Aitch-Bar

Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say


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Two Seconds Hate: The Darién Gap

Mind the gap.

The Darién Gap is a section of impenetrable jungle and swamps in eastern Panama that makes overland crossing between North and South American nearly impossible. A ~30,000 mile route from northernmost Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America currently exists—with the exception of a 54 mile break around the Panama-Colombia border. What the FUCK, Panama? Supposedly, without an overwhelming political or economic demand, and the prohibitive cost of constructing roads through a dense swamp full of FARC rebels, there aren’t even plans to ameliorate this fact in the near future.

Oh, I’m sorry, did I fail to account for the historical, engineering and environmental impact of building a major highway through an otherwise pointless stretch of jungle? I guess I was too busy not making excuses.

Am I planning on driving to Buenos Aires? Of course not. But I reserve the right to drive to Buenos Aires. I also reserve the right to not use accents on words that come from other languages. There you go Darien Gap, how does that feel? Somehow…incomplete? Now you know how I feel.

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Weekend Linktopus

Congratulations! You are the first person to read this alt-text!

The Linktopus isn’t fucking around

BEHOLD! The multi-tenticled splendor of this blog’s ability to notice other things on the series of tubes— by reaching through them with its many tenticular arms. Or like an octopus learning how to open a jar to get at a crab. The funny link is the crab, trapped within in a sadistic experiment to test cephalopodular intelligence. Or maybe you, the reader are the crab. Hmm. I haven’t really thought this analogy through, but either way, Aitch-bar is the octopus.

\scriptstyle\Box   You know the Olympic Torch? How they always talk about “The Olympic Flame” in a way that implies it is a permanent thing, and how there are multiple stories regarding the many and varied methods they use to keep it lit while relaying it…the backups…the fuel canisters, etc. All of this has caused me to assume that there was some kind of fortified room in Athens where a permanent flame is kept alight. I always assumed that a continuous flame has been kept burning there, as it is at JFK’s tomb or whatever. And based on my non-scientific survey of nearly 3 other people, I wasn’t alone in this. How wrong I was.

At least it's parabolic

Celebrating the tradition of burying women alive if they violate virginity oaths.

The Olympic flame is relit every 2 years in a ceremony imitating Greek antiquity in the much the same way that Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas imitates ancient Rome. A group of eleven women representing the Vestal Virgins¹ have a little ceremony and then light it using a parabolic mirror, and hand it off to somebody, who runs away. (Fun fact: Vestal Virgins are Roman, not Greek. And they were dedicated to keeping a fire that was never to be extinguished, not one that is restarted and put out every 2 years.) It’s not a secret, they televise it and everything…just not in America I guess. The first awareness I usually have that the Olympics are about to happen are little blips on the news about so-and-so doing a portion of the relay, so the lighting with its weird fake toga ladies must not get much coverage.

Oh yeah, and the relay was invented for the 1936 games. By noted sports fan Joseph Goebbels.

\scriptstyle\Box   “Henri 2, Paw de Deux” won the first Internet Cat Video Festival. He and his human companion deserve it, the 2 min film is a masterpiece of feline ennui.

\scriptstyle\Box   Strange Maps points to a “Map of Physics” from 1939. A more current map would take up a tiny fraction, with the rest an inky darkness to represent the dark matter and dark energy that occupy so much of our thoughts and universe. Also, it would just be easier to draw.

What an unlikely landmass

No one is making a “Map of Chemistry.” Just Saying.

\scriptstyle\Box   If movie trailers were more honest with us, they’d look like this:

¹ When you are selected to pretend be a fake vestal virgin for this, but you’re in a relationship, does your role as a fake virgin enter your mind while you’re having sex? Do you think about whether you are less convincingly virginal? Do you try putting it on hold for a couple weeks while the ceremony is coming up and then go crazy once it’s over?


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Overly Harsh and Pedantic Takedown of This Shower Curtain Map

Doesn't look good under harsh bathroom lighting either

The World, from the same people who brought you liquid body soap

Allow me to get this out of the way right off the bat: I am not a cartographer. Sure, I may have a particular affection for the “Geography” section of Sporcle. And yes, I can spell Kyrgyzstan and know that Toronto isn’t the capital of Canada (even though it obviously should be). And I may have even drawn a map of the world from memory (along with everyone else in my class) as an end-of-year project in 7th grade. But those days are long past, and I have something significantly more important to tell you about: the bathroom users of this country are getting puzzling and inaccurate geographic information from one of the most popular shower curtains on the novelty shower curtain scene.

Sentimental views of crushing poverty have never been this geographic!

I am referring to the curtain available here which is well known enough that I had already seen it once or twice before picking it up last year. It even featured in a few episodes of the US version of Shameless alongside Emmy Rossum’s boobs (no, that link isn’t to her boobs, pervert). If they ever reboot Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiago? as some kind of edgy, morally-ambiguous, heist drama on AMC it’ll be in their bathroom as well.¹

Unlike Amazon reviewer “E. Foster” whose primary complaint was “Really Smelly!” most of my criticisms are based on the bounty of geographical oddities contained upon its rubber surface. Sure, it’s just a shower curtain, but it is one of the most massively influential shower curtains on the market right now! Here are some of the things that are strange about it:

  1. The Mercator Projection. Widely considered the wrongest of all preposterously wrong map projections. It’s a wild distortion of the relative sizes of various parts of the world that says to your typical mid-17th century colonialist “Why OF COURSE it would make sense for Norway to rule over the southern half of Africa.” Continue reading