Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • iPhone ringtone brings New York Philharmonic to a stop

    An iPhone ringtone brought the NY Phil to a silent halt.The New York Philharmonic came to a dramatic--but decidedly unscheduled--stop on Tuesday night when a spectator's cell phone started ringing and wouldn't stop.

    Conductor Alan Gilbert was nearing the end of Mahler's Ninth Symphony when the interruption began. As the New York Times writes, the symphony, "contains some of the most spiritual and peaceful music ever written."

    As the cell phone continued to ring, the iPhone's signature marimba ringtone, Gilbert stopped the entire performance. And yet shockingly the phone continued to ring. "Nothing happened," Gilbert told the Times. "Nobody was owning up to it. It was surreal."

    Gilbert said minor cell phone interruptions have become common and rarely interfere with a live performance. The Philharmonic does what it can to avoid cell-related disruptions, including a recorded message from actor Alec Baldwin reminding audience members to turn off their cell phones before the performance begins. But the audience and performers stood by in stunned silence as Gilbert asked the offender to silence the phone, only to hear it continue. More from the Times:

    Mr. Gilbert said audience members pointed out two people sitting where the sound was coming from. "They were staring at me resolutely," he said of the couple. Eventually, the man put his hand in his pocket and the ringing stopped. "It was so weird," Mr. Gilbert said. "Did he think he could just bite his lip and soldier through?"

    The conductor said he asked the man if he was sure the device was quieted. "Then he nodded his head," Mr. Gilbert said. Guilty!

    People in the hall had been shouting for the sound to stop. Mr. Pelkonen reported that they yelled: "Thousand-dollar fine!" "Kick him out!" "Get out!"  Another blogger, who was present, Max Kinchen, wrote, "They wanted blood!"

    "It was so shocking what happened," Gilbert said. "You're in this very far away spiritual place in the piece. It's like being rudely awakened. All of us were stunned on the stage."

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  • Strange fish found on Florida beach likely an oarfish

    The strange fish discovered by Harry Furrevig and his wife

    A Florida couple was out strolling alongside the ocean when they discovered a strange and unidentified sea creature that had washed ashore on Delray Beach.

    "It just rolled up on the beach in front of us," Carolyn Hoffman told the Palm Beach Post. "I've never seen anything shaped like that."

    The fish in question, long and ribbon shaped, is most likely an oarfish, according to Palm Beach Atlantic University biology professor Ray Waldner. The oarfish is the longest of the bony fishes, commonly reaching 26 feet in length. Others have reported recovering oarfish that are as much as 56 feet in length.

    Oarfish live in oceans around the world but are rarely seen in the wild, except when they are dying and swimming near the ocean's surface--or, as with the Hoffmans, when they wash ashore.

    They typically live in deeper ocean waters, feeding off of plankton, jelly fish and squid. In July 2008, scientists captured video of a live oarfish. That footage recorded what experts believe had been the first confirmed sighting of a living, healthy oarfish swimming in the ocean.

    Historically, the oarfish have been labeled as "sea serpents." S some historians speculate that they may be behind some of the early myths about monsters roaming the seas.

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  • Video: President Obama sings “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga

    Lady Gaga has no shortage of famous friends; Tony Bennett recently compared the postmodern chanteuse to Picasso, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared a New Year's kiss with her. But in this video, President Obama puts down the teleprompter and breaks into song, performing a cover version of Gaga's "Born This Way."

    Well, okay, President Obama doesn't actually "sing" the song. It's a mash-up, featuring an assemblage of pasted clips of Obama speaking appearances that's matched with the music from Gaga's song. The song opens with an actual clip of Obama addressing the Human Rights Campaign, where he references Gaga before the song cut-up begins:

    For all the little monsters out there, the original video for the song is below:

    Other popular Yahoo! News stories:

    Outrage over "scream rooms" at Connecticut elementary school

    U.K. mom coughs up tumor, now cancer-free

    Marijuana use doesn't damage lungs study claims

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  • Outrage over “scream rooms” at Connecticut elementary school

    Farm Hill ElementaryThe Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, Connecticut has fallen under scrutiny after parents objected to the use of "scream rooms" to discipline special needs students.

    Reports claim that custodians cleaning the two so-called scream rooms found blood and urine on the floors and walls. Several students also reportedly complained about the sounds of other children shouting from the rooms.

    The rooms themselves are described as very small six-by-four-foot "book rooms."

    Parent Shawn Archer said he and other parents never received notification about the school's use of the rooms. Archer reports further that his 10-year-old daughter is afraid of the facilities. "She doesn't want to go to school," Archer said. "She's constantly in the nurse's office trying to get out of there."

    "I don't want them to use this as a tool to gain control of students," he said. "I think it's poor judgment on somebody's behalf."

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  • U.K. mom coughs up tumor, now cancer-free

    Claire Osborn, now cancer-freeA woman from Coventry, U.K,. has coughed up a three-quarter-inch tumor--and now reports that the shocking incident has left her cancer-free.

    Claire Osborn, a 37-year-old mother of six, was driving when she felt a tickle in her throat--and then suddenly expectorated a "heart-shaped lump of liver-colored tissue," according to the Daily Mail.

    "I knew something was very wrong so I went straight to my GP who sent the tissue sample away for tests," Osborn said.

    Osborn reports that she was then taken to the hospital for tests. The attending physicians told her that she'd need a regimen of chemotherapy and surgery to treat her metastatic adenocarcinoma--an aggressive form of cancer. They also sized up her odds of survival at just 50/50.

    However, when doctors ran follow-up tests on Osborn to measure how much cancer remained in her body, they couldn't find any.

    "The consultant turned round to me and said, 'It appears you have coughed up your cancer. Congratulations,' " Osborn told the Daily Mail. "I was totally flabbergasted. I couldn't believe a coughing fit had saved my life."

    Osborn is now recovering after a minor precautionary surgery to remove any cancer cells that might have gone undetected.

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  • Marijuana use doesn’t damage lungs study claims

    A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that moderate marijuana use (2-3 times per month) is not linked with lung damage. Even more surprising, the study actually found that the moderate use increased lung capacity in a plurality of the study participants.

    By comparison, cigarette smokers showed a measurable decrease in health during the same study, which was conducted over 20 years amongst more than 5,000 participants. "FEV1 and FVC both actually increased with moderate and occasional use of marijuana," says Dr. Mark Pletcher, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco and the lead author of the study.

    More from the study results:

    While tobacco smokers showed the expected drop in lung function over time, the new research found that marijuana smoke had unexpected and apparently positive effects.  Low to moderate users actually showed increased lung capacity compared to nonsmokers on two tests, known as FEV1 and FVC. FEV1 is the amount of air someone breathes out in the first second after taking the deepest possible breath; FVC is the total volume of air exhaled after the deepest inhalation.

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  • Video: Lion lunges at toddler through zoo glass

    Three-year-old Sofia Walker was standing face to face with a lion at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand when Malik--who is seven years old, and quite a bit more ferocious than his observer was--suddenly lunged at the toddler through the glass.

    "I was brave," Walker said of the incident. Thankfully, she was also protected from Malik by a 33 mm thick pane of glass that can withstand the impact of a sledgehammer. The incident was captured on video by Sofia's mom, Julian, which you can watch here:

    Although she moves back slightly after Malik's first lunge, it's clear that Sofia is not phased. In fact, at one point she turns to her mom and asks, "What's he telling me?"

    A voice can then be heard off-camera responding, "I think he's telling you to move away."

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  • Could hangovers and alcoholism be cured by a Chinese tea extract?

    Extracts from this tree may cure hangovers and alcoholism itselfA new Chinese tea extract now undergoing tests on rats has shown promise as a remedy for hangovers and may even lead to an eventual cure for alcoholism itself, according to a report in the New Scientist.

    Grown primarily in Japan, Havenia dulcis, also known as the oriental raisin tree, has been a folk remedy for 500 years or so in the treatment of hangover symptoms. Scientists are now working on extracting dihydromyricetin (DHM) from the trees in order to determine whether it can mitigate the effects of alcohol on laboratory rats. If the tests continue to yield successful results, comparable testing on humans should begin soon.

    Researchers are also suggesting that the chemical may have the potential to treat alcohol addiction itself. So far, the laboratory testing has found that not only do the rats recover more quickly from the alcohol they have consumed--but they also show a lessening desire over time to consume alcohol at all.

    "I would give it to problem drinkers who can't resist going to the pub and drinking," says pharmacologist Jing Liang of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the research team.

    "DHM will reduce the degree of drunkenness for the amount of alcohol drunk and will definitely reduce the hangover symptoms," Liang said. "In time, it will reduce their desire for alcohol."

    In December 2008, the Korea Food & Drug Administration approved using DHM to help the liver recover from the effects of alcohol. The main ingredient in DHM is something called Quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

    Curiously, other extracts from the tree are used in the production of certain types of wine.

    More from the New Scientist on how DHM has been working with the lab rats:

    After she injected rats' abdomens with a dose of alcohol proportionate to the amount a human would get from downing 15 to 20 beers in 2 hours by a human, they took about 70 minutes, on average, to right themselves. However, when an injection of the same amount of booze included a milligram of DHM per kilogram of rat body weight, the animals recovered their composure within just 5 minutes.

    DHM also stopped rats in a maze from behaving in ways resembling anxiety and hangovers. Rats given heavy doses of alcohol cowered away in corners of the maze, whereas those given the extract with their alcohol behaved normally and were as inquisitive as rats given no alcohol at all, exploring the more open corridors of the maze.

    Finally, DHM appeared to discourage rats from boozing when they had a free choice between drinking a sweetened solution of alcohol or sweetened water. Over a period of three months, rats will normally get addicted to increasing volumes of the hard stuff. Rats given DHM, though, drank no more than about a quarter of the amount that the "boozers" eventually built up to. Moreover, boozy rats that had worked up to the higher levels suddenly dropped down to a moderate intake when given DHM after seven weeks.

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  • Fight over an orange leads to family murder-suicide

    A man in Ohio went on a murderous rampage, killing two sisters-in-law, his son and then finally himself. And it all was over a fight over whether to feed his wife toast or an orange.

    When police arrived on the scene after reports of a shooting, Paul David Gilkey, his two sisters-in-law and son were all already dead.

    "They had given Darlene a meal, toast and I believe a banana, toast and tea prior and when [Paul] already had an orange peeled for her and that seemed to be the issue that spurred [Paul] to his rampage," Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North told local affiliate NBC4.

    Gilkey did not murder his wife, who is bedridden. He also let his stepson Ralph Sowers III, 36, leave the scene unharmed. Police say they believe the family had been caring for Gilkey's wife, who had been ill for some time.

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  • Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight

    The "Doomsday Clock" has been moved one minute closer to midnightThe "Doomsday Clock," a measurement used by scientists to estimate mankind's closeness to catastrophic destruction, was moved one minute closer to midnight. It is now 11:55 on the Doomsday Clock, just five minutes from a theoretical end of the world.

    The clock is adjusted by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, [BAS] who use it to warn the public about the danger of nuclear weapons and other manmade threats to civilization, including climate change. It's the first time the clock has been adjusted in nearly two years. In January, 2010 the clock was actually moved back a minute. In explaining their reasoning for moving the clock forward, the BAS writes in a formal statement:

    "Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leads are failing to change business as usual. Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock.  As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21stcentury is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions."

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