Unsolved mysteries, Kurosawa's impact on psychology, planets, and mammary excesses

Today's posts talks about boobs. That's cool. It also discusses how a Japanese film gave us a deeper understanding of perception. That's kinda cool. We also learn why Pluto got it in the shorts, which wasn't all that cool. And then I will proceed to explain technical workings of Wikipedia as a circuitous way of introducing several articles at once.

Templates are one of the cool things about Wikipedia, in that they give the editor tools to help write articles and great flexibility in displaying complicated content. Essentially, they are bits of code that can be transcluded (or used without copying) in an article to perform a specific purpose, from uses as mundane as proper MLA citations, to building a table, to tagging an article with messages to alert others about cleanup needed, to complex graphical needs. One of the more common (and visible) type of templates is the navbox, which is short for "navigational box". Essentially, it is a neat little box that sits in an article (usually near the bottom, but sometimes in the upper right) and can help a reader navigate to related articles, especially those in a series.
What does that have to do with this blog? This little gem, called Template:Unsolved problems lets me showcase ten articles at once! This particular navbox collects lists of unsolved problems that have confounded experts for many years. For example, on the mathematics list, we meet the rather disappointingly-named Happy Ending problem, which relates not to massage parlors of ill repute, but to geometry and the nature of quadrilaterals on a 2D plane. On the biology list, we question what caused the Cambrian explosion that diversified the evolution of life. Why does second language acquisition typically fall short of a native's? Neuroscience of free will? What is the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow? Just reading the philosophy list made me want to kill myself.

On reading the article Definition of planet, our astronomy glands work themselves up into a fury. The traditional definition was simple, because there was little knowledge of what was going on in our own celestial neighborhood. As man began to discover more and more objects in the orbit of our sun, that began to throw in question the idea of calling everything large a "planet", and this stirred confusion. Additionally, we also began to be able to measure the size of our solar system's bodies, and Pluto turned out to be way smaller than we thought. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union offered their own definition that, while generated uproar about excluding Pluto, became more or less accepted.
Rest in peace, number nine.

Polymastia, or accessory breast, is having a supernumerary boob. While I could make dozens of tasteless jokes, I can't deny the appeal of listing it on the basis that every guy will instantly think of how awesome it would be to have sex with a chick with an extra breast. Unfortunately, reality spoils our fantasies again, because it's usually not like that lady in Total Recall; instead, the extra breast is usually malformed or not visible. In some rare cases, it's not even on the chest. Disappointingly, no images.

The Rashomon effect relates to the differences of perception to individuals and reliability as a witness. Substantially different accounts may indeed be equally plausible. It is named for the film Rashomon (by Akira Kurosawa in 1950) in which four witnesses testify to a crime via four mutually exclusive flashbacks from their own perspectives. This style of storytelling has been used in western media a few times since.
A scene from A Firefighting We Will Go, an episode of King of the Hill, which uses the effect.

Lastly, I want to plug a non-Wikipedia related link. bestthing.info is a little site created by xkcd author Randall Munroe, and aims to discover whet the best thing is. It does this by asking visitors to compare a random two entries, and uses some sort of amazing mathematical formula to analyze the results. You are also invited to offer your own entries, in case the best thing isn't listed yet. And somehow, there aren't too many entries that say "penis" over and over! That's social progress, I think.

Happy reading!

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