Light Friday: Towel Day, Patently Godly, Rock Paper Scissors...

... Spy Drone, Ball Deglosser, Green Yellow Cabs, Purple Gets Owned, Venus Near the Moon, Memorial Day and MORE!

Today is Towel Day.

A note for non-hitchhikers, hitchhikersguide.jpgcourtesy of BBC:

Towels can be used for snaring birds whilst falling from a three-mile-high marble statue. They can be used to signal temporally unstable spaceships by fossilizing them in planetary strata. They can be soaked in nutrients to provide sustenance in awkward situations. They can also do a really good job of drying between your toes.

"About the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have," don't leave Earth without it.

Another Tax for Small Biz

Tax? On Internet access? Maybe.

Only months remain on a moratorium restricting state governments from taxing Internet access. And the U.S. House of Representatives this week began a debate over whether the ban should be made permanent or allowed to lapse.

At issue: the scheduled expiration, on November 1, of a law initially enacted in 1998, which says local governments generally cannot tax Internet access, including DSL (digital subscriber line), cable modem and BlackBerry-type wireless transmission services, says CNET News.

The law also prohibits governments from taxing items sold online in a different manner than those sold at brick-and-mortar stores, though it does not deal with sales taxes on online shopping.

USA Rock Paper Scissors Championship

"This is the greatest sport ever to sweep the United States of America," Matti Leshem, the co-commissioner of the 17-month-old USA Rock Paper Scissors League, proclaimed last weekend.

Leshem founded the league last year after discovering there were leagues in Australia, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. Leagues have existed for years, according to the World Rock Paper Scissors Society.

Leagues have existed for years, according to the World RPS Society. The first known contest in the U.S. took place in 2001 at the Burning Man festival in the northern Nevada desert, with 100 players vying for a T-shirt. Poker player Phil Gordon holds a World Series of the game, also called RoShamBo, at the World Series of Poker each year with a $500 buy-in and a $10,000 prize. In 2005, Japanese businessman Takashi Hashiyama used the game to decide which of the two top American auction houses would sell his company's art collection. The "sport" can also be used as an example of the mathematical concept non-transitivity.

The second annual tournament was held over two days in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino earlier this month. ESPN was there. The tourney will be aired on ESPN2 on July 7, 2007


Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP

Teenager Invents Ball Deglosser

In commemoration of Major League Baseball's 2007 season, which began the first of last month (yeah, we're a little behind…), we call your attention to a teenage inventor: Using LEGOs, Cameron Kruse has invented a machine to degloss new baseballs.

Previously, people had to rub mud on the baseball surface to roughen the glossy surface because pitchers don't want the ball to slip from their hand. According to Sue Vorenberg at The Albuquerque Tribune, 17-year-old Kruse invented the machine for his own ball team. He later entered it into the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and has since "won the attention of the sport's professionals."

The Albuquerque Tribune explains that Kruse is working on a model that will be less expensive than $150 and "plans to patent the device soon."

Patently Insane or Tongue-in-Cheek?

The "obvious or ingenious" debate has been going on for quite some time in the world of patent law. Remember how earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court justices made clear their belief that standards for patents have become too loose, blurring distinctions between innovations that are "ordinary" and truly "extraordinary."

holygrailgod.jpgYeah, this is why:

A Minnesota man has applied for a patent on "godly powers," seeking the exclusive right to the ethical use and financial gain in the use of godly powers on planet Earth.

In the patent filing (via Fark), he goes on to accuse David Copperfield of "using godly powers for his financial gain."

Purple is Ours

Cadbury is now seeking to lay claim to the color purple.

The chocolate giant recently won "a big battle" in a "war" over its signature color, which is used on bars such as Dairy Milk and Twirl. Judges agreed to a new trial in the dispute involving an Australian rival.

The company, founded in Birmingham in 1824, is fiercely protective of its "Cadbury Purple," or Pantone 2685C as it is known at the Patent Office.


PSA: It is now possible to get a DUI in a wheelchair.


Green Yellow Cabs

Every yellow cab in New York City will be a fuel-efficient hybrid by 2012, and stricter emissions and gas mileage standards for taxis will be phased in starting next year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week.

The tailgate of a Ford Escape Hybrid taxi cab.jpg

Hybrid vehicles run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, emitting less exhaust and achieving higher gas mileage per gallon.

Among the 13,000 taxis rolling through NYC streets, The Associated Press reports, there are now 375 hybrid vehicles. Under Bloomberg's plan, that number will increase to 1,000 by October 2008 and will grow by about 20 percent each year until 2012. Photo Credit: AP

Scientists Stunned by Shark's Virgin Birth

This is terrifying. Apparently, sharks can now reproduce more easily.

It seems that sharks are the latest, and largest, creatures that are able to reproduce without having sex. A female hammerhead shark has given birth without the help of a male, after genetic tests revealed that its baby shark had no paternal DNA, according to BBC News.

An international team reports that the shark's "virgin birth" was down to an unusual method of reproduction known as "parthenogenesis," where an egg starts to divide without being fertilized. This is the first scientific report of male-free asexual reproduction in sharks.

The study is reported in the journal Biology Letters by a team from the Queen's University Belfast, the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, Florida and the Henry Doorly Zoo, Nebraska.

Toy Spy Drone to Do Police's Job

Britain's first police "spy drone" took off yesterday before beginning a three-month trial. Intended to take over some of the work of monitoring public disorder, crowds and traffic congestion, and fitted with closed-circuit television cameras, the remote-controlled craft is 3 ft. long and "weighs less than a bag of sugar," UK's The Times reports.

It is so small that it is classed as a toy and is not subject to civil aviation regulations.

Venus Near the Moon

Last week the two brightest objects in the night sky appeared to go right past each other. On the night of May 19, Earth's Moon and the planet Venus were visible in the same part of the sky, and at closest approach were less than one degree apart. The conjunction was captured in this image taken from near Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.


Although Earth's Moon passes Venus once each month, such a close passing visible in the evening sky is more rare. Venus appears on the lower left. Credit & Copyright: Jay Ouellet, via NASA APOD

We wish you the very best, most enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Cheers.

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