Holiday Stocking: Some Seasonal Delights for All That Leisure Time You’ll Have This Week!

Rare Lunar Eclipse Tonight!  If you’re awake late tonight (Monday, December 20, 2010 — in North America), you can watch the year’s only lunar eclipse.  (For Eastern and Central time zones, it actually occurs very early Tuesday morning.)  It begins at 1:33 a.m. ET and finishes at 5:01 a.m. ET.  The totality phase – when the moon is entirely inside Earth’s shadow – will last about 72 minutes.

Google Books Ngram Viewer.  Curious about how often the words “Good” and “Evil” appeared in books over the centuries?  Here’s some Google fun that lets you track the occurrence of words and phrases over decades or centuries in Google’s database of millions of books.  No subscription necessary.  You can run your own experiments immediately.  And here are some frequently asked questions about the Ngram Viewer.

Sue That Masked Man!  Ever wonder how our laws — like contract law, insurance law, the Second Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and criminal law – would be applied to Superheroes and Supervillains?  There’s a blog called Law and the Multiverse devoted to that wonderfully whimsical exploration.

Harmonizing Population and Space.  What if the world’s population were rearranged so that the most populous people were put in the biggest countries, in descending order?  There’s a map that shows you what would happen.  (Here’s a better version of the map.)  Interestingly, the United States, at number three in both population and land mass, would stay put – with India to our north and Ethiopia to our south.  Brazil, at number five on both scales, would likewise stay put.  Some of the rearrangements are fascinating.  (South Korea’s neighbor due north is North Korea – in southern Africa.)

Point and Translate.  A new iPhone application, called Word Lens, lets you point your phone camera at a street sign or a menu and get an instant visual translation.  The picture of the street sign (or menu or document) literally changes language.  Right now, the app only works for English and Spanish, but additional languages are on the way.  More discussion here.

Okay, It’s Not a Kosher Crèche.  And finally, a nativity scene made entirely of pork products.

Peace.

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