:
We who love science must realize that the enemy of our enemies is our friend. Too often evolutionists spend time insulting would-be allies. This is especially true of secular evolutionists. Atheists spend more time running down sympathetic Christians than they do countering ¬creationists. When John Paul II wrote a letter endorsing Darwinism, Richard Dawkins's response was simply that the pope was a hypocrite, that he could not be genuine about science and that Dawkins himself simply preferred an honest fundamentalist.
A recent article in the New York Times by Cornelia Dean quotes the astronomer Owen Gingerich as saying that, by simultaneously advocating evolution and atheism, 'Dr Dawkins "probably single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists".' This is not the first, not the second, not even the third time this plonkingly witless point has been made (and more than one reply has aptly cited Uncle Remus: "Oh please please Brer Fox, don't throw me in that awful briar patch").
Chamberlainites are apt to quote the late Stephen Jay Gould's 'NOMA' - 'non-overlapping magisteria'. Gould claimed that science and true religion never come into conflict because they exist in completely separate dimensions of discourse:
To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth millionth time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God's possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can't comment on it as scientists.
This sounds terrific, right up until you give it a moment's thought. You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference. God could clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science. Even the infamous Templeton Foundation recognized that God is a scientific hypothesis - by funding double-blind trials to test whether remote prayer would speed the recovery of heart patients. It didn't, of course, although a control group who knew they had been prayed for tended to get worse (how about a class action suit against the Templeton Foundation?) Despite such well-financed efforts, no evidence for God's existence has yet appeared.
To see the disingenuous hypocrisy of religious people who embrace NOMA, imagine that forensic archeologists, by some unlikely set of circumstances, discovered DNA evidence demonstrating that Jesus was born of a virgin mother and had no father. If NOMA enthusiasts were sincere, they should dismiss the archeologists' DNA out of hand: "Irrelevant. Scientific evidence has no bearing on theological questions. Wrong magisterium." Does anyone seriously imagine that they would say anything remotely like that? You can bet your boots that not just the fundamentalists but every professor of theology and every bishop in the land would trumpet the archeological evidence to the skies.
Either Jesus had a father or he didn't. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it. The same is true of any miracle - and the deliberate and intentional creation of the universe would have to have been the mother and father of all miracles. Either it happened or it didn't. It is a fact, one way or the other, and in our state of uncertainty we can put a probability on it - an estimate that may change as more information comes in. Humanity's best estimate of the probability of divine creation dropped steeply in 1859 when The Origin of Species was published, and it has declined steadily during the subsequent decades, as evolution consolidated itself from plausible theory in the nineteenth century to established fact today.
The Chamberlain tactic of snuggling up to 'sensible' religion, in order to present a united front against ('intelligent design') creationists, is fine if your central concern is the battle for evolution. That is a valid central concern, and I salute those who press it, such as Eugenie Scott in Evolution versus Creationism. But if you are concerned with the stupendous scientific question of whether the universe was created by a supernatural intelligence or not, the lines are drawn completely differently. On this larger issue, fundamentalists are united with 'moderate' religion on one side, and I find myself on the other.
Of course, this all presupposes that the God we are talking about is a personal intelligence such as Yahweh, Allah, Baal, Wotan, Zeus or Lord Krishna. If, by 'God', you mean love, nature, goodness, the universe, the laws of physics, the spirit of humanity, or Planck's constant, none of the above applies. An American student asked her professor whether he had a view about me. 'Sure,' he replied. 'He's positive science is incompatible with religion, but he waxes ecstatic about nature and the universe. To me, that is ¬religion!' Well, if that's what you choose to mean by religion, fine, that makes me a religious man. But if your God is a being who designs universes, listens to prayers, forgives sins, wreaks miracles, reads your thoughts, cares about your welfare and raises you from the dead, you are unlikely to be satisfied. As the distinguished American physicist Steven Weinberg said, "If you want to say that 'God is energy,' then you can find God in a lump of coal." But don't expect congregations to flock to your church.
When Einstein said 'Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?' he meant 'Could the universe have begun in more than one way?' 'God does not play dice' was Einstein's poetic way of doubting Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle. Einstein was famously irritated when theists misunderstood him to mean a personal God. But what did he expect? The hunger to misunderstand should have been palpable to him. 'Religious' physicists usually turn out to be so only in the Einsteinian sense: they are atheists of a poetic disposition. So am I. But, given the widespread yearning for that great misunderstanding, deliberately to confuse Einsteinian pantheism with supernatural religion is an act of intellectual high treason.
Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think, and here's why.
First, most of the traditional arguments for God's existence, from Aquinas on, are easily demolished. Several of them, such as the First Cause argument, work by setting up an infinite regress which God is wheeled out to terminate. But we are never told why God is magically able to terminate regresses while needing no explanation himself. To be sure, we do need some kind of explanation for the origin of all things. Physicists and cosmologists are hard at work on the problem. But whatever the answer - a random quantum fluctuation or a Hawking/Penrose singularity or whatever we end up calling it - it will be simple. Complex, statistically improbable things, by definition, don't just happen; they demand an explanation in their own right. They are impotent to terminate regresses, in a way that simple things are not. The first cause cannot have been an intelligence - let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.
Another of Aquinas' efforts, the Argument from Degree, is worth spelling out, for it epitomises the characteristic flabbiness of theological reasoning. We notice degrees of, say, goodness or temperature, and we measure them, Aquinas said, by reference to a maximum:
Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus, as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things . . . Therefore, there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
That's an argument? You might as well say that people vary in smelliness but we can make the judgment only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God. Or substitute any dimension of comparison you like, and derive an equivalently fatuous conclusion. That's theology.
The only one of the traditional arguments for God that is widely used today is the teleological argument, sometimes called the Argument from Design although - since the name begs the question of its validity - it should better be called the Argument for Design. It is the familiar 'watchmaker' argument, which is surely one of the most superficially plausible bad arguments ever discovered - and it is rediscovered by just about everybody until they are taught the logical fallacy and Darwin's brilliant alternative.
In the familiar world of human artifacts, complicated things that look designed are designed. To naïve observers, it seems to follow that similarly complicated things in the natural world that look designed - things like eyes and hearts - are designed too. It isn't just an argument by analogy. There is a semblance of statistical reasoning here too - fallacious, but carrying an illusion of plausibility. If you randomly scramble the fragments of an eye or a leg or a heart a million times, you'd be lucky to hit even one combination that could see, walk or pump. This demonstrates that such devices could not have been put together by chance. And of course, no sensible scientist ever said they could. Lamentably, the scientific education of most British and American students omits all mention of Darwinism, and therefore the only alternative to chance that most people can imagine is design.
Even before Darwin's time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born. What Hume didn't know was the supremely elegant alternative to both chance and design that Darwin was to give us. Natural selection is so stunningly powerful and elegant, it not only explains the whole of life, it raises our consciousness and boosts our confidence in science's future ability to explain everything else.
Natural selection is not just an alternative to chance. It is the only ultimate alternative ever suggested. Design is a workable explanation for organized complexity only in the short term. It is not an ultimate explanation, because designers themselves demand an explanation. If, as Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel once playfully speculated, life on this planet was deliberately seeded by a payload of bacteria in the nose cone of a rocket, we still need an explanation for the intelligent aliens who dispatched the rocket. Ultimately they must have evolved by gradual degrees from simpler beginnings. Only evolution, or some kind of gradualistic 'crane' (to use Daniel Dennett's neat term), is capable of terminating the regress. Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step. The end product of this ratcheting process is an eye, or a heart, or a brain - a device whose improbable complexity is utterly baffling until you spot the gentle ramp that leads up to it.
Whether my conjecture is right that evolution is the only explanation for life in the universe, there is no doubt that it is the explanation for life on this planet. Evolution is a fact, and it is among the more secure facts known to science. But it had to get started somehow. Natural selection cannot work its wonders until certain minimal conditions are in place, of which the most important is an accurate system of replication - DNA, or something that works like DNA.
The origin of life on this planet - which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule - is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions from those with which we are familiar. We may never know how it happened. Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable - in the sense of unpredictable - event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened. This weirdly paradoxical conclusion - that a chemical account of the origin of life, in order to be plausible, has to be implausible - would follow if it were the case that life is extremely rare in the universe. And indeed we have never encountered any hint of extraterrestrial life, not even by radio - the circumstance that prompted Enrico Fermi's cry: "Where is everybody?"
Suppose life's origin on a planet took place through a hugely improbable stroke of luck, so improbable that it happens on only one in a billion planets. The National Science Foundation would laugh at any chemist whose proposed research had only a one in a hundred chance of succeeding, let alone one in a billion. Yet, given that there are at least a billion billion planets in the universe, even such absurdly low odds as these will yield life on a billion planets. And - this is where the famous anthropic principle comes in - Earth has to be one of them, because here we are.
If you set out in a spaceship to find the one planet in the galaxy that has life, the odds against your finding it would be so great that the task would be indistinguishable, in practice, from impossible. But if you are alive (as you manifestly are if you are about to step into a spaceship) you needn't bother to go looking for that one planet because, by definition, you are already standing on it. The anthropic principle really is rather elegant. By the way, I don't actually think the origin of life was as improbable as all that. I think the galaxy has plenty of islands of life dotted about, even if the islands are too spaced out for any one to hope for a meeting with any other. My point is only that, given the number of planets in the universe, the origin of life could in theory be as lucky as a blindfolded golfer scoring a hole in one. The beauty of the anthropic principle is that, even in the teeth of such stupefying odds against, it still gives us a perfectly satisfying explanation for life's presence on our own planet.
The anthropic principle is usually applied not to planets but to universes. Physicists have suggested that the laws and constants of physics are too good - as if the universe were set up to favour our eventual evolution. It is as though there were, say, half a dozen dials representing the major constants of physics. Each of the dials could in principle be tuned to any of a wide range of values. Almost all of these knob-twiddlings would yield a universe in which life would be impossible. Some universes would fizzle out within the first picosecond. Others would contain no elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. In yet others, matter would never condense into stars (and you need stars in order to forge the elements of chemistry and hence life). You can estimate the very low odds against the six knobs all just happening to be correctly tuned, and conclude that a divine knob-twiddler must have been at work. But, as we have already seen, that explanation is vacuous because it begs the biggest question of all. The divine knob twiddler would himself have to have been at least as improbable as the settings of his knobs.
Again, the anthropic principle delivers its devastatingly neat solution. Physicists already have reason to suspect that our universe - everything we can see - is only one universe among perhaps billions. Some theorists postulate a multiverse of foam, where the universe we know is just one bubble. Each bubble has its own laws and constants. Our familiar laws of physics are parochial bylaws. Of all the universes in the foam, only a minority has what it takes to generate life. And, with anthropic hindsight, we obviously have to be sitting in a member of that minority, because, well, here we are, aren't we? As physicists have said, it is no accident that we see stars in our sky, for a universe without stars would also lack the chemical elements necessary for life. There may be universes whose skies have no stars: but they also have no inhabitants to notice the lack. Similarly, it is no accident that we see a rich diversity of living species: for an evolutionary process that is capable of yielding a species that can see things and reflect on them cannot help producing lots of other species at the same time. The reflective species must be surrounded by an ecosystem, as it must be surrounded by stars.
The anthropic principle entitles us to postulate a massive dose of luck in accounting for the existence of life on our planet. But there are limits. We are allowed one stroke of luck for the origin of evolution, and perhaps for a couple of other unique events like the origin of the eukaryotic cell and the origin of consciousness. But that's the end of our entitlement to large-scale luck. We emphatically cannot invoke major strokes of luck to account for the illusion of design that glows from each of the billion species of living creature that have ever lived on Earth. The evolution of life is a general and continuing process, producing essentially the same result in all species, however different the details.
Contrary to what is sometimes alleged, evolution is a predictive science. If you pick any hitherto unstudied species and subject it to minute scrutiny, any evolutionist will confidently predict that each individual will be observed to do everything in its power, in the particular way of the species - plant, herbivore, carnivore, nectivore or whatever it is - to survive and propagate the DNA that rides inside it. We won't be around long enough to test the prediction but we can say, with great confidence, that if a comet strikes Earth and wipes out the mammals, a new fauna will rise to fill their shoes, just as the mammals filled those of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. And the range of parts played by the new cast of life's drama will be similar in broad outline, though not in detail, to the roles played by the mammals, and the dinosaurs before them, and the mammal-like reptiles before the dinosaurs. The same rules are predictably being followed, in millions of species all over the globe, and for hundreds of millions of years. Such a general observation requires an entirely different explanatory principle from the anthropic principle that explains one-off events like the origin of life, or the origin of the universe, by luck. That entirely different principle is natural selection.
We explain our existence by a combination of the anthropic principle and Darwin's principle of natural selection. That combination provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for everything that we see and know. Not only is the god hypothesis unnecessary. It is spectacularly unparsimonious. Not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can't disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.
Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the author of nine books, including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale. His new book, The God Delusion, published last week by Houghton Mifflin, is already a NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, and his Foundation for Reason and Science launched at the same
Everything we see in this creation needs changing, according to us. If we see a forest, we believe that a car park would be more useful. Then after a few years, we believe we should grow trees on the car park, forgetting that there were trees there in the first place. After we get our family under control, we then have the arrogance to tell our older and wiser parents how to live out the rest of their lives. By the time we start on our friends’ behavior, our children have rebelled, our partner has left us and our worlds start to wobble.
Stand by for the stress, pain, nervous breakdowns, physical illnesses and all of the other symptoms hanging on and perceived failure brings. Our fingernails start to splinter and break as control slips through them. We blame everyone else for our unhappiness, when all we need to do is LET GO.
Director: Rob Minkoff
Screenwriter: John Fusco
Starring: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michael Angarano, Collin Chou, Crystal Liu Yi Fei, Li Bing Bing
Summary: Two Superhero of Action Cinemas Jet Li and Jackie Chan Together. A 21st Century American teenager takes a spellbinding, dangerous journey into martial arts legend in the new action/adventure epic "The Forbidden Kingdom."
Shot on location in China, "The Forbidden Kingdom" marks the historic first-ever onscreen pairing of martial arts superstars Jackie Chan ("Rush Hour," "Drunken Master") and Jet Li ("Fearless," "Once Upon a Time in China"), and features the awe-inspiring action choreography of Woo-Ping Yuen ("The Matrix," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").
While hunting down bootleg kung-fu DVDs in a Chinatown pawnshop, Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano - "24", "Will & Grace," "Lords of Dogtown," "Seabiscuit") makes an extraordinary discovery that sends him hurtling back in time to ancient China. There, Jason is charged with a monumental task: he must free the fabled warrior the Monkey King, who has been imprisoned by the powerful Jade Warlord. Jason is joined in his quest by wise kung fu master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and a band of misfit warriors including Silent Monk (Jet Li). But only by learning the true precepts of kung fu can Jason hope to succeed - and find a way to get back home.
Watch Movie Forbidden Kingdom Online [Part-I]
Download Movie Forbidden Kingdom Online
If you've quit smoking, but still miss the trappings -- the feel of the package, the confidence you got from knowing there were still 18 cigarettes left in the package, memories of your passionate romance with James Dean or Sharon Stone, or just the excuse to take a short break from work -- there's still hope for you, according to at least one concept developer.
Russian industrial designer, Anton Schnaider, originated the concept of Cigarettea, as it is illustrated in the above delightfully clever "Don't smoke tea. Drink cigarettes" ad. His idea is that the cigarette portion would contain the tea leaves, and the filter would act as a floater device, so that the cigarette would not sink - no need for a string to pull out the used Cigarettea.
Cigarettea could restore some of the trappings of cigarette smoking that you miss... the feel of the box, the confidence of knowing that there are still several cigarettes left in the box, for as long as that were the case, and the excuse to take a short break from work to grab a cigarette, uh Cigarettea. As for memories of a smoke-filled bedroom after passionate love-making with James Dean or Sharon Stone? I'm just not sure about that.
Japan has a drinking problem... but if you've got a thirst for adventure, it's where you want to be.
In honor (or in horror) of these bizarre beverages seemingly not fit to rinse your septic tank, raise a cracked glass to the Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks, our first ten inductees into the Soft Drink Hell of Fame... Jeers!
Our rundown of the Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks gives a pretty good indication why most of the 1000 or so new soft drinks and beverages launched in Japan every year fail miserably.
Look on the bright side, though: they may not be good to drink, but you can't say they're not good for a laugh.
10) Pepsi Ice Cucumber: It's lean, green and sounds obscene
When American companies introduce products tailored for foreign tastes, we often experience discomfiting culture shock. Sort of like when Homer Simpson uses his toaster time machine to go back 10 million years, steps on a slug, and then comes back to an oddly different world. Maybe that really did happen, and Springfield is now Tokyo! Exhibit A: Pepsi Ice Cucumber, introduced to the Japanese soft drinks market June 12th and to our Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks listing immediately thereafter. Pepsi? Good... Cucumbers? Great! Cucumber-flavored Pepsi? DOH!!
9) Hot Calpis: the drink that makes you think - about NOT drinking it
Cue suave voiceover: "Next time you're out on the town with the one you love, treat her to a cup of Hot Calpis"... then trudge home alone after she pours it over your head. Yes, delicious Calpis - I can't even read it without grinning - is known as Calpico in other countries (for obvious reasons) and is one of Japan's most popular and enduring soft drinks . Milk-based with a sweet yogurt taste, Calpis comes in original and a variety of fruit flavors. Some vending machines offer this bizarre beverage hot... steaming hot.
8) Coolpis: Who wouldn't want to drink something with a name like Coolpis?
Ahh, refreshing Coolpis... THE soft drink to offer guests - before removing their blindfolds. Actually a Korean copy of the disturbingly named Calpis, Coolpis comes in Peach flavor and (stop reading now, if you can...) Kimchee flavor. Kimchee, for those unacquainted, is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented cabbage and LOTS of red pepper. Makes Peach flavored Coolpis almost appealing, doesn't it? Anyone for a Calpis vs. Coolpis taste test? We could call it a pis-ing contest.
7) Mother's Milk: the breast-tasting drink ever!
And now, for something close to the heart... Mother's Milk. Is there anything in the world more wholesome, more natural, more life-giving than mother's milk? Is there anything in the world that would make you drink it from a store bought carton? NO, on both counts. If I was a baby, maybe, but not from an udder - I mean, another - mother! We shudder to think of the scene inside one of the manufacturer's factories... those poor farmgirls, milkmaids or what have you, shackled up to cold, pitiless machines that never, ever stop... and then I woke up.
6) Black Vinegar Juice Bar: dispenses acid trips
After chugging down a pint of Mother's Milk, head on down to your local Black Vinegar Juice Bar to give it a good curdling. Black vinegar is noted for its health benefits; the trouble has always been making it drinkable.
Mixing it into bizarre soft drinks with soy milk, blood orange juice or blueberry juice is supposed to solve that problem, but we remain skeptical. At least you can splash some on the salad (via Plastic Bamboo ).
5) Speaking of which, consider Water Salad... for what, we're not sure...
The creative types at Coca-Cola (yes, THAT Coca-Cola) who devised Water Salad are probably still shell-shocked from the New Coke and C2 soft drink fiascos and wouldn't risk another.. or would they? Water Salad is... well... salad-flavored water. You know, the stuff you get after centrifuging your rinsed Romaine in the salad spinner. Funny, we pour it down the drain here; in Japan they can it and put it up for sale in a varied selection of flavors. Not laughing now, are you, smart guy?? (via Trendhunter )
4) Diet Water: all the taste and none of the calories of regular water. Huh?
And now, from the "selling ice to the Eskimos" department, we bring you Diet Water: the soft drink for the soft headed. "None of that rich, fattening Perrier for me, I'm serious about shedding pounds!" Not to mention shedding money. "Diet Water of the rich and famous"? We're not sure what the appeal of Diet Water is... maybe it has negative calories.
3) Final Fantasy Potion drinks: for those who think life really IS a game
Got a gamer at your house who lives, breathes and eats role-playing games like Final Fantasy? Now you can add "drinks" to the list, thanks to Final Fantasy Potion drinks. Let's see, at last count the stores were stocking Final Fantasy 13. No way to know if drinking a Final Fantasy Potion soft drink will restore your health, energy level - or make you invulnerable. Kids, don't try this at home! (via Japan Newbie )
2) Canned Coffee = Canned Laughter
Canned coffee has been a staple of those omnipresent Japanese vending machines since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Nothing wrong with the coffee itself, which is actually quite good. It's the wacky names (c/o engrish.com ) the manufacturers insist on giving it that elevates Japanese canned coffee to immortality (one brand in particular - read on). There may just be a Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Canned Coffees list coming to this site one day soon. A few "can"-didates:
BM Coffee - Nothing beats a good BM to start the day!
BJ Coffee - I stand corrected.
Deepresso Coffee - Is this the opposite of Expresso, or a coffee designed to bring down Type A personalities?
Black Boss Coffee - Decaffeinated AND desegregated, for the equal opportunity executive suite.
GOD Coffee - What does one serve with GOD Coffee? Communion wafers?
1) Kidsbeer: the Popeye Cigarettes of children's drinks
We've saved the most bizarre drink for last... Kidsbeer. We kid you not: Kidsbeer. What can be said in defense of Kidsbeer, maybe that it's alcohol-free? That would be like saying Hitler wasn't all bad because he liked dogs. Kidsbeer is so wrong on so many levels it makes my head spin, yet it is so popular in Japan that monthly shipments are approaching 100,000 bottles. As for the ad campaigns, nothing else will make you feel more like you've blundered into Superman's Bizarro world then seeing pre-teens - heck, pre-toddlers - joyfully guzzling their bottles of Kidsbeer.
A little background: Kidsbeer used to be a normal, average soda called Guarana until 2003, when restaurant owner Yuichi Asaba renamed the bubbly brew "Kidsbeer" and watched sales go through the roof. Normally, some sort of government watchdog would step in at this point and read Asaba the riot act, but nope. Encouraged, Asaba farmed out production to the Tomomasu company, who made it less sweet, more frothy - more beer-like, if truth be told - and introduced brown bottles with labels resembling those of early Japanese beers.
Still the government watchdog slept on (or maybe it's drunk and passed out), so naturally other beverage makers scrambled to get a piece of the action. Sangaria took one look at Kidsbeer's skyrocketing sales and decided to go one better: wine and sparkling wine for kids! Their product website is jaw-dropping in its audacity, and nicely done as well. Wanna be like mommy & daddy, kids? Drink Kidsbeer, the Little Prince of Beers!
And that wraps up our list of the Top Ten Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks, although we've saved up enough dishonorable mentions to form the better part of a follow-up list. Japan sure is a wonderful place, but it's far from home in more ways than just travel time.
Barkeep, a frosty Kidsbeer for my friend - in a jelly glass!
At the University of California, Los Angeles, a non-invasive means of cancer drug delivery is currently under development. Scientists present what they named “nanoimpeller,” a nanomachine which can operate inside a living cell. This nano-sized machine is designed to combat one of the most prolific killers of today—cancer. UCLA’s nanoimpellers are created to work pretty much like how IntelliDrug does. However, while IntelliDrug releases drugs as controlled remotely, said nanoimpellers release cancer cell killers based on light stimulus. In other words, the nanoimpellers release the drug upon exposure to light. The dosage and amount of drug released could be controlled by the light intensity and specific wavelengths.
Now, it’s at the pores of the nanoimpeller that drugs are equipped. In order for the system to work, the scientists had to make the pores photoactive (or light reactive). To do that, the scientists coated the inside of the pores with azobenzene, and used mesoporous silica nanoparticles. When the impellers are exposed to light, a wagging motion occurs which leads to the release of the medicine. To date, scientists have tested the system on pancreatic and colon cells, wherein which it was able to successfully kill the targets. The researchers have great faith in their invention. To quote: "This system has potential applications for precise drug delivery and might be the next generation for novel platform for the treatment of cancers such as colon and stomach cancer.”
Wireless internet has revolutionized the way we work, play, and interact with each other via computers. Wireless internet is what allows me to roam about the house and experiment with different chairs and/or tables for writing. Distance away from the wireless access point, or range, is one of the biggest obstacles to a new wireless internet utopia. To further complicate the issue, I'm loathe to buy multiple routers or access points to extend coverage throughout my abode.
Range issues, however, could be a thing of the past if you're using the new Hi-Gain Wireless-300N USB dish adapter from Hawking Technology. The company boasts that the Wireless 300N can boost a Wi-Fi signal's range by a factor of six.
The Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless-300N utilizes second generation dual antenna dish technology to achieve such remarkable distance, reportedly up to 4,000 feet on blazing fast 802.11n technology. It is capable of up to 300mbps of throughput but can easily scale back to your Wi-Fi setup. It's also backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g networks. With support for WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security standards, what's not to love? There's always the added bonus of having the ultimate nerd trump card in your bag - a portable satellite dish to connect you to the cloud.
Setup, the company claims , is a snap! "Installation of the HWDN1 Wireless-300N Dish Adapter is simple and straight forward - run the setup CD and connect the Dish Adapter to your notebook or desktop through an available USB port." For $99, I might just be willing to take them on their word on that.
Via Coolest Gadgets
The requirements of their system is 3G phone (for rapid streaming), is less than 100k and runs on “any platform”, and their service is free — at least during the beta. Martin Dunsby, CEO of Vollee, presented at GDC’08 which resulted in reports such as the following:
“The results are stunning. A PC-perfect version of Second Life runs on a phone that could barely handle some of the most elemental mobile games. Vollee also optimizes the controls and user interface for phones, so in Second Life’s case, instead of having pop-up windows for chatting or maps, a tabulated system lets you switch between each screen. It may not have keyboard-and-mouse support, but Vollee tries to make the keypad perform most of the same functions, so moving and flying around in Second Life felt quite natural and looked great to us.
[1UP on Vollee’s SL at GDC’08]”
3G Focused, Wi-Fi Enabled
Being interested in the emerging world of mobile computing, and not being an owner of a 3G phone, I dropped Vollee an email and asked whether they didn’t support Wi-Fi access, as most major cities now have Wi-Fi covering large portions of urban areas.
Their answer was yes. And this lead to even more curiosity. I expected a no because there is no mention of Wi-Fi on their pages (you’d think that’d be mentioned, right? Even if 3G is the focus). So this raised more questions that are not explicitly answered in their FAQ; specifically the following three which I’m now waiting for an answer to:
- Could you provide me with any kind of technical explanations of what your software is? Is it Java?
- With Wi-Fi connections possible, is it a requirement that the phone is 3G [enabled or that people have] a 3G contract with their carrier?
- Will it technically be able to run on iPhones currently in circulation; and if not, will it be able to run on iPhones after a software update from Apple?
I’m really pushing it with that last one, I know. It’s not too far fetched that they’re collaborating with Apple, but if they were they’d hardly reveal anything. The answers, when and if I get them, will be posted here. In the meantime enjoy this video of the system in action on a Motorola phone.
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These outrageously sexy bikini pants from Sanna's Brazil Fashion, a Japanese clothing company, blur the line between blue jeans and a string bikini. And you know what? I'm all right with that!
Low-riding blue jeans are a fashion trend that seems to have long legs - pun definitely intended. The only question is, how low can they go? Sanna's Brazil Fashion seems to have given us the answer with their new line of bikini pants that combine ultra low-cut blue jeans with an integrated string bikini bottom. The effect is stunning... super sexy yet extremely flattering, and without showing more skin than a normal bikini displays.
Here they are being modeled on a Japanese TV show. I'm guessing this segment caused more seizures in the viewing audience then those Pokemon cartoons of a few years back...
The eyebrow-raising, super sexy design is practical as well as provocative, as the bikini portion helps keep the pants securely hitched to the hips. From the rear, the bikini portion can also serve to mask another fashion trend whose 15 minutes expired some time ago: the trashy "tramp stamp" tattoo.
If you'd like to set a new fashion trend in your neighborhood - or get expelled/fired/ogled as the case may be, you can order the "bijini", to coin a phrase, at the Sanna's Brazil Fashion website. They're surprisingly inexpensive at just $88 plus shipping and are made in Brazil... to whom those who appreciate the female form now owe mucho gratitude! Many thanks also to Neil Duckett for the TV show images.
Sex sells. Advertising and sex have been tied together since advertising became a big business. The use of sexually suggestive images to sell just about everything really emphasizes the point that sex is a merchandiser's best friend.
Here are some recent ads where sex is used to sell all sorts of products. Looking at these ads, would you agree that sex really sells... best?
Let's start with one of the most popular example of so called "sexy" (and after reading this, you may think one of the classiest of suggestive) advertising campaigns.
The Victoria's Secret Angels.
For the consumer, it makes sense to use sex to sell lingerie, men's cologne, even liquor, but what about using sex to sell some of these other products?
2) I will let you guess what product this print ad is for...
That's right. A company in Germany sells their household appliances, including vacuums, using images of women in fishnets and men tied up.
Maybe S and M does something for those looking to purchase a new vacuum? Who knew?
Do you see the vacuum in the bottom left corner? Look carefully, or you may miss the point of the ad.
3) Renova Toilet Paper
What about this print ad for Renova, a toilet paper brand? What's sexy about toilet paper?
4) Volvo Cars
Even automobile companies seem to believe sex sells best.
This suggestive advertising is from Volvo, and its titled "We Are Just As Excited As You Are."
Nice parking brake...
What about this ad for an Italian coffee company? Coffee makes everyone think of sex, doesn't it?
6) Lynx Body Wash
And of course, what better way is there to sell men's body wash then with a sexy woman, slick and wet, in the shower? This print ad is for Lynx body wash.
Talk about gettin' dirty....
7) Carl's Jr. Hamburgers
Who could forget the infamous Paris Hilton ad? Remember Paris in a bikini washing a Bentley while eating a Carl's Jr. famous burger?
Doesn't everyone eat grease dripping burgers while washing their cars?
What about this Milk Gives ad that was displayed all over Canada to inform the public of the health benefits of drinking milk?
It's an eye-catching way to show the "benefits" of drinking milk.
9) PETA Fruits
Even PETA seems to believe that sex sells. This television commercial promotes the purchase of fruits and veggies. Who knew that buying produce could be such a turn on?
Along with saving animals, one fur coat at a time, PETA is apparently a good judge of melons too.
Or what about the newest PETA campaign.
And who better to promote the cause than America's favorite Playboy bunny...naked?
10) PUMA Clothing
There is really nothing to say that can add to this ad. Well, personally, I think they took "Sex Sells" just a little too far.
11) Herald Towers Condominiums
This is a print ad for the Herald Towers Condominiums in New York. What does sex have to do with real estate?
12) Che Magazine
This suggestive ad campaign was used in Belgium to promote a new men's magazine, Che. (OK, so maybe for a men's magazine, using sex to sell is an obvious marketing choice.)
13) Playstation 2
What better way to sell one of the hottest video game machines around then sex?
Take one of the best selling electronics products in the world. Combine it with sex and create something with even more heat? How much hotter can you get?
15) Aprilia Scooters
"On my scooter everything has to be perfect. " This newspaper ad is for an Italian scooter company targeting men.
What do you think of these advertisements? Do you think that they were effective in selling their product?
Do you think sex sell best or is it a lazy way to sell a product? Is there anything sex would not be good for selling?
What do you think of these ads? Know of any other that are particularly funny , hot or noteworthy that I missed?
On this day in 1792, the infamous guillotine claimed its first victim - a robber named Jacques Nicolas Pelletier. The guillotine remained France's number one method of execution for the next 189 years. To commemorate the role Pelletier played in history, let's take a look at the invention of the guillotine.
Though not the first device in history to execute people by decapitation, the guillotine is certainly the most memorable. France worked to improve it and it was the first country to adopt it as a main method of execution. In 1791, during the French Revolution, France's National Assembly worked to find a new execution method. The old way was the breaking wheel, also known as the Catherine wheel, where the condemned would be strapped to a wheel to be clubbed to death. The problem with this, however, was that the prisoner could be freed. This is precisely what happened in 1788, when a mob released the prisoner and broke the wheel.
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a member of the National Assembly, was also a professor of anatomy in Paris. It was his idea to come up with a new execution method. He was a member of the committee charged with inventing this new method that would quickly end the condemn's life rather than cause pain. Earlier types of guillotine used blunt force to remove the head, used an axe-shaped blade. This was the problem presented to Guillotin's committee.
An officer of the Strasbourg criminal court can be said to have invented the guillotine - he developed the initial design. However, it was a German harpsichord maker named Tobias Schmidt that invented the horizontally-slanting blade that is characteristic of the guillotine. It was this signature blade that contributed to its reputation as a humane form of execution, as it worked quickly and accurately. It was also the great equalizer, as executions before its invention varied based on social class.
In the throes of the French Revolution, the country erupted into chaos and guillotine beheadings happened frequently. Political prisoners and collaborators were executed using this invention. Even King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette went down in history as people sentenced to death by the guillotine. During this time, guillotinings were crowd-pleasing events, drawing regular spectators and even children.
In 1939, the last public beheading by guillotine occurred, but it was France's official execution method until 1981.
Strangely enough, the machine is named after Dr. Guillotin even though he didn't design it. The guillotine was originally named after Antone Louis, who developed the prototype. It was a comedic song about Dr. Guillotin that made the name stick - proof that a catchy name for an invention is important!
In the name of peace some of those weapons were donated to the PAPC. The PAPC (Peace Art Project Cambodia) is a project that was created in November of 2003 by British artist Sasha Constable and Neil Wilford, small weapons specialist with the European Union.
In the name of peace the weapons were recycled (sculpted, forged or welded) into amazing works of art such as: chairs, tables, bikes, animals and various other sculptures by student artists from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh.
Isn't there something twisted about sitting on furniture made of guns? Or making art out of AK-47's? What do you think?
Personally I'd like to add the rocking chair made of guns to my list of favorite recycled chairs . It speaks volumes to me. Its dark cold metal eco-frame calls out to me, "Sit and relax!"
Is it comfortable? Maybe not, but I don't plan on sitting in it forever. I just want to get the feel of sitting on a piece of furniture made of parts once composed of a negative past now recycled into hope for a safer more peaceful future.
To find out more about the PAPC visit Sasha Constable's website .
Via Haute Nature
Tired of those big rectangular wire boxes for crating your puppy or dog? They may be functional, but boy are they ugly! DesignGo! has created something truly unique, but a sure heck-of-a-long-time coming... an elegant spherical-shaped dog crate for a rich dog who resides in a chic, modern home. It's called the eiCrate.
Why a rich dog? Well, the eiCrate is a bit pricey, but worth the money when you consider the workmanship, materials, and features involved. Not to mention the beauty of the eiCrate!
* Each eiCrate shell is hand made in black, white, gold, or silver powder-coated steel wire.
* Its inner mat is 100 percent rubber, leak proof, and very easy to clean.
* The shell breaks down into only two parts, so the eiCrate is easy to put together, take apart, and store.
* The eiCrate has two dog-secure locks; no escape is possible without your help!
The dimensions of the eiCrate are: Height 24.5” Total width 36”, Depth 34”, Door Height 14.5”, perfect for dogs from 4 to 40 pounds. The rubber liner totally fills the bottom of the eiCrate and is sold with the crate for $325. For comparison, a high quality rectangular crate of an equivalent size would cost over $200 with a metal floor.
But you can also purchase the whole enchilada, which turns your puppy training crate into a lifelong private apartment for your grown dog... provided she's not a very big dog.
And what rich dog would not want her own apartment? The eiCrate Starter Package includes the eiCrate and liner as well as a bed, cleverly designed to cover only half of the floor so the other half can be used to place food and water and toys. This cosy oeuf (egg) bed measures 31”X 28” X 3” and comes in four colors, shown to the right.
The oeuf is covered with stain resistant micro-fiber on one side of it, and 500 Denier Nylon Cordura on the other, so your dog's comfort is assured whether he's cold or warm.
And if you want to give your dog privacy and shelter from your late night parties, and a bit more warmth, the eiCrate Starter Package also includes a fitted cover made of double-backed cotton jersey.
The price tag for the eiCrate Starter Package is $575.... and there is really nothing to compare it to.
That's the buzz for today!