It's nice work if you can get it. Physicists at the University of Nijmegen in Amsterdam have been levitating frogs as well as assorted other stuff by exploiting a normally weak force called molecular magnetism. Their claim: "It is possible to levitate magnetically every material and every living creature on the earth." The magnetic fields necessary to cause ordinary, "nonmagnetic" materials -- such as frogs -- to float through the air with the greatest of ease are approximately 100 times larger than the magnetic fields used for superconductors. Site authors reassure us, by the way, that "the small frog looked comfortable inside the magnet and, afterwards, happily joined its fellow frogs in a biology department." I guess frogs just weren't in the physics budget this year. Movies and photographs of levitating objects can be found at the site, along with explanations, at various complexity levels, of just what's going on here. Coming soon to a Web site near you: a whole new breed of Flying Dutchman.
Dispatch from the
sexual harassment wars
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"Reading about new sexual harassment suits, I used to be spring-loaded on You go, girl, certain in the feminist marrow of my bones that some deep wrong was being righted. Then I found myself threatened with such a suit, and my worldview wheeled around."
Creative writing professor Mary Karr's dispatch from the front lines of the sexual harassment wars leaves me with both anger and hope. Her well-turned narrative runs a now classic course in describing another sad episode in the politically correct university's mortification of cognition, collegiality and the First Amendment, and should definitely put some zip in your blood pressure as you read it. But there's a certain quiet pleasure to be gained as well, not only from the unexpected progress of the story itself -- Karr's strong, practical handling of her situation is a real elixir -- but from her mature, un-whiny treatment of it, which never once sinks into the humorlessness of the converted. The story can be found at Civilization Online.
How to play the lottery, if you must
This Lottery Page goes into the math and probability systems behind lotteries -- and offers detailed methods of picking lucky numbers based on previous draws. There's a decent grasp of math here, and consequently a reasonably sensible attitude regarding the enormous odds against winning. Use this site's suggestions at your own risk! I've bought lottery tickets three or four times, even though I don't think it's good for the spirit; I suspect that focus and practical ambition are healthier than sloppy
free-lunch daydreams. (Where the stock market fits into this paradigm, of course, is anyone's reckoning.) An occasional $5 daydream probably won't do any lasting financial or spiritual damage, any more than an occasional hot fudge sundae will make you obese, but I'd make firmer plans for (respectively) retirement, joy, and nutrition.
Perfume personality testing
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Scent is one of the little pleasures that add to quality of life. It's popular as a gift because it's intimate but not too intimate, relatively easy to shop for, and offers an extravagant feeling of luxury for (usually) a two-digit price. Nevertheless, I wouldn't buy it for someone else unless I knew exactly what I was doing: scent is a very personal thing, and preferences vary widely, as do body chemistries. The Fragrance Counter's interactive Gift Advisor can help guide you through the minefield, should you choose to venture into it. Questions about the recipient's personality, lifestyle, and relationship to you -- grandmother, girl- or boyfriend, co-worker -- yield a list of tailored suggestions. One of my test runthroughs generated some gender confusion, suggesting both the woman's and men's version of Calvin Klein's Obsession. For a moment, I wondered if the site was trying to tell me something about its potential recipient. Despite the occasional glitch, however, you could do considerably worse than follow these recommendations.
Fonts of many lands
English is sufficient for navigating most of the Internet, but occasionally you need to display or print out a non-English font. The Yamada Language Center offers fonts in languages like Arabic, Tibetan, runic, and the phonetic alphabet. Most are downloadable for either PC or Macintosh. Even more useful for many users is a guide (again for both PC and Mac users, praise heaven!) on how to produce special characters, such as the Swedish Â, Spanish Ò, or French Á, using an ordinary English font. The site can help you identify which languages will and won't require special fonts of their own. Also available are the usual playtime offerings derived from Star Trek and J.R.R. Tolkien.