YouTube / The Office Time Machine
YouTube / The Office Time Machine

The Office Time Machine

YouTube / The Office Time Machine
YouTube / The Office Time Machine

Prepare to waste your lunch hour/evening/week! Internet hero Joe Sabia has spent the last year and a half watching all of The Office (U.S. version) and collecting all 1,300 (ish) cultural references he could find in the show. He then proceeded to cut together videos, one for each year, in this amazing Time Machine site. You pop in a year at the top, hit GO, and, boom!, The Office references aplenty.

Some favorite years of mine:

For those who spot errors and want to correct them, consult this Google Docs spreadsheet, or this video of references Sabia couldn't figure out (check the comments for some that are already solved).

Sabia did all this work to make a point about copyright reform. He wrote, in part:

The Office is relatable (and hilarious) because it borrows so much from culture, and people get the references. Culture is society’s collected knowledge, art, and customs. It’s what surrounds us and unites us, and it allows us to collectively laugh at a joke in The Office about Ben Franklin or M. Night Shyamalan. Culture, simply put, is the seasoning in a meal. ...

... This Time Machine is intended to show how much we rely on culture. So let artists bang it out without fear of being sued. (...that’s what she said)

(Via Waxy.)

Scientists Sequence Bumblebee Genome To Explain Population Decline

As they seek out nectar on which to feed, bees play an invaluable role in the pollination process that supports crops worldwide and encourages biodiversity. Thus, the plight of the bumblebee is the plight of our entire ecosystem.

But for the past couple of decades, their populations have been shrinking. In an effort to better understand the circumstances that have led to their decline, an international team of researchers from the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, the University of Geneva Medical School, and ETH Zurich's Institute of Integrative Biology have collaborated on an effort to sequence the entire bumblebee genome. The results were published earlier this week in Genome Biology, in two different papers that explore the genomes of two key bumblebee species: the Common Eastern Bumblebee from North America and the European Buff-tailed Bumblebee. One paper presents the genome and provides a general analysis, while the other one takes a closer look at the bumblebees' immunity genes in order to gain a better understanding of the diseases that might be ravaging their population.

"Bumblebees are intriguing creatures to study," said Illinois State University's Dr. Ben Sadd, who helped coordinate the first of the two papers [PDF]. "But growing threats to their health are affecting bee populations around the world, making it especially critical to improve our understanding of their biology."

One of the studies focused on comparing the bumblebee genome to that of the highly-social honey bee. Because they tend to live in colonies comprised of tens to hundreds of related individuals that last for a single year, bumblebees represent a middle ground on the spectrum of social organization: They land somewhere between solitary species, like leafcutting bees, and honeybees, which live in colonies of thousands built around a queen bee who can live for several years.

Scientists were surprised to find that despite their different social structures, the genes that determine social behavior in bumblebees and honeybees were actually very similar. Where they differed was in their miRNAs, a form of RNA (ribonucleic acid) that controls the phenotypic expression of genes. In other words, the changes to the colony structure between bumblebees and honeybees didn't involve any drastic changes to any particular set of genes, but instead reflected subtle changes throughout the genome.

The study that focused on the bumblebees' immunity genes also showed a surprisingly close relationship to those of the honeybee. A previous immunity study determined that social insects exhibit relatively simple immune systems, as reflected by their genes, even though they're at a greater risk of disease (high population density and low genetic diversity can foster parasite transmission). 

“This suggests that highly social honeybees did not lose functional immune genes, but rather that an ancestor of these social and solitary bees had fewer immune genes,” researchers Sadd and Seth Barribeau write over at BioMed Central.

Although the similarities are notable, it is the tiny differences between the different species’ immune systems that could help address the dwindling bumblebees. As Dr. Barribeau explains, "These genomic resources help us to understand what it is that makes these bumblebees particularly at risk from challenges to their well-being, such as diseases and pesticides."

There is still much to be unraveled from the genome sequencing, but the hope is that whatever discoveries follow will aid in protecting bumblebees for future generations.

[h/t Science Daily]

11 Amazing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Benjamin Franklin

Before he was a Founding Father, the multifaceted, ever-experimental Benjamin Franklin was a great many other things—from street performer to political cartoonist, and even a middle-aged widow. Here are a few highlights of Franklin’s early days.

1. He Was a Great Swimmer

Young Ben was such an aquatic ace that his feats eventually earned him a posthumous induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968. One of his most famous adventures came on a visit to England during which a 19-year-old Franklin swam from Chelsea to Blackfriars (3½ miles) in the Thames and performed a number of aquatic acrobatics to the delight of his compatriots. In addition to his achievements within the water, Franklin was honored for his childhood invention of flippers—worn on the hands, not feet—and his hobby of teaching friends to swim. In fact, he was so proficient that he was invited to open a swimming school in England, an offer he turned down.

2. He Created a Pseudonym to Fool His Brother

At just 16 years old, Ben adopted not just a pseudonym, but an entire pseudo-identity to get his words in print. Confident that his older brother James would never publish his work, Ben wrote a series of letters to James’ paper, The New-England Courant—where Ben was an apprentice—as Silence Dogood, a middle-aged widow with sharp, satirical wit. Between April and October of 1722, Ben penned 14 letters as Silence and although they were well received, James was not amused when the dame’s true identity came to light.

3. He Kept Masquerading as a Woman

This was the first but not the last time Franklin would adopt a feminine alter ego in writing. During the course of his life, Franklin’s work would appear in newspapers under bylines such as Polly Baker, Alice Addertongue, Caelia Shortface, Martha Careful, and the not-very-creatively-named Busy Body.

4. He Rallied Other Scholars

At 21 years old, Franklin established a weekly discussion group among twelve like-minded men known as Junto. They met each Friday and, according to Franklin’s biography, “every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing on any subject he pleased.” If that sounds like a lot of homework, consider this: Franklin also detailed a list of 24 questions each man should ask himself the day of the meeting.

5. He Was a Librarian

As Junto grew, the group found that it lacked the required resources, namely books, necessary to settle disputes. So in 1731, Franklin convinced his fellow members to pool their resources to purchase a collection of books. A total of 50 founding shareholders originally signed on, and on July 1, the group drafted their Articles of Agreement, thereby founding The Library Company of Philadelphia, which remained the largest public library in the country up until the 1850s.

6. He Created an Iconic Call to Unity

Ben Franklin is responsible for the “Join or Die” drawing, which depicts a snake whose severed parts represent the colonies. He drew it after attending the Albany Congress of 1754 as a chief delegate. It first appeared in Franklin’s paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, on May 9, 1754, and is widely recognized as the first American political cartoon.

7. He Wasn’t That Much of a Turkey Fan

Ben Franklin never said he wanted a turkey, and not the bald eagle, on our national seal. First of all, although he served on an earlier committee that discussed the Great Seal, Franklin ultimately wasn’t on the one that finally settled on the bald eagle. The oft-cited letter in which he calls the eagle a “Bird of bad moral Character” and lauds the turkey as “a much more respectable Bird” wasn’t talking about the country as a whole. Rather, he is writing to his daughter to complain about the Society of the Cincinnati, a military fraternity formed by Revolutionary War officers, whose symbol was also the eagle, one that happened to strongly resemble a turkey.

8. But He Could Find Uses for Turkeys

Although he’s mistakenly remembered as a proponent of turkeys, Franklin once tried to electrocute one of the birds. After bragging to a fellow scientist that his experiments with electricity could be put to use by killing and roasting a turkey via electrical shock, Franklin proposed to do just that for an audience. After several rounds of experiments, Franklin seemed to get the hang of it, but when the time came in 1750 for a demonstration, he ended up shocking himself, leaving him temporarily numb and less temporarily humiliated.

9. He Was a Clever Marketer

A very young Franklin, early in his apprenticeship days, assisted his brother’s newspaper business by composing mini-ballads highlighting the biggest news stories of the day and performing them on street corners. His father quickly discouraged this behavior, claiming that “Verse-makers were always beggars.”

10. He Could Really Talk About Drinking

On January 6, 1737, Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette published 200+ synonyms for the word “drunk” in what was entitled “The Drinkers Dictionary.” The handy list came accompanied by a note from Franklin himself: “The Phrases in this Dictionary are not (like most of our Terms of Art) borrow'd from Foreign Languages, neither are they collected from the Writings of the Learned in our own, but gather'd wholly from the modern Tavern-Conversation of Tiplers. I do not doubt but that there are many more in use; and I was even tempted to add a new one my self under the Letter B, to wit, Brutify'd…”

11. He Had at Least One Surprising Roommate

Franklin knew that you didn’t catch a cold from cold temperatures. This came up one night in 1776 when he and John Adams were forced to share not just a room but a bed. Along with Edward Rutledge, they were on their way to Staten Island to negotiate with Admiral Richard Howe of the Royal Navy for a possible end to the Revolutionary War. The inn they stopped at didn’t have enough rooms for all three men, so Adams and Franklin agreed to shack up but disagreed over what to do with their room’s window. Adams was worried the open window would cause him to become ill but Franklin argued, correctly but contrary to the wisdom of the time, that cool air would not cause either of them to catch a cold.


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