We round up this week’s most intriguing items from around the Web.
The Los Angeles Times Magazine offers a thoughtful and engaging article on, of all things, mosquitoes-and one lab’s attempt to genetically engineer a safer breed. The researchers hope to eliminate malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, but face public resistance to releasing GM species into the wild. Not proposed by the scientists: Controlling their pretties with a genetically engineered race of giant, super-intelligent spiders…
But Does It Pass the Milk-out-the-Nose Test?
The British Association for the Advancement of Science has begun a year-long campaign to discover the funniest joke in the world, reports Nature. When the survey ends, one lucky participant-maybe you!-will be chosen to hear the world’s bonniest mot while a team of researchers scans your brain. Unless, of course, the tangle of electrodes on your head confirms comedy’s oldest hypothesis: that it’s all in the timing.
No Laughing Matter
New research suggests that the universe could, at any moment, coalesce into a mound of jelly, instantly destroying all life. Unless you’re up on supersymmetry and ghost particles, you may not have the stomach for the details. But BBC News puts it into perspective: the odds are better that you’ll purchase two winning lottery tickets in the same week. Adds a new level of excitement to the Big Game, don’t you think?
So-called “black-hat” hackers love to go where they aren’t allowed. And that’s exactly what security experts are counting on, reports the New York Times. Computers intentionally left vulnerable, called “honeypots,” attract net ne’er-do-wells, allowing the “white hats” to learn their tricks and defend against them. Honeypots are also a window into hacker sociology, reported one insightful researcher who “noted the extent of bragging and denigration of other members’ skills, a practice that apparently extends to much of the black hat community.”
War and (Green)peace
New Scientist takes a look at a new military trend: environmentally friendly weapons. What’s the point, you ask, since the goal is still to kill people? It turns out that most explosives do their exploding on friendly soil, during training. One snag, according to NS: “Currently green explosives are 100 times more expensive.” But is that really a problem for the proud owners of the $1,000 toilet seat?