The Null Device
Studies have found that our water supplies are full of pharmaceutical substances, from antibiotics to antidepressants to birth control drugs. Not to worry, though; the heady pharmaceutical cocktail is far too dilute to have any immediate effects.
Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.
Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe - even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.Meanwhile, tht beefburger you're eating may well be full of delicious steroid goodness:
Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.There you have it: it's a scientific fact that eating beef makes you more masculine.
Remember Leoncie, the other eccentric Icelandic singer who gave the world pop classics like "Radio Rapist" and "Sex Crazy Cop"? (The world, meanwhile, responded with stubborn indifference, apart from perhaps the odd "no way, man".) Well, she now has videos on YouTube, where you can behold the sheer awesomeness that is her unique pop sensibility (which draws on sub-Eurovision pop-rock and the genre of smooth, high-tech black radio-pop that fell into the cracks between Prince and hip-hop, with general-MIDI instruments and vocal stylings which sound somewhere between Whitney Houston and a Wagnerian valkyrie, not to mention inappropriately risqué subject matter). Go on, take a look at Sex Crazy Cop; you know you're curious.
A French artist is working on a Nintendo DS game about the Holocaust. Titled Imagination is the Only Escape, the game will place players in the role of a young boy in Eastern France who uses his imagination to escape the horrors of war during the German occupation of World War II. (Sounds like a real barrel of laughs, doesn't it?) That is assuming that Nintendo sign off on this; the New York Times reported that they had refused to release it in the US, though this report has since been denied.
(via Wired News)
Two years ago, I caught a sleeper train from Paris to Zurich. Not intentionally, mind you, but entirely by chance.
I had originally intended to travel from Paris to Florence by sleeper train, departing from the Gare de Bercy a whisker after 7pm, and to this effect, had booked a seat on the Eurostar arriving at the Gare du Nord just before 5:30pm. This, in theory, would have given me ample time to make my leisurely way through the Paris Métro, possibly grabbing a bite to eat, before boarding my train. In reality, it turned out that the Channel Tunnel wasn't feeling well that afternoon, and the Eurostar spent some 80 minutes waiting in the Kentish countryside, consequently arriving in Paris just before 7. A mad dash in a taxi with a driver who spoke no English ("Parlez-vous Anglais?", I enquired on entering the cab; the driver reply, buttered with no small amount of self-satisfaction, was, "Parle Français.") resulted in my arriving at Gare de Bercy (a good 5km away) some ten minutes after the Florence train's departure.
Facing the prospect of spending a night in a hotel room, I inquired at the ticket office about subsequent trains. Luckily, there was a sleeper train to Zurich (or, more precisely, to Chur via Zurich), and thence I could catch a train to Milan the following morning, putting me on the way toward Florence, at the cost of only around £90 and some eight hours of time. This, however, turned out to be well worth it, as the scenery along the Zurich-Milan route was spectacular. The morning's train wound past silvery alpine lakes fringed with small, white houses and corkscrewed its way up mountains to St. Gotthard's Pass, before entering a tunnel. On the other side, everything was different: the climate, the architecture, even the language. We had left the German-speaking part of Switzerland and entered the Italian-speaking part, a somewhat sunnier, though still impeccably well-organised, place. The train headed south, then stopped for some time at the border as border guards boarded to check our passports. Then it proceeded southward, past Lake Como, and towards Milan. From Milan, I made my own way south.
I had been planning to take this journey again at some point, the next time actually breaking it in the Swiss Alps; getting off the train somewhere around, say, Arth-Goldau or so, and spending a day or two there, in alpine tranquility. Though, when I recently looked at seat61.com, I found that that is no longer possible, having fallen victim to the onward march of progress:
The convenient direct sleeper train from Paris to Landquart & Chur was sadly withdrawn with the opening of the TGV-Est high-speed line in June 2007I wonder how many other sleeper train services have disappeared over recent years, squeezed by the boorish onslaught of cheap flights on one hand and the march of high-speed rail on the other, and whether this is a one-way process, or whether there are any new overnight services being introduced as old ones are dropped. One would think that they could run some through the Channel Tunnel at night. (Perhaps if Deutsche Bahn get rights to run services through the tunnel from 2010, as they have applied to do, they will put some in. After all, Germany is considerably further from London than Paris or Brussels, and an overnight train from London to Berlin, the showpiece rail hub of central Europe, could be popular. And then there were the overnight services from the north of Britain to Paris that were mooted when the tunnel was being built and flights were relatively expensive.)
The Catholic Church has just revised the list of mortal sins. Among new things which damn the sinner to Hell for all eternity if not absolved is engaging in "manipulative genetic science", i.e., modifying genetic material. To be fair, the Vatican did just erect a statue of Galileo, the scientist they forced on pain of death to recant the theory that the earth went around the sun, so they're not entirely anti-scientific; they just like their science to mature for a few centuries.
Other things Catholics may not do without risking eternal damnation include abortion (natch) and paedophilia, taking or dealing drugs (presumably not including socially acceptable ones, such as alcohol, nicotine or caffeine) or "the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few" (that's a few individuals, not the Church itself).