If you hate spiders, you'll really hate this

When they break out, they'll be grabbing all our women!

Spider Projection, by German designer Friedrich van Schoor, created the illusion of two very large spiders cavorting inside a home.

Spider Projection

Spider projection: 3-D video mapping by friedrich van schoor < Designboom>>
Image is from a poster for the 1954 science fiction movie Them! from Wrong Side of the Art!>>

The 18th Century bat poop prank

He did not put the guano in a bag
on a doorstep, light it on fire and ring 
the doorbell. No, he used science.

In the late 1790s, William Buckland, who later became a well-known geologist, pulled a prank on the school he was attending, the University of Oxford. The NPR blog Krulwich Wonders explains how he made use of bat guano, an excellent fertilizer:
He took bat poop and spread it across his Oxford College lawn, but not evenly. Instead he used the guano to spell, first a giant letter, G. Then a U. Then an A. Then an N. Then an O.

One imagines the Oxford authorities were aghast, wanted the poop removed immediately, so the lawn was scrubbed and order restored. But fertilizer is fertilizer. Once applied, it seeps into the soil and does what it's meant to do. The lawn must have looked normal for a while, but as the weather improved and the sun came out and the grass began to grow, a distinct pattern emerged. The college could mow and mow, but some tufts of grass stubbornly kept growing higher and thicker than the rest. And from a distance — say from a classroom window anywhere around the quad, you could see — all spring, all summer — like a graffito that can't be erased, the word GUANO, spelled out in grass. Oxford couldn't make it go away.
So the next time you have access to buckets of bat guano, you too can perform this historical reenactment.

The Best College Prank Of The 1790s (With Bats, Poop & Grass), NPR>>
Illustration by Benjamin Arthur

The secrets of Dave the fake psychic, revealed

He has a point to make.

Amazing mind reader reveals his gift

Safe internet banking, Febelfin>>

The mysterious dots - an optical illusion

Watch the red and blue dots and see how 
they move in the animation below

The red and blue dots optical illusion

When the background moves, the dots also seem to move, but as you can see, when the background is removed, the dots are not moving at all.

This illusion was created and is being studied by PhD student Peter J. Kohler and his team, from Dartmouth College.

Friday Illusion: How to move a dot with your mind, New Scientist>>

Two stories on deception by Stephen Tobolowsky

You know who he is. 
That actor who was in that thing.

Here are summaries of two stories from his book of essays called The Dangerous Animals Club. From The Christian Science Monitor:
Ice cream crimes

When Tobolowsky was 10 years old, his father brought him to the go-cart races for the Lions Club and made him head of the concession stand. "Talk about having the fox watch the hen house," he wrote. "I went through half a box of soft-serve cones within the first hour." The person in charge of the event went over to Tobolowsky and became angry, telling Tobolowsky that he was going to count the ice cream cones to make sure Tobolowsky wasn't eating any more. "I was scared," he wrote. "I was ashamed – for about seven minutes. Then I figured I could get around the prohibition on eating ice cream by just avoiding the cones altogether and dispensing the soft serve directly into my hand. No cone. No trail. No problem."

Dangerous hitchhiking

During college, Tobolowsky and his then-girlfriend were on a bus which broke down more than two hours outside of Dallas, so Tobolowsky's girlfriend suggested they hitchhike home. Tobolowsky was nervous, but agreed. After waiting for a long time, a van pulled over and the door on the side opened up. He and his girlfriend jumped in quickly. Tobolowsky tried to make conversation, but no one would talk. "No one looked at Beth or me," he wrote. "It was tense. Now I wondered how this ride would end." The van pulled over eventually and the driver told them they had to get out. "Hey, thanks for the lift," Tobolowsky told the driver. "I was afraid no one would pick up hitchhikers anymore." "What?" the driver said. "You were hitchhiking? We never even saw you. We had just pulled over to change drivers. You jumped into the car and said, 'Drive us to Dallas.' We thought you were kidnappers."
5 stories from Stephen Tobolowsky's 'The Dangerous Animals Club', The Christian Science Monitor>>

Wall clock seen from an angle - an optical illusion

This is not the side view of a wall clock.

This image of a clock only appears to be an image of a clock as seen from the side. It's actually a view of a real clock as seen from the front. It's a flat clock designed to look as though you're seeing a perspective view.

Here's the secret of the clock
(Click to enlarge)

Walter Jonker created this optical illusion clock for NeXtime, a Dutch design company specializing in clocks.

You can buy one at UrbanBarn. (They call it a Magic Arabic Clock)>>

More of Mr. Jonker's whimsical designs: Walter Jonker Designs>>

The story of a robbery that didn't go well

A gun was involved.

Police were called by a man who said he'd been robbed.

Roman Miller told officers a man with a gun came to his door and demanded money. As he was handing the money to him, a shot was fired through the door.

He gave police a description of the suspect.

Police began investigating.

A police detective inside the apartment said it appeared that from the trajectory of the bullet, the shot was actually fired from the couch.

What did Mr. Miller have to say about that?

Mr. Miller, who the officer said was "scared to death," eventually fessed up.

There was no robbery. He had been cleaning a gun and it accidentally fired.

Mr. Miller was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, discharging a firearm in city limits, and false reporting.

We can surmise that Mr. Miller made up the story so he wouldn't get arrested for reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in city limits.

The irony is that nobody heard the initial shot.

As some nearby residents said:
"We didn't hear any shots. Our dog didn't even bark."
Mr. Miller is 19 years old.

Longmont police say robbery report was lie to explain accidental gunshot, Daily Camera, Longmont Times Call>>

How Annie's lies led to a legal disaster

Things were not measured correctly.

Annie Dookhan was a chemist for the state of Massachusetts drug laboratory. Her job was to test drug samples in criminal cases, and testify at trials.

Then authorities discovered problems with her work.

The head of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys sent out a letter to its members:
“The lab analyst in question had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, and tampered with evidence bags, altered the actual weight of the drugs, did not calibrate machines correctly, and altered samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not."
She had been working at the lab since 2003, and worked on samples for 34,000 criminal cases.

She also testified in about 150 trials, and in those trials said she had a masters degree in chemistry, which she did not.

Because of her actions, all of the legal results in all the cases she touched are now in doubt, meaning that those who were guilty may have to be set free, and those who were innocent may have been falsely convicted.

- Crime Lab Scandal Rocks Massachusetts, NPR>>
- Chemist at closed state lab allegedly tampered with evidence bags, defense attorneys group says, Metrodesk, Boston. com>>
- Drug lab chemist accused of lying, The Boston Globe>>

The pouring cup of hot chocolate optical illusion

It's also an LED lamp, powered via batteries
or through your computer's USB port.

Shh. The secret: 
the hot chocolate isn't real.

Buy one for your desk at USBGeek>>

Why is this hand so damn creepy?

It's not so creepy when you view it like this.

But when you see it like this, you realize 
that the hand is a bit disjointed.

That's because the hand is actually separate fingers made out of Sodium Cocoate, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Water, Sorbitol, Sodium Stearate, Myristate, Shea Butter, Titanium Dioxide, Fragrance Oil, and Soap Color.

Finger soap.

Creepy finger soap set, Etsy>>
Found thanks to Boing Boing>>

Toronto Raptors basketball court optical illusion

Players will never trip over this sign.

This sign sitting on a basketboard court is an anamorphic illusion that only looks real when seen by the TV camera (and of course the TV audience.) It was designed by the company Logopaint.

Basketball court 3D optical illusion

- On-Field Graphics Are Going 3-D, Good>>
- Logopaint>>

The half man illusion at the State Fair of Texas

He's only half the man he used to be.

It's amazing how well this illusion works, even in the bright sun of Texas. 

Andy Mullins plays The State Fair Midway Barker.

The half man illusion

For more, see my post: Real head, fake decapitation, Deceptology>>

- Photo by chittyfreak on Flickr>>
- Photo from National Geographic>>

The red treeline - a deadly optical illusion photo

Palíndromo Mészáros took this photo in Hungary.
(Click to enlarge)

From the magazine American Photographer:
His work documents the aftermath of a 2010 toxic waste spill in Western Hungary, which killed nine people and forced the evacuation of thousands. The material, released from an aluminum factory, has left a permanent mark on the villages in its path.
Hungary's Thick Red Line. Spanish photographer Palíndromo Mészáros documented the effects of a massive toxic aluminum spill in Hungary, American Photo>>
Found via Popular Science>>

Why police detectives can't detect liars

They might look smart, but still think stupid.

One problem that human lie detectors have is that as they gain experience, they gain more confidence... but they don't get any better at detecting liars:
We’ve all been lied to, and most of us have a high opinion of our ability to tell a lie from the truth. Yet research repeatedly shows that confidence to be misplaced and that judges, customs inspectors, and yes, detectives, make lousy lie detectors.

Those in law enforcement are trained to “read” body language, affect, facial expressions, mannerisms, and ways of speaking, and to believe that they can trust their gut. They learn that if a suspect averts their gaze, touches their nose, chews a fingernail, strokes the back of their head, slouches or fidgets, they are likely lying and thus, guilty.

Virtually all scientific research finds this mindset is counterproductive and even lowers the accuracy of judgments. People under stress—being wrongly accused certainly qualifies—can behave in ways impossible to distinguish from those who are lying. Yet the accused may be convicted in the court of public opinion—or worse—in large part because they don’t react to tragedy or the loss of a loved one as others want them to or expect.
Read: Human Lie Detectors: The Death of the Dead Giveaway, Pacific Standard>>

Six Everlasting Truths about Deception. Lying is easy; detecting lies is hard. Psychology Today>>
Image stolen from Jay Pinkerton>>

At least someone in this family tells the truth

Let's play "Find my daddy!"

Police were watching a home in Athens Georgia to arrest a man when they saw him talking to his wife in the kitchen.

Police waited for backup.

When they asked his wife where he was, she said he wasn't home. She allowed them to search the home. After police searched the entire home, the man's young daughter pointed to a closet in the kitchen and said:
“Mommy locked Daddy in the closet.”
Officers couldn't see him, so they used a cell phone camera to take a photo of Homer Stephens Parham, who was crammed into a ledge on top of the closet.

He came down when police threatened to use pepper spray.

He was arrested.

Athens girl shows cops where dad hides, The Augusta Chronicle>>

How a fake science fiction film fooled the Iranians

They used drawings by famous comic book
artist Jack Kirby to enhance the illusion.

How the CIA used Hollywood to smuggle diplomats out of revolutionary Iran:
On Nov. 4, 1979, thousands of Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 Americans hostage, including three CIA officers. The crisis lasted 444 days—a drawn-out drama dubbed “America Held Hostage” on television. But during the tumult, six American consular officials managed to slip by the Iranian mob.

As they hid out in the homes of two Canadian diplomats, the Secret Six dreamed up escape plans worthy of Robert Ludlum, and perhaps just as outlandish.

That is, until the CIA appeared with a plan even crazier than anything they had imagined: a scheme to have them pose as a crew of politically clueless filmmakers from Tinseltown scouting locations for a sci-fi film.

Revolutionary Iran was dangerously chaotic, but the bureaucracy of surveillance and repression hadn’t hardened yet. This was before Google, which meant cover stories were checked by phone, in person, or by fax. It seemed crazy, but it might just work.


"Of all the groups heading into Iran, it wasn’t implausible to imagine a group of self-absorbed Hollywood eccentrics traveling there in the middle of a revolution to find the perfect locations for their movie.

Beyond that, it had the one quality that I felt the other potential cover stories lacked. It was fun, which I knew would help the six “houseguests.” We were going to walk them out through Tehran airport and right onto a commercial plane. They might be stopped; they might be questioned about what they did. And they needed to be comfortable with their new identities. We figured anyone knows enough about Hollywood to fake a little movie-making patter.

Now I needed to convince everyone else at the CIA—and the Canadians—that this crazy idea was our best shot. And we had to work on the back story. We needed a Hollywood office, so if the Iranians’ people called our people, they’d hear something on the phone that confirmed we were legit. We would need to set up our own production company, which I had decided to call “Studio Six Productions,” after the six houseguests trapped in Iran. And we needed to plant ads and articles in the trade press about our new project."
Read the rest of the article, here: The True Story Behind Operation ‘Argo’ to Rescue Americans From Iran, The Daily Beast>>
Another, more detailed telling of the tale: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran. Wired>>

The story is also a real book, and a real movie, called Argo:
- Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, Antonio Mendez, Amazon>>
- Argo, IMDB>>

Link found via: The True Story Behind Operation Argo, The Art of the Prank>>

5 strange head photos by Thorsten Schmidtkord

Yes, something is odd about these portraits.

See more here: Thorsten Schmidtkord>>

Mean prank on teenage girl backfires

Whitney Kropp is a 16-year old student at
Ogemaw Heights High School in Michigan.

After Whitney Kropp was voted in as a sophomore representative for the school's upcoming homecoming dance, some classmates told she was nominated as a prank.

Ha ha.

It may seem like a small thing, perhaps. But to be made fun of like that is not funny.

It's mean.

So people did something about it. A Facebook page was created called "Support Whitney Kropp". A former graduate made a YouTube video in support of her. Others said they would pay for her dress, buy her dinner and pay to get her hair done for homecoming.

Ms. Kropp said she was upset, but now she's excited about going to the dance.

Her mother, Bernice Kropp, said:
"This was something that was really awful, could have ended awful, and because so many people came together, it just turned right around."
- Support Whitney Kropp, Facebook>>
- Bullied teen speaks out about homecoming court joke, WNEM>>

The hollowed-out gold bar scam

You should not be able to peel 
the gold off a solid gold bar.

It's the kind of con game kids might imagine:
"What if you took real gold and coated something with it and sold it to someone like it was solid gold?" 
A jeweler in Manhattan named Ibrahim Fadl bought a 10-ounce bar of gold for $18,000 from someone he'd bought gold from before.

Since he'd heard rumors about fake gold bars, he decided to drill into the bar, and some others he owned, to make sure they were real.

That's when he discovered that $100,000 worth of his gold bars were fake.

Counterfeiters had taken real gold bars - which have serial numbers and papers that certify that the bar is real - and hollowed them out and replaced the gold with the metal tungsten.

The densities of tungsten and gold are similar, so weighing wouldn't reveal the fraud.

However, tungsten costs around $1 per ounce, while gold is over $1,700 per ounce.

The FBI is investigating.

Another scam involving a gold bar requires a more elaborate front end deception: How to seduce a victim with the gold brick scam, Deceptology>>

Fake gold bars turn up in Manhattan, MyFoxNY>>

Can you cash a check written on a cow?

This photo recreates the famous case.

This story was written by UK barrister A. P. Herbert and is found in his book "More Misleading Cases in the Common Law". It details a court's legal decision on whether a man, angry at having to pay a disputed tax bill, can pay his tax bill by using a cow as a check.

Is such a check legal? Read and find out.
The Case of the Negotiable Cow
Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock; Rex v Haddock

Sir Joshua Hoot, KC (appearing for the Public Prosecutor): Sir Basil, these summonses, by leave of the Court, are being heard together, an unusual but convenient arrangement.

The defendant, Mr Albert Haddock, has for many months, in spite of earnest endeavours on both sides, been unable to establish harmonious relations between himself and the Collector of Taxes. The Collector maintains that Mr Haddock should make over a large part of his earnings to the Government. Mr Haddock replies that the proportion demanded is excessive, in view of the inadequate services or consideration which he himself has received from that Government. After an exchange of endearing letters, telephone calls, and even cheques, the sum demanded was reduced to fifty-seven pounds; and about this sum the exchange of opinions continued.

On the 31st of May the Collector was diverted from his respectable labours by the apparition of a noisy crowd outside his windows. The crowd, Sir Basil, had been attracted by Mr Haddock, who was leading a large white cow of malevolent aspect. On the back and sides of the cow were clearly stencilled in red ink the following words:

Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty-seven pounds (and may he rot!) L 57/10/0 ALBERT HADDOCK
Mr Haddock conducted the cow into the Collector’s office, tendered it to the Collector in payment of income tax and demanded a receipt.

You can never know for sure who might be lying

Liar liar

Graphics initially created by One Dead Pixel for the TV show Pretty Little Liars, Vimeo>>

The heroic story of Joyce Hatto, musician

She hadn't performed in public in years.

This is the story of a piano scam.

Based on the work that Joyce Hatto was creating, she was said to be one of the greatest pianists Britain had ever produced that nobody had ever heard of. And she kept playing brilliant classical piano works even while she was fighting cancer. But there was more to the story.

There was a husband who said he wanted her to be happy.

A husband, recording engineer and publicist who was "always adept at using the latest technology."

Watch a 30-minute video on the deception, or read a magazine article which dissects the scam and its discovery in great detail: Fantasia for Piano, The New Yorker>>

The Great Piano Scam

EXCLUSIVE: Husband of pianist in recording scandal speaks to The Crow, Royston Crow>>

How to pass a driving test - guaranteed!

Evidence of another fine graduate 
of our driving school

In Brooklyn, New York, a professional driving school had a fool-proof study method for getting non-English speaking students to pass the test to get a truck-driving license.

It did not involve studying extra hard. Instead, the owners, Philip and Pui Ng (whose last name is pronounced "ing"), provided an extra-special service.

The Ngs sat outside the motor vehicle office in their minivan during a test. Their student would wear a concealed spy camera and take videos of the test, which was transmitted to the Ngs, who would then send the correct answers back via a beeper.

Prosecutors said 500 students of N&Y Professional Driving may have gotten a license via this cheat.

They were caught when a federal agent went undercover and learned about their scheme.

The owners pleaded guilty.

One of their students was the driver of a bus, pictured above, which crashed and killed four people.

- Brooklyn's N&Y Professional Driving school helped applicants pull off a truckload of cheating, Daily News>>
- Feds shut down bus service after deadly crash, CBS News>>

This matrimonial scam needed a lady

There was a complication. 
The lady fell in love.

Two con men concoct a scheme to defraud lazy men looking for a rich widow to marry in this short story by O. Henry called The Exact Science of Matrimony. From the 1913 book The Gentle Grafter.
The Exact Science of Matrimony
by O. Henry

"As I have told you before," said Jeff Peters, "I never had much confidence in the perfidiousness of woman. As partners or coeducators in the most innocent line of graft they are not trustworthy."

"They deserve the compliment," said I. "I think they are entitled to be called the honest sex."

"Why shouldn't they be?" said Jeff. "They've got the other sex either grafting or working overtime for 'em. They're all right in business until they get their emotions or their hair touched up too much. Then you want to have a flat footed, heavy breathing man with sandy whiskers, five kids and a building and loan mortgage ready as an understudy to take her desk. Now there was that widow lady that me and Andy Tucker engaged to help us in that little matrimonial agency scheme we floated out in Cairo.

"When you've got enough advertising capital—say a roll as big as the little end of a wagon tongue—there's money in matrimonial agencies. We had about $6,000 and we expected to double it in two months, which is about as long as a scheme like ours can be carried on without taking out a New Jersey charter.

"We fixed up an advertisement that read about like this:
"Charming widow, beautiful, home loving, 32 years, possessing $3,000 cash and owning valuable country property, would remarry. Would prefer a poor man with affectionate disposition to one with means, as she realizes that the solid virtues are oftenest to be found in the humble walks of life. No objection to elderly man or one of homely appearance if faithful and true and competent to manage property and invest money with judgment. Address, with particulars.

    Care of Peters & Tucker, agents, Cairo, Ill.
"'So far, so pernicious,' says I, when we had finished the literary concoction. 'And now,' says I, 'where is the lady.'

How to trick an online scammer

One guy fooled someone into 
carving a computer out of wood.

An article in The Atlantic explains the war between the scammers and the anti-scammers. These scam-baiters play the scammer's own game and scam the scammers, such as the guys who claim to be Nigerian princes who need your help in getting an inheritance:
Scam-baiters have set out to reverse this dynamic, to turn the tables on the scammers. The legions of scam-baiters seek to con the con artists, often with remarkable artistry of their own. They tease the scammers with promises of payments that don’t arrive, with wired funds from banks that don’t exist, with Western Union money transfers that go awry. They lead the scammers on wild-goose chases to pick up checks from couriers who don’t materialize, insist the scammers perform ridiculous stunts, and ask them to pose with demeaning signs to prove their commitment to the transaction. Blinded by the same greed that blinds their marks, the scammers take the scam- baiters’ bait and, often as not, end up as heads on the virtual wall in the scam-baiting Web sites’ “trophy rooms.”
Read the article: How To Trick an Online Scammer Into Carving a Computer Out of Wood, The Atlantic>>

Do you want to trick an online scammer? Go to 419 Eater>>

The tilted building - an optical illusion

Does anyone actually live in this crazy thing?

Yes, people live here. And it's an actual building, too, not a fake. The photo was taken by Håkan Dahlström in a city that affords the opportunity to take many of these types of photos.

Another photo, taken by Dan Ng in the same city, might give you a clue.

Powell Street, San Francisco

In the first photo, taken in Russian Hill, San Francisco, the tilted trees should have been a strong clue.

- Crazy hills of San Francisco, Håkan Dahlström, Flickr>>
- Powell Street San Francisco, CA, Dan Ng, PBase>>

Leonardo Da Vinci - an optical illusion

How many animals 
does Leonardo love?

This optical illusion is an oil painting by *JUST-inART, an artist from Germany.

Leonardo Da Vinci Optical Illusion by *JUST-inART, Deviant Art>>

A strange Chinese magic show (with nudity)

"I'm screaming jokes that you won't get!"

A performance by someone I assume is a Taiwanese magician. Where (or why) they're performing this routine, I can't tell you.

This video is called "Magic that Taiwanese magician Liu Qian cannot do". Liu Qian, or Lu Chen, is a well-known Taiwanese magician, and once you see this, you'll know why he wouldn't do this magic.

If you don't know Chinese, you can skip ahead to 1:00.

Contains some nudity, but in a strange and humorous context.

Magic that Taiwanese magician Liu Qian cannot do

The techniques pedophiles use to rape boys

Jerry Sandusky hid behind the role of a lovable goofball.

How do child molesters get away with it? They are experts at confusing, charming and deceiving. With one boy, convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky used this technique:
Sandusky started with wrestling, to make physical touch seem normal. In the shower, the boy initially turned on a showerhead a few feet from Sandusky. Sandusky told him to use the shower next to him. This was a test. The boy complied. Then came the bear hug. The boy’s back was touching Sandusky’s chest and his feet touched Sandusky’s thigh. Sandusky wanted to see how the boy would react. Was this too much too soon? The boy felt “weird” and “uncomfortable.” Sandusky retreated. The following week, Sandusky showed up at the boy’s home, circling back to test the waters once again. How did the boy feel? Had he told his mother? Was he a promising lead, or too risky?
Read the article: In Plain View. How child molesters get away with it. The New Yorker...

The shiniest berry in the world

Baubles, bangles, and berries

Poor Pollia condensata.

Some tropical plants attract animals with their smell or taste so that animals will eat them and poop their seeds far and wide.

This plant's berries, however, have no nutritional value, so it had to evolve a more deceptive method.

It's unique metallic blue berries are intensely reflective, more so than any other living thing on earth.

That's how it tricks birds into taking them. Birds can't resist plucking off the berries and flying them back to their nests.

That's where they use the berries as decoration.

- A Berry So Shiny, It's Irresistible (And Inedible), NPR>>
- Pointillist structural color in Pollia fruit, PNAS>>

Thanks to Dezrah for the find>>

"Your book is amazing! Five stars!"

"It changed my life!"

How do you choose among the oodles of books being published every year? Many of us rely on reviews, but reviews have become another form of marketing. Said one author:
“Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful... But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”
The New York Times has an article examining book publishing in this new world:
Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.

Mr. Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake. Yet it is all but impossible to tell when reviews were written by the marketers or retailers (or by the authors themselves under pseudonyms), by customers (who might get a deal from a merchant for giving a good score) or by a hired third-party service.
Read the entire article: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy>>

How to fool a frog with fake bug technology

An African Bull Frog is teased by an ant game.

This frog, also known as a Pixie frog, can weigh over 4 pounds. To get that big it uses its sharp teeth and large mouth to eat insects, small animals like lizards and fish and even other frogs.

It is not having luck eating the ants on this phone's game app.

Pacman Frog catch some touch screen bugs

Found via Metafilter, the ants go marching one by one>>

America's a foolish, backward nation (wink wink)

The US Situation Room during the hunt for Bin Laden

An anonymous poster in China had this to say:
Looking at the above photo, it's enough reason for us to look down on the Americans! While hunting Bin Laden, Obama and his subordinates were staring at an on-screen live satellite feed in the White House's Situation Room. My feelings are:

1. American subordinates don't respect their leaders enough, and even made the dignified President squeeze into a corner to sit. Poor Obama, not even the prestige of a village head in the Celestial Dynasty ["天朝," slang for China].

2. The imposing White House Situation Room is really blah. It's small, with no fancy decorations, it's really not fit for the style of a great nation. A township-level department room in the Celestial Dynasty is probably bigger than that, and much more luxurious.

3. There are no fruit plates or beverages, no ... expensive cigarettes ... and this is the world's number one economy, ha!
This online post about how America is a primitive "foolish and backward nation" is a fine example of sustained irony. It's become a viral sensation on Chinese social media sites.

Since even an anonymous writer might get in trouble for criticizing China, this writer posted a critique of China as if he was criticizing the United States.

This is how tricksters do it.

Read the entire thing at: 'Foolish and Backward Nation': A Self-Effacing Chinese Satire of America, The Atlantic>>

Who was Lei Feng? (mentioned in the article), see What happens when Chinese heroes are fake? Deceptology>>

The extremely creepy thing in her attic

It wasn't supernatural, but it was unbelievable.

A single woman in South Carolina was putting her kids to bed when she heard a thump from the ceiling.

Then nails starting popping out of the ceiling over her own bed.

She dismissed the idea of poltergeists, but she thought it might be an animal, so she asked her older sons and an adult nephew to check out the attic.

It wasn't an animal.

They found a man, who bolted before police could arrive.

It was an old boyfriend from years ago who had recently been convicted of stealing her truck.

The guy had packed old coats into a heating unit and was living inside. He was using old fast food drinking cups as toilets, filling them with feces and urine. And he'd rigged the ceiling vents so he could peer down at the woman in her bedroom.

Nobody knows exactly how long he'd been in her attic, but it was not longer than two weeks earlier, when he'd been released from jail.

Mother of 5 finds ex-boyfriend living in her attic, WCNC>>

Handmade mechanical man does a trick

It's easy for him to fool you with his 
magical cups and ball trick because 
he's got three hands.

This tricky automaton was made by the Swedish artist Per Helldorff. 

Robotic Thimblerigging

See more of Mr. Helldorff's creations at Per's Mechanical Cabinet>>

Found via Weekly Magic Failure, Mechanical Cups and Balls>>

Playing with cars - an optical illusion

"I am the master of all vehicles", said 
the one who loved to play God.

Ah, the dreams of my Matchbox days.

(Anyone know the source of this photo?)

7-year-old boy killed by teen's sarcasm

And then he came back to life

A Facebook page was created in memory of 7-year old Javier Ramirez, who died in a car crash.

But he hadn't died.

The boy's real mother, Patricia Quintana, was confused and upset when friends began to call asking how she was coping with his death.

Online, some offered condolences while others realized it was a scam.

The police were called.

News stations reported on the cruel hoax, and ran stories on how to protect your online identity.

But it turns out it wasn't a scam.

It was merely a couple of young teenagers.

And they weren't even trying to be cruel.

A 13-year old boy was having an online conversation with a 14-year old girl when he asked her about a kid they both knew, Javier.

She joked that he had died in a car accident.

He believed her, and created the Facebook page as a memorial, using the boy's nickname, Liddo Honesto. When the girl saw it, she tried to tell him the truth but couldn't reach him.

Nearly 8,000 people "liked" the page before it was removed.

No charges were filed against the teenagers.

- Facebook "Scam" Over Boy's Alleged Death Was a Misunderstanding. NBC Los Angeles>>
- Teens' mix-up brings Facebook condolences for live boy, The Orange County Register>>

The insurance scam that required a chainsaw

They tied his arm to a tree and cut off his hand.

A while back, I wrote a post about some guys who came up with an insurance scam:
Gerald B. Hardin, from Cayce, South Carolina, was arrested in a plot to defraud an insurance company. He and two others hatched a plan to cut off one of their hands with a chain saw and then file an insurance claim. Initially, it worked. (I guess the severed hand was proof enough.) They got $671,000.

(Man cuts off friend's hand for insurance money, Deceptology>>)
Here's more of the story.

It seems that the ringleader of the scam was a guy named David Player. He was friends with a guy named Michael "Porky" Weaver. Mr. Weaver trusted Mr. Player as a "father figure." Mr. Player was his legal guardian and handled his monthly Social Security checks.

He also took out insurance policies on him for accidental death or dismemberment.

Did I mention that Mr. Weaver is functionally illiterate and mentally incapacitated?

Mr. Weaver was not charged. His attorney said:
"Michael Weaver is a vulnerable victim in this case, and he has been a vulnerable victim throughout."
In a plea deal, Mr. Player pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

But what happened to all the money?

The men initially got $671,000. About $80,000 went to an attorney, and up to $26,000 went to build an auto repair shop.

Also, Mr. Player's wife filed for divorce, which cost him $80,000.

So where's the rest? Mr. Player said he gave $300,000 to Mr. Weaver. Prosecuters don't believe him, and think he's stashed it away.

Said an FBI agent:
"Mr. Weaver benefitted, if anything, very little. He still lives in the same camper he always did. It's a hovel. I don't know how he lives there.
The third guy, Gerald "Trey" Hardin III, already pleaded guilty. He got $5,000 and a car from the scheme. He knew Mr. Player because his mom used to date him. He was going to testify against him, but he didn't have to.

It turns out that Mr. Player's divorce cost him more than $80,000.

His ex-wife found incriminating evidence about his role in the scheme, and her attorney tipped off the FBI.

Mr. Player is facing a 20-year prison sentence.

- Severed hand scam leader pleads guilty, The Item>>
- Ringleader in chainsaw injury scam pleads guilty, the State, South Carolina>>

The Rose of Death - an optical illusion

The skull rose by Todd Terwilliger

This is an example of pareidolia, where we see something unexpected and unplanned in an image. It's especially striking when we see faces, which our brain seems to be hard-wired into recognizing, even when it's not a real face.

Although it wasn't an optical illusion, the skull and rose image was used as an illustration for the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a translation of Persian poems.

Illustration by Edmund J. 
Sullivan, 1913

That image might be familiar to you, since it was used by an artist when he was designing a poster for a band called The Grateful Dead.

Grateful Dead poster by 
Stanley Mouse, 1966

For another example of a skull flower, this time created intentionally as an optical illusion, see: The skull flower garden optical illusion, Deceptology>>

More about skull optical illusions: The world's most famous optical illusion, Deceptology>>

- I found the skull rose photo by Todd Terwilliger at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy in Discover magazine, Skull Flower, Bad Astronomy>>
- Photo taken by Todd Terwilliger, Flickr>>
- In case anyone is interested… RobertARood>>

(And in a side note, I agree 100% with Mr. Plait's mini-diatribe about how some sites use images without giving credit to the originator. It's not only the right thing to do, but you never know what you might find.)