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The Killer Shrews (1959)

The 1950's came to an end in 1959, but not the B-Movies, which continued to flourish throughout the following decade. Another example of Bad Cinema is 1959's The Killer Shrews, a film noteworthy on several levels: 1) It is truly an awful film, with ludicrous special effects and makeup 2) It was filmed at Lake Dallas, about 40 miles from where I grew up, not exactly a location to be mistaken for the Caribbean 3) It starred (and was produced by) Ken Curtis, who later went on to Gunsmoke as Festus Hagen, and James Best, who later went on to The Dukes of Hazzard as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane 4) it got its own review at and 5) it got the MST3K treatment (seen below). Quite the resume, this.

This may well be the first horror film I ever saw, and I distinctly remember the lobby artwork seen above. It is a bad film, but as with many other bad films, it does have entertainment value, worthy of watching with Jurassic Park kids who have probably never seen bad theatrical special effects or makeup before.

The original theatrical trailer is embedded below, followed by the MST3K Cinema Edition. For what it's worth, The Killer Shrews may well be MST3K's best-ever review.

The original theatrical trailer.

MST3K Cinema Edition.


Physical Activity Helps Prevent Depression

For a lot of people struggling with depression, just getting out of bed could be a cumbersome task. On their low days, nothing just seems to make any sense in the world and they would rather stay cooped up inside. But research now shows that engaging in physical activities could help them reduce risk for depression.

Now a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has used a novel research method to strongly support physical activity as a preventive measure for depression. Their report is being published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
"Using genetic data, we found evidence that higher levels of physical activity may causally reduce risk for depression," says Karmel Choi, Ph.D., of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine, lead author of the report.

(Image credit: Geert Pieters/Unsplash)


The First Dive to Challenger Deep

Human beings have always set out to expand the limits of our knowledge and experience of the world. We want to challenge ourselves and see how far we can go, and we want to discover things that are beyond the normal reach. And so, almost 60 years ago, two men set out to be the first people to dive toward the deepest point of the ocean.

On 23 January 1960, two men clambered aboard the Trieste for its attempt to dive into the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench: marine specialist Lieutenant Don Walsh of the US Navy; and oceanographer Jacques Piccard, son of the vehicle’s inventor.

This is the story of Trieste.

(Image credit: Damn Interesting)


Gemologist Finds Insect Trapped in Opal

We've seen plenty of insects and small animals trapped in amber, which is tree sap that becomes hard as rock over time. Gemologist Brian Berger has something much more rare: an insect trapped in opal! Opal is a mineraloid made of silica and water, and would have taken a very long time to form, so how did this happen?

Further research is being conducted on the specimen currently. The initial theory is that this encasement may mean the opal itself is opalized amber. Theoretically speaking, the insect likely was trapped in tree sap or resin which, over time and under the right circumstances, was preserved as amber with the insect encasement. This is a process many of us are familiar with. However, a second, much rarer process of opalization can also occur. And so, in this case, as conditions changed for the amber specimen, it is possible the amber opalized, preserving the inclusion. Amazingly, the silica surrounding the insect also structurally changed to produce the play of color.

Berger purchased the opal in Indonesia; it was originally found on the island of Java. Read more about the opal at Entomology Today. -via Gizmodo

(Image credit: Brian Berger)


The Case of An Only Child

If it is generally thought that children who have no siblings would be spoiled and selfish, then I would be the first to say that not all single children are like that, and I can attest to that.

I grew up as an only child and though my parents lavished their love and attention upon me, I was never raised to think only of myself and expect that I would get what I want when I cry about it. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I was taught to work hard if I want something and even if I did, we still had to consider the budget constraints.

So, no. Only-child syndrome is not something that all single children experience. It still depends on how they were raised.

In A Study of Peculiar and Exceptional Children published in the 19th century by educator E. W. Bohannon from Clark University in Massachusetts, detailed the results of a questionnaire—a new form of data collection at the time—filled out by 200 test subjects. In it he had asked respondents about the peculiarities of any only children they knew. In 196 cases participants described children without siblings as excessively spoiled.

Not necessarily:

According to data compiled in the 21st century, however, these notions are nonsense and only children show no serious deficits. Toni Falbo, a psychologist at The University of Texas at Austin, and an only child, opposes the idea you need brothers and sisters to grow into a decent person. In her 1986 survey, for which she examined more than 200 studies on the subject, she concluded the characteristics of children with and without siblings do not differ. The only difference, she found, was that only children seemed to have stronger bonds with their parents compared with children who had siblings.

Perhaps, one of the things that I realized as I grew up being an only child is that I actually would have liked to have a sibling. Despite the perks of being an only child, there are things that children with siblings relish like bonds with their brothers and sisters.

(Image credit: Suke Tran/Unsplash)


The Symmetry of Churches

Photographer Peter Li has produced a stunning set of panoramic photographs of the interiors of various churches.

We see the old and familiar anew in Peter Li’s work. “I think symmetry is a major factor for these images to work", Peter tells us, “also the high ceilings and repeating arches further emphasize the scale of these interior spaces”.

In Li’s images the churches lives. You can get carried away in really big churches. Those architects knew how to put you in your place.


Baby Does Grown-Up Stuff

Ryan is only six months old, but he's already got experience shaving, fishing, playing poker, lifting weights, mowing the lawn, working on the car, chopping wood, and other activities you'd associate with a more mature person.

Our son was born premature 9 weeks early weighing just under 3 lbs. I like to joke that he wasn't premature, he's just advanced. So I took some pictures of him doing some manly grown-up things.

With patience, props, and some photo manipulation, Ryan's parents have an entire gallery of pictures that show their talented son adulting. Don’t neglect to load the last photos at the bottom of the gallery. There’s one showing how Ryan has grown, which is only evident in relation to the dinosaur next to him. Way to go, Ryan! -via Boing Boing



A man with a Rubik's cube for a head tries to fit in with other men with the same head, but they really aren't the same unless they are exactly the same. It's a super weird analogy for individuality and inclusiveness, but it eventually works. Cubed was Xue Enge's award-winning graduation film at Nanyang Technological University. -via Laughing Squid


Vacationing at the Edge of a Giant Hole in the Earth

That's a mighty big hole in the ground, judging by the buildings around it! This is the city of Mirny, in Siberia. It's a company town of 37,000 people, centered around the diamond mine that created the pit.  

The population is made up of workers who moved here from other Russian regions and former Soviet states, lured by the incentive of a higher than average wages. But with the higher wages comes the higher cost of living. The main access route to Mirny is via the airport and all the food to feed the town has to be flown in, hiking up the price. Whilst the wages may be attractive to some, if you’re not in the mining biz you won’t reap the one perk of life in Mirny. A school teacher here earns 19,000 rubles a month, that’s about $300.

For a small isolated town, Mirny has some intriguing features, such as a national park and a college, which mainly trains students in mining technology. Travel to Mirny is restricted by both logistics and the Russian government, but that may change. The town is trying to reposition itself as a tourist destination! Read about life in Mirny at Messy Nessy Chic.

(Image credit: Igor Dvurekov)


Beginning of the End (1957)

The 1950's was the decade of the Creature Feature and Hollywood turned out 'monster' films featuring just about every conceivable type of creature, including insects. This 1957 offering, Beginning of the End, was typical of such fare, but it stands out for a number of reasons. A review from the IMDb says it all:

The film that helped usher in Hollywood's giant bug craze. Special effects are pathetic even for the time, but the story is gripping enough and the acting first-rate. Peter Graves plays a scientist working on food growth via radiation. Grasshoppers get at these plants and grow to the size of a bus. They find humans much tastier than their usual fare. They invade Chicago after tearing up the countryside, and it's a race to the finish to see whether anything can be done to stop them before the Army nukes Chicago. Lots of fun. We never see the monsters actually come into contact with any of the humans they devour, but the closeup facial shots of various actors about to be eaten are priceless.

This film was another of the many low-budget B-Movies of that decade, and it stands out for the sheer hilarity of the special effects. Giant grasshoppers shown climbing skyscrapers are quite obviously normal grasshoppers walking across a picture of a skyscraper lying on a horizontal surface. But it's not all bad; we get to see one of the first cell phones in existence, owned and used by the intrepid lady reporter.

And what would a B-Movie be without a review by Embedded below is the 'breathless' trailer for the film, followed by MST3K's take on it. YouTube features the plain and unadorned film, but MST3K's treatment is a definite improvement. See for yourself.

The theatrical trailer for the 1957 film.

The MST3K treatment of the film.


Two Storms on Jupiter

In another stunning photo captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it passed by Jupiter's surface, we get to see two storms next to each other.

Accompanying the famous Great Red Spot storm in this image is a second storm nicknamed Oval BA. Unlike its larger russet companion, Oval BA formed under scientists' eyes, when three smaller storms collided in 2000.
The visible-light camera on board Juno, called JunoCam, has been able to watch Oval BA change over the course of the mission, with the storm becoming paler since a previous visit nearly a year ago, according to a statement from the Southwest Research Institute, which manages the mission.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran)


Tiny Robots for Drugs

Taking medication isn't really too taxing of a task, right? You just pop one in your mouth and wash it down with some water, and you're done. Although, they don't always take effect right away so you would still have to deal with your headache or allergies for some more time before getting relief.

But, what if the drugs we take have the capability to get to the problem right away and alleviate our condition in one or two minutes tops? That would be awesome. Actually, some scientists are doing research to do that through microrobots.

One day we may be able to ingest tiny robots that deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue, thanks to research being carried out at EPFL and ETH Zurich.
The group of scientists – led by Selman Sakar at EPFL and Bradley Nelson at ETH Zurich – drew inspiration from bacteria to design smart, biocompatible microrobots that are highly flexible.
Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape when needed, they can pass through narrow blood vessels and intricate systems without compromising on speed or maneuverability.

(Image credit: EPFL/ETH Zurich)


Animals Keep Creating Mysteries by Sounding Weird

These two lynx are having some sort of spat. It could be territorial, or maybe a lover's quarrel, but if you heard that coming from your back yard in the night, you'd get no sleep. It's just one example of the ways animals surprise us when we hear the strange sounds coming from them. The most famous example is the "sonic attack" on American diplomats in Cuba a couple of years ago, which scientists now believe was the call of the the Indies short-tailed cricket. Ed Yong goes through more examples, like puffins that sound like chainsaws, humming fish, and tortoises having loud sex. Read about totally weird animal noises, with video evidence, at the Atlantic. -via Metafilter


Herd Immunity in Action

A new study shows that the vaccine against HPV has caused incidences of human papilloma virus to decline, even among women who don't get the vaccine. The vaccine protects against several strains of the virus, which are linked to various cancers. The study found that between 2006 and 2017, rates of vaccination among young women went from zero to 84%, and the prevalence of HPV in the vaccinated women went down from 35% to 6.7%.  

In other findings, the study showed that the prevalence of the four HPV types also dipped among patients who remained unvaccinated: At the outset, about one-third tested positive for those viral strains, and that figure dropped to 19.4 percent over time.

According to Kahn's team, it points to what's called "herd protection" -- where everyone benefits from having a large portion of the population vaccinated against a particular disease.

The finding is not surprising, Park pointed out: As the prevalence of an infection goes down, the overall risk of contracting it goes down.

However, she stressed, parents and young adults should not take that to mean it's safe to go unvaccinated.

The declining rates of HPV among unvaccinated women is an example of herd immunity, which means that a disease has more difficulty in spreading when a portion of the host population is immune. The higher percentage of population immunity, the more likely a disease will die out completely. But herd immunity doesn't assure protection for any particular individual. The best protection is vaccination. Read more about the study here. -via reddit

The vaccine has been recommended for girls since 2006. In 2009, the FDA recommended that boys also get the HPV vaccine, which not only protects men from some cancers, but also contributes to herd immunity. Last fall, the recommended upper age for the vaccine was raised from 27 to 45. Adults should check with their insurance company before getting the vaccine, which costs several hundred dollars.

(Image credit: Jan Christian)


MIB: Men In Blues

Men in Black is a treasure of science fiction comedy. The Blues Brothers is the ultimate in comedy plus cool. So what if Men in Black were recast with Jake and Elwood in the buddy cop roles? Master mashup artist Fabrice Mathieu (previously at Neatorama) has crafted a short film with best of both worlds: the cool vibe of The Blues Brothers and the aliens from not only Men in Black, but a variety of other movies you know and love. Oh yeah, you better believe there's a chase scene! -Thanks, Fabrice!     

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