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Trees dead for 500 years - but not decayed

“We were gathering samples of dead trees to reconstruct summer temperatures in western Norway, when our dendrochronological dating showed the wood to be much older than expected”, says Terje Thun, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Museum of Natural History and Archaeology...

A blizzard (of links) for you

"Molten gold was poured down his throat."  Modern forensic pathologists reproduce the death of a Spanish governor of colonial Ecuador in 1599.  They suggest that the reports of his bowels bursting may have been the result of steam generated by the procedure.

Res ipsa loquitur

This river in Manila eventually leads to the ocean

Photo credit: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian.

Butterflies can change their spots

Every aspect of a butterfly has been shaped by evolutionary processes over the millenia to render the butterfly as perfectly adapted as possible to its favored environment.  The shape of the wings, the wing pattern, the color of the eggs - all are the result of billions of tiny changes.

Somebody has to lose a coin flip...

But nobody loses more of them than the Minnesota Vikings: "The Minnesota Vikings haven't exactly been lucky on coin tosses, either.

Word for the day: virga

Our local weatherman used the term "virga" several evenings ago when he pointed out that snow seen on the radar was not reaching the ground: In meteorology, virga is an observable streak or shaft of precipitation that falls from a cloud but evaporates or sublimes before reaching the ground.

Massive die-off of Pacific seabirds

From National Geographic: Last year, beginning about Halloween, thousands of juvenile auklets started washing ashore dead from California's Farallon Islands to Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) off central British Columbia.

"The Last Time I Saw Her" (Gordon Lightfoot)

YouTube link. But that was so long ago That I can scarcely feel the way I felt before. And if time could heal the wounds I would tear the threads away That I might bleed some more.

The complicated tail of Comet Lovejoy

From APOD: Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), which is currently at naked-eye brightness and near its brightest, has been showing an exquisitely detailed ion tail.

Canine prosthetic legs

YouTube link.  This is your feel-good video of the week, which I found at Oregon Expat. Note from the OP: "Many of you have pointed out that Derby's prosthetics seem too low.

Can you weigh the air in a football? - updated

Following the AFC championship game, there were allegations that some member of the New England Patriots staff may have provided their team with slightly underinflated footballs (which would be easier to grip in cold wet weather).

American arrested for carrying Arabic "flash cards"

Nick was heading off to start his senior year at Pomona College in California, back in August 2009, when cops detained, aggressively interrogated, handcuffed, and locked him in a jail cell for nearly five hours at the Philadelphia International Airport.

How to play with supercooled water at home

YouTube link. This reminds me of how my mother's family used to make ice cream on the farm, with what presumably was a supercooled churn.

"We built this" - redux

During the last presidential campaign, a recurring theme was that of independence from government support, a claim made proudly to counteract Obama's perceived "socialist" tendencies.  This past week, one of the rebuttals to Obama's State of the Union address was given by Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who proudly described how she wore plastic bread bags over her shoes as a mark of her family's humble roots and ability to live within their means.  What she conveniently left out was her family's acceptance of federal farm subsidies: The truth about her family’s farm roots and living within one’s means, however, is more complex.

The "national costume" of Canada

I'll defer from commenting on the Miss Universe competition per se, but couldn't resist posting this photo of Miss Canada wearing her "national costume." As a former manager of a collegiate hockey team, I was startled by the 20-14 "score" until I read that it is a representation of the year (the scoreboard is attached to her outfit, btw).

An ancient rebus involving a Jew's harp

Solving the rebus at the top of this illustration in a 17th-century book requires understanding the meaning of the key-like item after the word "dames." It actually most closely resembles a jaw harp, a small instrument played with the mouth that produces a distinctive twanging sound.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Explained at Vox: A significant number of heavy computer users experience a range of symptoms that researchers group under the umbrella phrase "computer vision syndrome."...

Within my lifetime

North  Carolina, 1950. Photo credit Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos / Agentur Focus, via Spiegel Online.

Monarch butterfly tourism locations

Smithsonian offers a list of seven locations in North America where Monarch butterflies can be seen in large numbers.