Posted: August 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Animals and Nature | Tags: | No Comments »

Opposing thumbs have long been praised as that inimitable human trait by which we alone can use tools and manipulate our environment. But elephants aren’t too far behind. A group of six elephants in Thailand have been trained by artists to paint a variety of pictures, including self-portraits, by holding regular paint brushes in their trunks. They complete their paintings in just 5 to 10 minutes in front of an audience, several of which have gone on display in the Edinburgh gallery in Scotland.

Inimitable (pronounced “ih-NIM-ih-teh-bul”)

Defying imitation; matchless.


From Latin imitari, “to copy, imitate”, which is also the root of image, imitation, and imitable.


unparalleled, incomparable, nonpareil


Photo by: YuvalH | BBC News

Opposing thumbs have long been praised as that inimitable human characteristic which allow us to use tools and master our environment like no other species


Posted: August 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Science and Technology, Society | Tags: | No Comments »

Nuclear plant built on geological fault line in California

Nuclear power is being touted as the new green energy. However, its primary by-product, plutonium, is lethal enough for a spoonful to wipe out a city. In 1987, plutonium was first found to be leaking from a nuclear waste pit in Idaho and percolating through rock layers to a vast underground reservoir. While plutonium remains lethal for 250 thousand years from its creation, the National Engineering laboratory successfully contained it for 36 years. A 1988 New York Times article reported occurrences of the same problem in 12 other states.


1. *To drain or seep through a porous material or filter.
2. Informal To become lively or active.
3. Informal To spread slowly or gradually.


leach, filter, permeate


The Lost Continent (pg. 124)   |    New York Times |   Photo by: emdot


Posted: August 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Animals and Nature | Tags: | No Comments »

Sand dune in Sahara

Few places are more torrid than the Sahara Desert of North Africa. The air is so hot and dry that a person can lose a gallon of water per hour just by being there—two if walking. The sand gets hot enough to fry an egg. Still, it does not compare with Dallol, Ethiopia, whose inhabitants endure an average daily high of 106 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the hottest inhabited place on Earth.

Torrid (pronounced “TOR-id”)

1. *Parched with the heat of the sun; intensely hot.
2. Scorching; burning: the torrid noonday sun.
3. Passionate; ardent: a torrid love scene.
4. Hurried; rapid: set a torrid pace; torrid economic growth.


From Latin torrere, “to parch”. Torrere is also the root of terrain, torrent, and toast.


blistering, arid, parched, sweltering


Earth’s Natural Wonders, Wikipedia: Extremes on Earth |   Photo by: Espirit de Sel


Posted: August 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Society | Tags: | No Comments »

Walmart has a system for bilking local merchants out of sales. It deems it efficient to open two stores very close together if they can dominate all local competition. The initial prices can be so low that they lose money. Once a monopoly has been established, they can jack up prices and abandon the less profitable of the two stores. The patrons of the less-profitable store will then have no choice but to  make the longer trip to the higher-priced store. By the year 2000, Walmart had already abandoned 25 million square feet of retail floor space with this strategy.

Bilk (rhymes with milk)

1. *To defraud, cheat, or swindle: made millions bilking wealthy clients on art sales.
2. To evade payment of: bilk one’s debts.
2. To thwart or frustrate: “Fate . . . may be to a certain extent bilked” (Thomas Carlyle).
3. To elude.


Appeared in 1600s from seemingly obscure origins. First used as a term in the card game, cribbage.


fleece, dupe, defraud


Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation… |   Photo Credit


Posted: August 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: People | Tags: | No Comments »

A penny saved is a penny earned--even for billionaires

Some of the richest people have the most parsimonious habits. Jim C. Walton, an heir to the Walmart legacy, was worth $16.4 billion as of 2007 but reportedly drove a 15-year-old Dodge Dakota. Similarly, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was worth $33 billion but drove a 15-year-old Volvo and regularly flew coach. Warren Buffet had a net value of $57 billion yet lived in the same home he had bought for $31,500 nearly 50 years earlier.

Parsimonious (pronounced “par-seh-MOE-nee-es”)

Excessively sparing or frugal.


From Latin parcere, “to spare, save”, plus monia, a suffix indicating action, state, or condition.


stingy, miserly, penurious


ABC News |   Photo by: kevin