Sunday, December 23, 2012

Spider That Builds Its Own Spider Decoys Discovered

"A spider that builds elaborate, fake spiders and hangs them in its web has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon.

Believed to be a new species in the genus Cyclosa, the arachnid crafts the larger spider from leaves, debris and dead insects. Though Cyclosa includes other sculpting arachnids, this is the first one observed to build a replica with multiple, spidery legs.

Scientists suspect the fake spiders serve as decoys, part of a defense mechanism meant to confuse or distract predators. “It seems like a really well evolved and very specialized behavior,” said Phil Torres, who described the find in a blog entry written for Rainforest Expeditions. Torres, a biologist and science educator, divides his time between Southern California and Peru, where he’s involved in research and education projects.

“Considering that spiders can already make really impressive geometric designs with their webs, it’s no surprise that they can take that leap to make an impressive design with debris and other things,” he said.

In September, Torres was leading visitors into a floodplain surrounding Peru’s Tambopata Research Center, located near the western edge of the Amazon. From a distance, they saw what resembled a smallish, dead spider in a web. It looked kind of flaky, like the fungus-covered corpse of an arthropod.

But then the flaky spider started moving.

A closer looked revealed the illusion. Above the 1-inch-long decoy sat a much smaller spider. Striped, and less than a quarter-inch long, the spider was shaking the web. It was unlike anything Torres had ever seen. “It blew my mind,” he said.

So Torres got in touch with arachnologist Linda Rayor of Cornell University who confirmed the find was unusual. “The odds are that this [species] is unidentified,” she said, “and even if it has been named, that this behavior hasn’t previously been reported.” Rayor notes that while more observations are necessary to confirm a new species, decoys with legs — and the web-shaking behavior — aren’t common in known Cyclosa. “That’s really kind of cool,” she said.

Afterward, Torres returned to the trails near the research center. Only within a roughly 1-square-mile area near the floodplain did Torres find more spider-building spiders — about 25 of them. “They could be quite locally restricted,” he said. “But for all I know, there’s millions of them in the forest beyond.” The spiders’ webs were crafted around face-height, near the trail, and about the width of a stretched-out hand. Some of the decoys placed in the webs looked rather realistic. Others resembled something more like a cartoon octopus.

“I have never seen a structure just like this,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Costa Rica who studies spiders and web-building.

Though Cyclosa are known for building decoys, most of the described spiders’ constructions are clumpy, made out of multiple little balls built from egg sacs, debris or prey, rather than something resembling an actual spider. “Known Cyclosa don’t have that spider-with-leg looking thing, which is why we think it’s a new species,” Torres said.

But without a permit to collect any organisms, anatomical confirmation of the new species is on hold. Torres is returning to the site in January, and will be able to collect some spiders then. Eberhard notes that identifying a new species based on the decoy-building behavior alone is probably not possible. “Species are distinguished on the basis of the structure of the male and female genitalia,” he said. “To a lesser extent, on the overall abdomen shape.”"

Read comments here, such as:

"Lonely spider makes porn - porn goes on internet - what else is new?"
"Don't you mean it goes on the......web! *rimshot*"


Earliest voice recording re-created

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Marty Reisman, 82, a Wizard of Table Tennis, Dies

December 7, 2012
Marty Reisman, 82, a Wizard of Table Tennis, Dies
By DOUGLAS MARTIN in the New York Times

"Marty Reisman, a wizard at table tennis, the sport in which he captured national championships, won and lost fortunes on wagers and moved crowds to laughter — sometimes using a frying pan as a paddle — as an opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 82.

The death was announced by Table Tennis Nation, an organization he founded two years ago to make his sport even more fun. Cooper Fallek, its chief operating officer, said the cause was complications of heart and lung ailments.

Known as “the Needle” for his slimness and quick wit, Mr. Reisman traveled the world to hustle movie stars and maharajahs, winning enough to become a three-time millionaire — and losing enough to be a three-time former millionaire. Once, when an 11-year-old asked for a lesson, he suggested a side bet.

“I took on people in the gladiatorial spirit,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in March.

He was good enough to win 22 major table tennis titles from 1946 to 2002, including two United States Opens and a British Open. Many consider him one of the 10 best ever to play the game. In 1997, at 67, he became the oldest player to win a national championship in a racket sport by winning the United States National Hardbat Championship.

In an interview with Forbes magazine in 2005, Sir Harold Evans, the writer and editor, who is a table tennis aficionado, credited Mr. Reisman with “the greatest drop shot ever seen on the face of the earth.”

Mr. Reisman cut a flamboyant figure. He favored Borsalino fedoras and Panama hats and fashionable, bright clothing. Before beginning a game, he habitually removed a $100 bill from his roll to measure the net. He talked fast, forever promoting what he termed “the Reisman myth.” His signature trick was breaking a cigarette in half from across the table. If the bet was large enough, he would play sitting down. If it was very large, he would play blindfolded.

He had a cause bigger than himself, however. After the Japanese player Hiroji Satoh showed up with a new kind of paddle to beat Mr. Reisman at the world championship in 1952 in Mumbai, then known as Bombay, Mr. Reisman crusaded against it. The old kind of paddle, called a hardbat — the one Mr. Reisman liked — was covered with a thin layer of pimpled rubber. The new one had smooth, thicker rubber and no pimples, and propelled the ball at greater speeds. He lost the argument; the new model became the game’s standard.

Not least of his objections was that the newer paddle was relatively soundless; he liked to react to the whack of paddle hitting ball, in the manner of an outfielder running at the crack of the bat.

“Before, there was a dialogue between the two players, wherein a 6-year-old child could understand the difference between offense and defense,” Mr. Reisman told The Times in 1998. “Today a point is made or lost with an imperceptible twist of the wrist.”

Table Tennis Nation promotes a version of the old-fashioned paddle, one covered with sandpaper rather than rubber. The thinking is that sandpaper rackets foster longer volleys. “This racket is the purest reflection of a player’s ability,” Mr. Reisman said.

For 20 years, starting in the late 1950s, Mr. Reisman operated the Riverside Table Tennis Courts at 96th Street and Broadway. It became as famous in its orbit as Stillman’s Gym was in prizefighting. Dustin Hoffman, Kurt Vonnegut, David Mamet and a group of violinists from the Metropolitan Opera were regulars. Bobby Fischer found relief from the rigors of chess there. Freddie the Fence, Herbie the Nuclear Physicist and Betty the Monkey Lady were institutions at Riverside.

Usually lurking in a little back room was Mr. Reisman, hoping for a challenging match with a worthwhile wager. In 1972, The New York Times Magazine described him as “coiling and uncoiling in preparation for the occasional mongoose foolish enough to challenge him.”

Martin Reisman, the son of a cabdriver, was born in Manhattan on Feb. 1, 1930. He told Forbes that he came to the sport after a nervous breakdown when he was 9 years old and found it soothing. He was city junior champion at 13. Soon he was hustling for real money at Lawrence’s Broadway Table Tennis Club at 54th and Broadway, a former speakeasy with bullet holes in the wall. At 16 he was touring England with a three-man exhibition team.

Three years later, he and Doug Cartland became the opening act for the Globetrotters. They played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with frying pans, and hit balls across the net with the soles of their sneakers.

His betting ways got him in trouble once when he was 15. Participating at the national tournament in Detroit, he had placed a $500 bet on himself with a man he thought was a bookie, dropping five $100 bills into his palm. The man turned out to be the head of the United States Table Tennis Association. Police officers escorted Mr. Reisman from the tournament.

He is survived by his wife, Yoshiko; his daughter, Debbie Reisman; and several grandchildren.

Mr. Reisman once marveled that he had built a career around a game usually played in the basement next to the clothes dryer. “A funny way to spend a life,” he said."

As I wrote about here, Marty was gave me my very first table tennis lesson. I'll miss him.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Watch Old Computer Equipment Play Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”

By Caroline Stanley on Nov 6, 2012

"Bob Dylan is one of the most frequently covered artists we can think of, and yet we can’t recall ever seeing one of his songs re-imagined quite like this. Using a pile of old photocopiers, modems, scanners, fax machines, and hard drives, director Chris Cairns has created a computer orchestra that can play a surprisingly rousing version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” thanks a little programming magic by Isthisgood?. Click through to behold the resulting video, Scrapheap Symphony

Below, a behind-the-scenes clip that reveals how they did it:"