Right Now in Stuff You Should Know

The Guardian's science writer, Ben Goldacre, who also runs the Bad Science blog across the pond, recently posted about a disgraced anesthesiologist from Massachusetts named Dr. Scott S. Rueben. Few things evoke Goldacre's vitriol more than fraudulent scientists -- his post on Reuben is titled "Scumbag." The Wall Street Journal reports that between 1996 and 2008 Reuben published 21 medical studies on pharmaceutical painkillers, including Vioxx and Celebrex. Dr. Reuben was, until very recently, the chief of acute pain at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, so when he published his studies, people listened. The problem is that Reuben allegedly made up much of the data he cited in the studies to suit his conclusions. Precisely why he would have done this appears to have been a matter of money. A financial link between Reuben and Pfizer, maker of Bextra, on which Reuben published favorable studies, has been found.

This news story from the BBC last week tells us about a new anti-terror ad campaign being waged in England. Posters in Manchester and London urge citizens to be suspicious and report anything they think might be untoward. One such poster has a photo of some chemicals containers in a trash bin, with these words across the bottom - "These chemicals won't be used in a bomb because a neighbour (sic) reported the dumped containers to the Anti-Terrorism Hotline." Another shows a street scene and reads "A bomb won't go off because weeks before, a shopper reported someone for studying the CCTV cameras. Don't rely on others: if you suspect it, report it." You get the idea. This is a bit of a mixed bag. While it's necessary for citizens to be vigilant, this seems slightly skewed toward fear-based tactics and could lead to a certain level of paranoia and hysteria...

There's a peace conference taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa this week with a notable no-show -- the Dalai Lama. CNN.com reports that South Africa has denied a visa for the Dalai to pay a visit to the country. The conference is supposed to showcase South Africa's place in the world as a champion of human rights as they prepare to host the 2011 World Cup, but this move probably won't reinforce that notion. The South African government claims that the Dalai's presence will put the focus of the conference squarely on China and the human rights violations taking place in Tibet. It should be mentioned that South Africa does a fair amount of trading with China, so you can draw your own conclusions there. All of the invited Nobel Peace Prize laureates have now dropped out of the conference in protest, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Does this episode seem strangely familiar? If so, you might be experiencing déjà vu, a topic that scientists are beginning to study seriously. Discover the myriad theories about how déjà vu works in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Eeaaarrrrrly this morning, I perused search terms in Google to see what was going down this March 24. I found that the most searched term was "children's immortality." At about 11 p.m. last night the term shot up like a rocket; Google indicated its status as "Hotness: On Fire." It's a fairly curiosity-piquing combination of words and I clicked on one of the links. It was bizarre indeed what I found. Taking-over-internet-search.com would likely be around 100 pages of printed paper if it weren't in the form of one long, rambling scroll of a page with the same virtually incoherent layout of a Church of the Subgenius publication. At the top of the page, where "Hello, World!" would have once been, was an indictment against Google, implying the company actively thwarts Children's Interneted Physical Immortality Education Rights by manipulating search results.

Occasionally I'll dive into some of these "this day in history" Web sites just to see what famous event took place that day. Today, I checked out history.com and learned that the phrase "OK" just turned 170 years old. "OK" is one of those odd phrases - it's not exactly a word, it's not exactly a sentence. It's two letters smashed together and it means a variety of things. If someone asks how you're doing and you respond with an "OK" it can mean a few things depending on how you say it. A cheery "OK" could mean that things are looking up. A dour "OK" means that you could be better. It can also be both a question and an answer. Question - "I'm going to the store to get some milk, OK?" Answer - "OK." There probably aren't two more versatile letters in the English language.

Anybody familiar with me can tell you that I love me some cannibalism. I'm fascinated by the concept of eating another person and the psychological fortitude that consumption must entail. I'm also intrigued by the possibility that cannibalism ever existed in ritual form; that the idea that Amazonian or New Guinean tribes feasting on hapless missionaries bound by rope and dropped in a huge metal kettle over a fire is as patently ridiculous as the cartoon portrayal of cannibals with bones through their noses. Back in 1980, anthropologist William Arens made waves in the academic community when he suggested in his book, "The Man-Eating Myth," that all accounts of ritual cannibalism were fabrications by outsiders who sought to subjugate a foreign culture. (What better way to make a culture appear less than human?)...

Josh and Chuck as a comic strip?!?

A big thank you goes to podcast fan and super-talented comic strip artist Greg Williams of the Tampa Tribune for making our week with this. Greg was kind enough to render us as comic strip personalities using a segment from our "Junk Mail" podcast and we couldn't be more pleased. So very cool! The comic is currently running today in the online edition of the Tribune. Check out Greg's other work while you're there - it's all very creative and fun stuff. So without further ado...

Josh and I are always much tougher on ourselves than anyone else could be in regards to the show, but this week we were both pretty pleased with our podcasting efforts. Tuesday's "Microexpressions" and yesterday's "Can Anger be a Good Thing?" were both chock full of Stuff You Should Know goodness, if you ask me. My favorite shows are typically loaded with interesting facts and studies and plenty of personal anecdotes. We don't tell each other these stories beforehand and the usually occur on the fly, so when Josh spins a great yarn it's new to me as well as you all. Having said that -- microexpressions. These are very small, but significant gestures someone makes in conversation. They can either give you away as a liar or reinforce that you're telling the truth, as well as saying a host of things about your mood and temperament. Really fascinating stuff.

Lucy the Australopithecus, Just Another Victim of Market Fluctuations

Back in the day, about 3.2 million years ago, an upright hominid of the Australopithecus afarensis variety, wandered around Ethiopia. Who knows what she did -- pick berries and wrestle gazelles and the like is probably a pretty good bet. She was just trying to make her way in the big, wide, comparatively empty world...

Anger gets a bad rap, but this unpopular emotion can actually be beneficial to us. Tune in to this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to get Josh and Chuck's entertaining take on why we lose our cool.

I came an interesting little tidbit yesterday on CNN.com. A cafe owner in Kettering, Ohio has a new pricing policy -- pay what you feel like the meal is worth. It sounds crazy, but his business is actually thriving with the new policy and he's in a position where he may even have to hire more employees to help meet demand. His Bulgarian wife gave him the idea based on similar practices in some European cafes. If you think that folks might take advantage and pay a penny for a $10 meal, you'll be pleased to learn that it's not going down that way. Turns out customers have a hard time looking the owner in the eye and telling him his food isn't worth much. So far he figured he's breaking even with some people paying a little more and some a little less than he'd normally charge.

Thanks to the Obscure Store and Reading Room for posting a link to an article in the Danbury (Conn.) News-Times about a kindergarten teacher who had the cuffs slapped on her after she forced a five-year-old to eat the lunch he threw away in a garbage can. The 67-year-old teacher was arrested on a risking injury to a minor beef and will be arraigned on Monday. I'm of two minds on this. There's a significant part of me that is dying to begin a sentence with, "Back in my day..." Back in my day, we had nuns, and we survived them. The nun who taught my second grade class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help had a habit of going through our desks while we were outside reenacting Star Wars during recess. The kid with the messiest desk got a surprise when we all returned.

Time Magazine is running a great article at the moment called "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now." Items two through nine are pretty interesting, but what caught my eye was what stood tall in the number one position -- your job may be your biggest asset right now. The author of the piece, Barbara Kiviat, makes an excellent point about how things are now compared to just a couple of years ago. In 2007, it's doubtful that anyone would have listed their job as their number one asset. Your career was just a means to get other assets, even if it meant borrowing beyond your means to get them.

What are microexpressions?

Microexpressions are brief facial cues that reveal a person's true intentions. Listen in as Chuck and Josh discuss the subtle art of reading faces in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Albinos in Africa -- Murder for Magic, A Human Rights Nightmare

Our friends over at Xenophilia posted an article from BBC about a recent spate of murders of albinos in Burundi and Tanzania. Between the two countries, at least 50 African albinos have been murdered in the last couple of months. The concentration of albino populations in some African nations is nearly 20 times that of the United States, and despite the political and social successes of some...

The blowback over American Insurance Group's recent payout of $165 million in bonuses for some of its employees while at once raking in more than $170 billion from U.S. taxpayers via the federal government is just too big an affront not to post about. It would be kind of pretentious, right? The New York Times reports that President Obama called the AIG bonuses an "outrage." Sure, but they also strike me as utterly unsurprising. Even better, they have the appearance of a contemporary relic just before it's placed in a time capsule and buried in the ground. This is not so much wishful thinking; my theory is based on what appears to be a capitalist historical cycle. There are uncanny similarities between our current recession (depression) and the Great Depression, aside from, you know, the frighteningly increasing unemployment and the loss of double digit percentages in the markets. (That reminds me, there really isn't a...

Yesterday on "60 Minutes" Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke went out on a limb and predicted that the economy here in America will edge out of the current recession by the end of 2009 and begin to rebuild itself over the course of 2010. This was a pretty monumental statement because reserve chairmen rarely give interviews at all. So much rides on every word they say, it's usually not a good idea to have a back-and-forth with a savvy interviewer. Bernanke was wisely measured in his words and didn't make any guarantees, but feels the plan is in place to right the ship and with the support of lawmakers and the American people, things will begin to shift toward a more "normal" state by the end of '09. He also offered a rare peak inside the headquarters of the Federal Reserve, an institution that's still largely a mystery to most people.

"If you're reading this, I've died." Sent via my Deathswitch

Did you know that there's a service called Deathswitch, a posthumous messenger service that sends out e-mails you've created while alive after you're dead? It's true. I read about it in an AP article on a woman named Melissa Spagenberg, who is on a quest to contact all of her father's online World of Warcraft cohorts after he died suddenly. The Deathswitch service lets a user create up to 30 e-mails addressed and ready to go upon exiting this mortal coil. Automated e-mails that require a response with a password within a predetermined time are sent to users to make sure they're still breathing. Should the user not reply, the e-mails are sent -- from beyond the grave. In the event of a premature launch, Deathswitch has a "Wait -- I'm still alive!" button that resets the service. Seems like that could make for an awkward follow-up conversation:

This week on Stuff You Should Know Josh and I talked about two pretty interesting topics. On Tuesday, we dived into the oceans (see what I did there) to determine who owns them. As it turns out we all own the ocean, in a way. The United Nations passed the Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1994, which leaves the oceans open for all to enjoy. It also established new rules for how far out a country's boundaries extend into the ocean. It made me feel better knowing that the highs seas are still open for business, but I worry about what might happen to those rights in the future as land oil runs out and we become more dependent on pulling petrol from the seas. Yesterday's show was all about aphrodisiacs. We discussed the strange history of aphrodisiacs, including such oddities as Montezuma downing 40 goblets of