Right Now in Stuff You Should Know

A while back, Josh and I did a podcast on "what to do with a dead body." We covered some green alternatives in the process. Since everything is going green these days, it should come as no surprise that green funerals are part of a burgeoning eco-friendly death care industry. The state of Oregon, no stranger to things green, just passed some legislation that would help regulate this new segment of the funeral industry. The bill would, among other things, establish a regulatory body for people who work as "death midwives and doulas," and oversee the newer eco-friendly ways to return a dead body into the earth. In Oregon, you can have your body cremated, dissolved into a soapy liquid (resomation) or freeze dried and turned into a fine powder.

Author's note: In my opinion, there are a number of ways something can be funny. There's traditional funny (e.g., "What's the deal with airplane food?"). There's absurd funny (e.g. using coconuts to simulate the sound of a horse for a knight who doesn't have one). And then there's the HolycowIcan'tbelieveyoudidthat funny. The kind of funny that surrounds a situation that's so abominable and horrible that somehow humor emerges from it like teeth and fingernails in a teratoma. I leave it to you, dear reader, to determine if anything in this week's list has any humor to it. I hope, in turn, you'll forgive me if I see it pretty clearly. Back in 1920, which constituted the early days of psychology (Freud had only stopped prescribing cocaine to his patients a couple decades earlier), a guy named John B. Watson wanted to prove that fear was a learned behavior.

Podcast Goodness: Rigor Mortis and Organic Foods

Dr. Clark and I had a lovely time here at HSW HQ. We laid down a couple of groovy podcasts (if I do say so myself) about rigor mortis and buying local and/or organic food. As far as the rigor mortis show goes, can I just say two words? RADIUS AND ULNA.

Yeah, man, I've been hitting the tech stuff pretty hard lately, between this post and yesterday's. Despite finding the severed head of a Jellofox on my desk this morning -- a warning, I suspect, from J-Strick and Pollette to watch my back -- I will press on. Not only will I press on, I will write about a topic that Strickland already posted on. How you like me now? At issue is a bill under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee. H.R. 1966 would make it a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, for using electronic communication "to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person," reports Network World. You've likely guessed that the bill came out of a case in Missouri where a woman made up a fake MySpace page to humiliate a teenager after she chose to no longer be BFF with the woman's daughter.

Red wine is one of life's simple little pleasures for me and the wife. There's something about turning a bunch of grapes into a bottle of Pinot Noir or Cabnernet that just knocks me out. I have a couple of friends in the wine industry and I'm always interested in talking shop with them -- it's a fascinating trade (or art form). Many of you may be in the same boat as me, but some of you may be a little intimidated by the whole wine culture. Sure, there are some snooty snots that will turn up their nose if they realize you aren't an experienced wine enthusiast, but worry not -- we have some great articles on this very Web site that can take the fear out of learning about wine.

Le Arrrrgh: Music Pirates in France May Lose More than an Eye

I thought maybe I should mention that France is taking steps toward plummeting us into a new extragovernmental reality where big business acts as law enforcement against copyright pirates. Just a few years ago, people who traded music and movies illegally tended to be savvy users who populated bit torrent sites and newsgroups. That's changed dramatically...

Is it better to buy local or organic food?

These days, shopping for food can pose a dilemma. Should you buy regular, organic or local food? Check out this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to hear Josh and Chuck discuss whether it's better to buy local or organic food.

Facebook Surpasses E-mail?!?

Ratings gurus The Nielson Company recently revealed that "member communities," which means social networks and blogs, are now visited by 67 percent of the online community. This makes member communities the fourth most popular places to go on the Web, moving AHEAD of personal e-mail. Not only that, but it's growing twice as fast as any of the other top four -- search, portals, PC software and email.

The Cost of Death Now Conclusively Established -- And it's a Lot Less than You'd Think

Holy cow! I read a story in the Post-Chronicle about a hapless family from Tennessee who got a bit of a nasty surprise after the aged paternal matriarch died at her nursing home in March. The family received a check for their security deposit for grandmother's room, but it was a bit short.

By now you may have heard about the trolley driver in Boston that rear ended another trolley. The reason? He was texting on his cell phone. This happened last Friday evening as the Green Line trains were traveling between the Park Street and Government Center stations in downtown Boston. Twenty people were injured, though none of the injuries were life threatening. And apparently the driver,24-year-old Aiden Quinn, suffered some of the worst injuries. Don't confuse him with actor Aidan Quinn (although it has been a while since we've seen him).

What causes rigor mortis?

If you've ever watched a crime drama, you know that bodies get stiff after death. But why? Explore the biochemistry behind rigor mortis in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Afghanistan Does its Bit to Prevent Swine Flu

Until I'm writing about where the distress signals broadcast on nearly-dead radio stations after the human population on Earth suddenly drops to 32,845 are coming from, I won't mention swine flu again, alright?

Well, sort of. This whole thing stems from a group of Denver, Colorado pranksters who take part in the annual "Naked Pumpkin Run" through Denver on Halloween. Participants wear pumpkins on their heads, but little else as they dash through the streets of Denver. And last year there was protest against oil-burning cars that saw 60 naked cyclists riding around the capitol of the Centennial State. The Halloween streakers were all ticketed for indecent exposure and that's probably where the story should end. However, Colorado has some strict sex-offender laws and if the pumpkin runners had been convicted, they would have had to register and have their names placed on the sex offender list. The pumpkin runners pleaded to a lesser charge and didn't have to register, but the whole thing got the attention of the ACLU.

Thanks to News in Science for posting an article that I would say goes under the "cool; maybe we should get back to work now" tag. University of Central Florida theoretical physics grad student, Sohang Ghandi, and his mentor and professor, Costas Efthimiou put their combined IQs of 780 together and set about proving lore and fiction utterly wrong. The target: ghosts and vampires. The motive: to poo-poo the supernatural for unknown reasons. Costas and Sohang came up with a paper entitled, "Cinema Fiction vs. Physical Reality." In it, they take on the concept of ghosts walking through walls. False, stupid person. To move forward, a ghost would have to be capable of producing force (downward, in this case, through the foot).

Ohhh, that smell. The smell of death surrounds you. See -- it's coming from that beached whale right over there.

The dearhearts at Weird World mentioned yesterday that over in Goa, India, former home of Jason Bourne and tropical paradise, there something in the air. We call this something the stench of rotting whale flesh. As you may know, once an organism dies its cells undergo a form of cannibalism called autolysis...

Podcast Goodness: Exploding Lakes and Hairy Humans

What a headline! This week on Stuff You Should Know, Dr. Clark and I had some fun with two pretty fascinating topics. Tuesday's show covered some possible reasons why humans have body hair. Turns out there are lots of potential explanations - my favorite had to do with our migration from the forests to the open savanna.

I drove my hobbled Volvo into work today and along Moreland Ave. in East Atlanta I noticed something that caught my attention. The ornate 50s-era stone building tucked between a Long John Silver's and a Bank of America (and where, on weekends, one can find some really good barbecue for sale in the parking lot) that formerly bore an AIG sign now bears a new one. "Huh," I thought to myself. "I know the Fed and the Treasury have rendered it statistically impossible for AIG to go belly up. And I know that I definitely would have heard the pitter-patter of riots in the streets if the nearly $200 billion in taxpayer money had simply disappeared upon the company's failing. What gives?" Turns out the business inside was still AIG, they'd just changed the name. So AIG -- those three little letters that have become emblematic of the concept of rewarding bad behavior, black holes and vacuums that don't lose suction...

Marijuana Tax to Save the Economy!

Some number crunchers out in California (natch) have come up with some compelling financial arguments for legalizing, and in turn taxing the crud out of the little plant the U.S. government loves to hate. An owner of two medical marijuana shops in San Francisco pays the state of California $80,000 a year in sales tax revenue.

Lakes are usually tranquil bodies of water, but in rare instances, they can be deadly. Tune in to this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to hear Josh and Chuck discuss lakes that have exploded -- and the factors that create a killer lake.

Chuck and I just pulled off the first half of our second week of the live streaming SYSK webcast. If you missed it (for whatever reason, you don't need an excuse with us), you can check out round two at 1 p.m. EDT today. This is not a shameless plug, though, I promise. I mention the webcast because of a story we covered in the news segment. The Supreme Court heard a case last week on "fleeting expletives," profanity uttered on live TV between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when little ears are tuned in. For decades, the FCC maintained a one-freebie policy, allowing networks to get away with a single errant curse word during a broadcast before levying hefty fines. In 2004, however, the commission changed the rule, fining networks on a single occurrence. Fox led a suit against the FCC and a lower court ruled that the regulatory agency should explain the change of heart.