Danger 5

I stumbled onto this on Netflix. If The Man from U.N.C.L.E were set in WWII, written by 4th graders on a sugar high (episode 2 centers on Nazi dinosaurs), directed by the makers of Airplane! using special effects straight out of Godzilla vs. Megalon, and starred an international cast of baristas (including one that only speaks Russian, but everybody understands her), you would have the Australian TV series Danger 5.

I mean that in a good way. The best thing to come out of Australia since that other really good thing that came out of Australia that no one ever talks about.

Disclaimer: The preceding message has been an enthusiastic endorsement of the first two episodes.  The rest of the series might suck, although I’d be really surprised.

Update and Correction: I’m really surprised.  The second season does suck.  The inspired lunacy of the first season is gone.  In the three years between seasons 1 and 2, the sugar-buzzed 4th graders grew into vulgar, puerile 7th graders, and all the satire that made season 1 so good has been replaced by the kind of cheap, unfunny sex and drug jokes you get from vulgar 7th graders.  Two episodes into season 2 and I can’t finish it.  If it gets better in episode 3, I won’t know.

This is why I don’t generally endorse things.

It was never meant to be

Here at A Labor of Like, I often receive letters from readers looking for guidance through these dark times.   I was rummaging through the Labor of Like shred pile mailbag, and I thought I would share a few of them with you.  (Kids, letters are like hard-copy emails, but you print them out before sending them.  Ask your parents.)

Dear Labor of Like,
My cat Snooky Bear (pictured above) has been aloof recently, and just stares out the window most of the day. Does he still love me?

Desparate for Affection

Dear Desperate,

Labor of Like

Dear Labor of Like,
My other cat Commodore Schmidlapp gazes up longingly at me whenever I’m holding an open can of tuna, and likes to dress for dinner. Surely this is a sign of love!

cat in tie

Desperate for Affection

Dear Desperate,
     No, it is not.

Labor of Like

Dear Labor of Like,
What about my other cats Blinky, Chubby Bunny, Duster, Killmouski, Miss Sassy, Skamper, Wiggles, Bonk, Fuzilla, Mr. Krinkle, Ms. Bibbler, CheezeWheel, No-Go, Lil Taker, Put-Put, and Turtle?


Desperate for Affection

Dear Desperate,
No.  Especially not Killmouski.

Labor of Like

The question “Does my cat love me?” has vexed many people who anthropomorphize cats, and often causes great emotional turmoil. So rather than just keep answering “No”, I decided to consult with Science, which has recently conducted studies on emotional attachment in cats.

“No, your cat doesn’t love you,” Science responded in an e-mail.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln have concluded that cats, unlike dogs, do not need humans to feel protected. For example, when a cat feels threatened, it responds by clawing your eyes out. Dachshunds, on the other hand, are shaped like bratwurst, and have roughly the same defensive capabilities as bratwurst, and so are more dependent on humans.

Before cat lovers start despairing about their aloof pets, however, animal behaviourologists said they should take the finding as a compliment. If cats stay, it means they really just want to study you as part of their plot to take over the world.

To find out if cats needed their owner to feel secure the researchers observed how 20 cats reacted when they were placed in an unfamiliar environment together with their owner, with a stranger, or on their own.

The cats who were left alone mostly mated with each other, because we forgot to spay or neuter them. If anybody would like a free kitten, please contact Daniel Mills at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences and Cat Nursery.

The cats left with a stranger immediately perceived that the stranger didn’t like cats because he was allergic to them. All 20 cats proceeded to sit on his lap at the same time. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The cats left with their owner spent their time scratching the furniture, throwing up on the carpeting, and knocking fragile stuff off of shelves.

In 1892, noted catologist Rudyard Kipling performed experiments to see whether cats really do walk by themselves. In one such experiment, Kipling held 137 cats, one at a time, to see what would happen. In each case, the cat tore deep gouges into his arms until he dropped it, then walked away without assistance. When the scars healed, Kipling gave up studying cats and went back to writing.

Although the researchers say cats can still develop bonds with, and affection for their owners, the new study shows that the researchers are lying to avoid the wrath of crazy cat owners.

However, cat psychic Celia Haddon, author of How to Read Your Cat’s Mind and Cat Owners Will Believe Anything, said, “This study shows cats do not need humans to feel safe.  Cats won’t live in an unhappy home, they’ll just walk out.  My sister’s ex-husband was the same way.”

One more letter:

Dear Labor of Like,
Enclosed is a picture of me with my henchmen Felix and Leo. I dress them like cats, and they bring me broken xylophone parts. Do they love me?


Selina in Gotham

Dear Selina,
No, they do not love you, because you dress them like cats and call them Leo and Felix, when their real names are Jacques and Ralph. I on the other hand love you with a fiery passion for the ages, and would not mind having you curl up in my lap. Or the other way around.

Labor of Like (or whatever you want to call me)

A more perfect boson

In particle extremist news, a group of boffin hardliners are now claiming the Higgs boson is the Higgsiest bosons you can get without a prescription.

Bosons are one of the three basic “-sons” that make up the universe, along with unisons (“particles that happen at the same time”) and johanssons (“hot and/or bright particles”). Bosons decay into fermions, which are a group of particles that include leptons and quarks, as far as you know.

Preliminary studies hinted with a fair amount of certainty that the particle spotted by ATLAS (A Tunnel Like A Subway, pictured above) and CMS (CERN Metro Station) experiments had properties consistent with a Higgs boson.

The results were confirmed by boffins at the Mysterious Item Talkathon (MIT).  “This is an enormous breakthrough,” said Markus Klute, a leader of the International Group of Boffins.

(Author’s Note: A boffin is a genetically altered bobolink / puffin hybrid).

But the work doesn’t stop there. Boffins always like more evidence for a start, because it makes them feel like actual scientists, but they also need to know what kind of Higgs they’re looking at. For example, there could be a group of many different kinds of Higgs particles, depending on different extensions of the Standard Model, like leather leptons or V8 quarks.

(Editor’s Note: No, a boffin is a genetically modified bobcat / muffin hybrid.)

“What we’re trying to do is establish whether this particle is really consistent with the Higgs boson, and not an impostor that looks like it but is really one of those cheap knockoff bosons you see for sale on the streets of New York City,” Klute explained.

To do this, the CMS Collaboration, an all-star team of boffins from London, Paris, and Wisconsin fired protons at each other in a six metre solenoid, forming a liquid known as bosonic vinegar. (One metre = 2.32 times the height of a bishop’s mitre). (Disclaimer: No boffins were injured by flying protons in the course of this experiment.)

(Reader’s Note: You’re both wrong. A boffin is a boat shaped like a coffin.)

Just to make extra sure though, the team plans to spend more time fiddling around with the LHC (Looking for Higgs Contraption) again next year. “With the current level of precision, there is still room for other models, so we need to accumulate more grant money to figure out if there is a deviation,” Klute said with his hand out. “Hey, us boffins gotta eat, you know.”

“Although if we do find a deviation from the Standard Model, it is likely to be a very closely related one,” he added. ® (Disclaimer: Yes, this statement is trademarked in the original article.)

(Bystander’s Note: I was just passing by and I heard your argument. A boffin is actually when you use a bonobo as the MacGuffin in a story, as in the classic 1942 film The Maltese Bonobo).


Hot and/or Bright Star Scarlett Johansson (shown here with her clones searching for bosons in unison), told paparazzi that the main characteristics of this new particle are consistent with the Standard Model, but that she was waiting for the Deluxe LX Model to come out sometime next year.

(Ransom Note: A boffin is the genetically modified offspring of singer Bonnie Raitt and talk show host Merv Griffin. Put $100,000 in unmarked bills under a bench in Griffith Park or you’ll never see her again.)

® “Although if we do find a deviation from the Standard Model, it is likely to be a very closely related one.” is a Registered Trademark of closely related Standard Models Kendall and Kylie Jenner (pictured below).


Black donut holes

In spacetry news, a group of astronomers has rocked the cosmic confections community with a stunning claim that supermassive black holes are not donuts.

Conventional thinking suggests that the most massive black holes possess a ring of powdered sugar and sprinkles trapped in orbit around them.

With masses in the realm of millions to billions of solar masses, these objects are truly the heavyweights of our Universe, though it’s rude to point that out. With all this mass comes great responsibility for pulling in any matter — stars, planets, cosmic butterflies, possibly unlucky space dragons — to the black hole’s event horizon.

Now, astronomers have analyzed data from NASA’s Widget Investigating Stuff to Eat (WISE) catalog of thousands of breakfast pastries to find that the “torte model” may be woefully inadequate when explaining what is actually going on.

In the 1970s, astronomers developed a unified theory that could explain active supermassive black hole observations using breakfast foods. The theory arose during a Friday morning staff meeting where somebody brought bagels.

Since this unified theory was suggested, it has generally been ignored, since the existence of giant donuts billions of miles away isn’t really a conversation starter at parties.

After surveying 170,000 galaxies containing supermassive black holes at their cores, the WISE observations showed some black holes that could be seen, and some that could not, in accordance with the Law of Convenient Research (“Sometimes stuff is there, and sometimes it isn’t, depending on who’s giving us grant money.”) When looking at black holes inside massive galaxies that are clumped together in galactic clusters, more black holes seem to be obscured, indicating some kind of bias against black holes, or galactic clusters, or the supermassive, depending on who you ask.

“The main purpose of unification was to put a zoo of different kinds of active nuclei under a single umbrella,” said lead researcher Emilio Donoso of the Instituto Ciencias Astronomicas de la Tierra y del Espacio in Argentina. “Now, that has become increasingly complex to do as we discovered the words ‘zoo’ and ‘umbrella’ mean completely different things than I thought in English. Stupid translation app…”

Donoso and his team came back a few minutes later and suggested that dark matter may have a part to play.

The Nutritional Archive of Sweets Alternatives (NASA) confirmed that the black hole announcement brings the official count of things that are not donuts to 3,024,225,801,850. The list includes other non-donut things such as upstate New York, altimeters, and that episode of Star Trek where some woman steals Spock’s brain.

(The image above shows galaxies clumped together in the Fornax cruller. The picture has been artistically enhanced by Miranda Johnson of Mrs. Marino’s fourth grade art class to illustrate the idea that black holes would be prettier if they were magenta.)

Click here to read the original story.

Bee aggressive

In apiological anger news, scientists think they have finally found a cure for the epidemic of calmness currently threatening the worldwide bee community.

Scientists report that they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain, a process far more efficient and effective than traditional bee angering methods like whacking on the hive with a stick, bombarding them with gamma radiation, or making disparaging comments about the Honey Nut Cheerios bee.

The new research follows up on work by Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene “Omic” Robinson. When he and his colleagues looked at brain gene activity in honeybees after they had faced down an intruder, the team found that they got stung repeatedly.

Some insects are more aggressive than others in response to an intruder. Older bees will often use their honeycomb as a hideout, while younger bees are more apt to proactively attack — a response legal in several states after the enactment of stand-your-hive laws.

“People looking at my brain gene activity really oxidates my phosphorylation!”, said one bumblebee in a letter to the editor. The bee requested anonymity by dancing in kind of a figure 8 shape with a wiggle.

After spending time as a Companion of the Doctor, postdoctoral researcher Clare Rittschoff used drugs to get bees addicted to drugs. She saw that aggression increased in the drugged bees if she subsequently tried to get them into rehab.

But the drugs had no effect on chronically stressed bees, according to studies performed on air traffic control bees. “Something about chronic stress changed their response to the drug, which is a fascinating finding in and of itself,” Robinson said, misusing the word “fascinating”.

In separate experiments, Hongmei Li-Byarlay and his youthful ward Jonathan Massey found that reduced oxidative phosphorylation in fruit flies also increased aggression. This result, too, was of little interest, as aggressive fruit flies are still pretty ineffectual.

(Warning: Climate drones claim that angry fruit flies cause global warming, or are possibly the result of global warming, one or the other.)

According to Robinson, the fact that researchers observed these effects in two species that diverged 300 million years ago makes the findings even more compelling to the sort of people who are compelled by divergences that happened when no one was around to see them.

The team reports its findings in the journal Needless Provocations of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to read the original story.