At Least One Lie

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So how often have you heard, "well, it's just a comic book" as a justification for some horrible piece of work? Whether it's a plot hole you can drive a truck through or some contrivance, lazy creators fall back on, "it's just a comic book." Worse still, this allows condescending outsiders to say the same.

But the open secret that all of us know is that we don't have to put up with this. The world is filled with happenings, science and theories that make our books seem almost plausible by comparison. We can keep saying "it's just a comic" or we can we can realize we're kids on the playground and there's great stuff lying all around that we can pick up and play with, toys that we can make into the truly fantastic. It's all out there and it's all for the taking. Below are just some snippets, bite sized chunks of reality, examples of these. But to just keep things from getting boring, one is a Lie, a complete fabrication. With the insanity the world hurdles through getting thicker every day, it might be more difficult to spot than you think.

Everyone wants to be beautiful. That would certainly explain the rise of people willing to inject themselves with Botox, also know botulism--one of the most deadly poisons known to man. A few grams of this stuff can kill off millions. However, in its docile form, it's merely an anti-wrinkle treatment. Forget that it does this by paralyzing nerves. But a recent study by Mateo Caleo of Italy has shown (in rats--if we just relied on animal testing we wouldn't have penicillin) that the toxin in Botox spreads from the localized area to as far as the brainstem. So despite earlier thoughts that it wasn't deadly it might, in fact, be breaking people's brains. But that's just for the appearance fixated. Rice from China has recently been found with an unregulated genetic modification called Bt63, which is designed to destroy damaging insects. While that may be good for crops, it has shown to provoke allergy-like reactions in workers who handle the rice. What will it do to people who actually eat it? That's nothing, though, when you take into account the fact that a popular asthma drug (which shall remain nameless because I don't want to get sued) has been linked to mood changes and suicidal behavior. All of this begs the question; are we tinkering with things that will eventually kill us? An MI-5 official once said we're only a few missed meals away from the collapse of civilization. We're playing at bigger stakes than just missing a couple of dinners.

Of course, the very sciences that could kill us are also doing great things. Recently, a child in India was born with two faces. What would surely have been a death sentence not long ago has resulted in the baby being worshipped as a reincarnation of a Hindu goddess. In the same time frame, John Hopkins performed six kidney transplants in the space of 10 hours.

But I'm not the only one thinking about these things. With the Large Hadron Collider coming online soon, some people are sweating while others rejoice. The Large Hadron Collider is designed to smash sub-atomic particles together resulting in a plethora of new particles for scientists to study. However, a concerned group from Hawaii is worried this will create tiny black holes that will consume the Earth. As a result, the group has filed an injunction in the U.S. Federal court requesting that the opening of the collider be stopped. You read that right they're trying to sue the universe.

Worrying about that, though, seems trivial when you take into account that weapons with the potential to end the world are becoming more common seemingly every day. North Korea, a regime so ostracized by the world that it makes money from counterfeiting and heroin distribution, has fissionable material for sale. A freighter coming out of Pyongyang, when stopped for random inspection, gave off large amounts of radioactivity. Unfortunately, not one of the inspectors could figure out the source.

But regardless of how these things turn out, you can't escape from history (assuming there is one, when it's all said and done). Researchers have recently hit upon the idea that the unsinkable Titanic sunk due to faulty rivets. It seems that low-quality construction materials combined with low skill workers was the reason the beast went down so fast when it met that iceberg on that ill-fated and cold night. In a hurry to complete three of the largest boats of all time (the Olympic and the Britannic were the other two) the builders overstretched themselves. Incompetence and a hurry to get the job done aren't just a hallmark of the Bush administration. Which is probably why in 1872 investors put up $5 million to John Keeley when he promised the holy grail of physics, the perpetual motion machine. After his death, though, Keeley's house was torn down, revealing a concealed series of pipes that provided compressed air to his machine. If that's not enough to convince you that sooner or later it all catches up, consider that two strange meteorites have been traced to a now non-existent dwarf planet. When the two celestial pieces of rock were found in Antarctica in 2006, they baffled researchers. The chemical make up of the rocks differed from anything (currently) in the solar system, but given the rocks' age, it would seem that they came from a dwarf planet in our system that no longer exists. How do they figure this stuff out? Somebody knows, and they're smarter than me.

Some things just keep getting stranger. A decade ago identity theft was considered too infrequent a crime for the FBI to bother with, but now is glutting the black market. Competition between identity thieves has driven the price of stolen credit cards to what is believed to be an all time low. Access to credit card numbers is going for as little as 40 cents while access to bank account numbers is selling for ten bucks a pop. So in the space of a decade (perhaps less) we've gone from a crime being inconsequential to being aggregated economic data. In weirder and more morbid news, law enforcement in South Carolina are looking into the discovery of severed hands and feet at two homes more than a mile apart. While one person found the appendages outside of their apartment, the second found the digits inside their house. Police don't know if they're from the same person or different bodies. Further north, a woman reported missing in Vermont was found standing in a river, only to resist rescue attempts in order to wade deeper in with her two children and drown all three of them. No one knows why. Is it just me or are there more and more reports of women in the developed world killing their children? Is it symptomatic of the changes our world is going through or something else? Perhaps something darker that would make for a weird and twisted story?

But you don't even need to do anything wrong to get locked up these days. In Denver, Jose Ibarra was ordered released from jail (after routine traffic violations), but officials wouldn't let him go when they confused him with someone else. Apparently, the officials couldn't be bothered to compare Ibarra's license, address, mug shots or fingerprints to the other offender. When Ibarra's wife showed up to protest his incarceration, they told her that her husband was lying to him about his identity. Later, when a more level headed judge ordered his release, the deputies still refused to free him. After all, the computer said he was the man they were after. Then it's got to be true, right? But that's nothing compared to the bureaucratic nightmare of China where President Hu Jintao has declared that the recent riots have all been orchestrated by the Dali Lama. Because, you know, when I think violent civil unrest, I think of the Dalai Lama.

So just to end this on a positive note, it seems the former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, after reprehensibly drafting legal documents to defend the practice of torture, is having a hard time finding a job. It seems that law firms just don't want him on their payroll. While corruption may be ever present in the halls of any government, it seems you can go too far. Conversely, an 11-year-old boy in Ohio, in what would normally be a highly illegal move, took control of his school bus. Of course, this was after it began to roll out of control when the bus driver stopped to take a leak. Avoiding an oncoming truck, he quite possibly saved the lives of all the children on board because "his brother made him do it."

So that's the news of the weird. But one of these things isn't. It's just a product of my imagination. With all the strangeness in the world, good luck figuring out which one that is. If you're interested in finding out the answer to last week's column you can find it at http://madbastard.hypersites.com

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