Monthly Archives: September 2004

Cheap gasoline.

I can’t figure this out. With crude oil prices almost at a record-high $50/barrel, you’d think gasoline prices would be shooting up, too. But they’re not. In fact, the price of gasoline remains at historically low levels, when adjusted for inflation. (See graph of gas prices).

The Big Picture explains that gas prices typically lag behind crude oil prices by 3-6 months, so our prices may still reflect the low $30/barrel crude prices from May. But look at these charts of crude oil and gasoline prices. Crude is still going up … but gas is going back down.

Could this have anything to do with the upcoming election? After all, a sharp rise in gasoline prices would make many people doubt that the economy is doing well. And the president is nothing if not a very good friend of the oil industry.

Persistence of consciousness.

The molecules making up microtubules, the protein filaments that form the internal “scaffolding” of your body’s cells, are replaced every 10 minutes. Actin filaments in the dendrites of your neurons are recycled even quicker: every 40 seconds. In fact, the entire brain’s composition turns over every couple of months. So how does your identity (not to mention memories, thoughts, and perceptions) manage to seem stable, consistent, and even solid over time? John McCrone discusses this problem, in a fascinating article.

Xeni in Zero G.

I have to admit I’m insanely jealous: The multitalented Xeni Jardin will be flying on one of Zero-G’s first commercial zero-gravity air flights, 32,000 feet up. NASA has used parabolic flight trajectories to train astronauts in weightlessness for years. Now, Zero-G will begin selling these flights — 90 minutes, including 15 thirty-second episodes of varying degrees of weightlessness — for $3,000. Somehow Xeni managed to convince the company to send her up, so she can write about it for Wired News and NPR. Xeni, you rock!

Truly underground cinema.

Police in Paris discovered a fully equipped movie theater in a large and previously uncharted part of Les Catacombes, underneath the 16th arondissement. A smaller cave next door had been turned into a restaurant and bar.

When police returned a few days later, the secret theater’s power and phone lines had been cut and a note was left on the floor: “Do not,” it said, “try to find us.”

How freaking cool is that?