Category: Just for Fun


In the tradition of Christmas before Halloween, silver and gold … shoelaces?

A certain Mr. Kennedy sells shoelaces. They come in silver or 24 carat gold. How much? I’m glad you asked. A pair of silver laces are $3,000. A pair of gold laces are $19,000. And in case you are not in awe yet, consider there is an order limit! Yes, my friends, there appears to be a limit of 30 units for silver and 10 units for gold. I could not believe that limits were needed. I poked around. It may be that these are limited edition. But the order info and language about shipping times varying depending on what is in stock make me think perhaps the limit is a security issue or maybe there are laws about that much precious metal being shipped about. I suppose one could be quite the Auric Goldfinger and smuggle using the laces.

I also love that the name is supposed to be a nod to the inventor of the shoelace but these works also have an odd fair trade labor gloss:




So we have name from a dead inventor, an invokation of local craft and sources, and an appeal to wealth and exclusivity. Maggie Chon’s work on Marks of Rectitude is a good read to see how fair trade and labor claims are more and more important. These items seem to take the ideal or Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck as some call it) and go to the limit of the decadent, righteousness.


Turns out it is all a dream, err, simulation: Physicists and proving the Matrix

2003. “Oxford professor Nick Bostrom suggested that we may be living in a computer simulation.” IO9 reports that now

Silas Beane and his team at the University of Bonn in Germany, [argue that] a simulation of the universe should still have constraints, no matter how powerful. These limitations, they argue, would be observed by the people within the simulation as a kind of constraint on physical processes.

So, how could we ever hope to identify these constraints? Easy: We just need build our own simulation of the universe and find out. And in fact, this is fairly close to what the physicists are actually trying to do. To that end, they’ve created an ultra-small version of the universe that’s down to the femto-scale (which is even smaller than the nano-scale).

Apparently, certain things that should behave one way will deviate and that deviation will be the clue.

OK this work seems quite wild. (study here if you like) But IO9 points out that this first step could lead to “more powerful versions in which molecules, cells, and even humans themselves might someday be generated. ” I am not sure whether these more powerful versions would be new simulated worlds or new things in the current simulation. Perhaps it is both. Ah another film nod! I rather liked the end of Men in Black when our blue marble that held a galaxy in it was part of another marble holding another galaxy and that was being thrown around when not stored in a bag. Even if we are in a simulation, as my friend John Scalzi said on a show about what happens if aliens show up here, we still have to take out the trash.


One step closer to Star Trek, painless injections

Remember the syringe looking device that made a hiss and allowed Dr. McCoy to sedate folks? It looks like we might be avoiding needles and using lasers (so maybe Dr. Evil is happy somewhere) to deliver medicines. And it may be pain-free.

A series of very short laser pulses, lasting no more than 250 millionths of a second each, generates a vapor bubble inside the driving fluid. The bubble creates a pressure or elastic strain on the membrane, which forces the drug to be ejected through the tiny nozzle as a narrow jet no more than 150 micrometers (millionths of a meter) wide, or slightly thicker than a human hair.

Yoh explains that the jet pressure is higher than the tensile strength of skin, so it penetrates smoothly into the targeted depth underneath, causing no splashback.

The team has tested the device on guinea pig skin. This showed the jet drives the drug up to several millimeters under the skin, without damaging surrounding tissue.

The speed and narrowness of the jet should be enough to make the procedure painless, says Yoh. But just the fact they are aiming for the epidermal layer just under the surface of the skin, about 500 micrometers down, where there are no nerve endings, should already ensure it is “completely pain-free”.

The hope is that the device may be developed so that it could be used for mass vaccinations.


Watching the Door

My colleague, Gerald Uelmen, recently lent me a collection of wonderful articles he has written on legal landmarks in California, famous California murder trials, and other bits of local legal history. In one of these articles (published in the March 1981 edition of Los Angeles Lawyer), Professor Uelmen relates the following (probably apocryphal, as he acknowledges) story:

A criminal defense lawyer is making his closing argument to the jury. His client is accused of murder, but the body of the victim has never been found. He dramatically withdraws his pocket watch and announces to the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some astounding news. We have found the supposed victim of this murder alive and well, and, in exactly one minute, he will walk through that door into this courtroom.”

A hushed silence falls over the courtroom, as everyone waits for the momentous entry. Nothing happens.

The lawyer then says, “The mere fact that you were watching that door, expecting the victim to walk into this courtroom, suggests that you have a reasonable doubt whether a murder was committed.” Pleased with the impact of the stunt, he then sits down to await an acquittal.

The jury is instructed, files out and files back 10 minutes later with a verdict finding the defendant guilty. Following the proceedings, the astounded lawyer chases after the jury foreman to find out what went wrong. “How could you convict?” he asks. “You were all watching the door!”

The foreman explains, “Most of us were watching the door. But one of us was watching the defendant, and he wasn’t watching the door.” 


Excerpts from My Upcoming Book, The Law Student’s Guide to Being on Call (Part I of II)

Chapter One: A Field Guide to the American Law Professor

Success while “on call” requires, as a threshold matter, an understanding of the different types of American law professors you may encounter in the field. . . .  There exist five principal species.  Each can be identified by the distinctive manner in which it calls on students, if at all.  The first three species fall within the Socratus genus; the last two occupy genera of their own . . .

The Alphabetical-Order Professor (Socratus Abcdelis): As its Latin name connotes, this species of law professor calls on students in alphabetical order.  (There also have been unconfirmed sightings of a subspecies of Socratus Abcdelis that calls on students in reverse alphabetical order.) Members of this species are relatively harmless, since their call order is simple to predict. Furthermore, once a member of this species has interacted with a student, it rarely initiates a repeat contact. WARNING: These creatures tend to grow dangerous when they encounter unprepared students. Also, if a member of this species forgets to bring its enrollment roster to class, it may mutate into the far more unpredictable Socratus Chaotis, discussed below.

The Panel Professor (Socratus Panelis): This species of professor prefers to divide its classes into several “panels,” of which only one will be on call at a given time. Like Socratus Abcdelis, there exist few reports of fatal injuries due to contacts with this species, since students can anticipate these encounters and prepare accordingly.  As with Socratus Abcdelis, the greatest danger associated with this species involves the efforts of other students to avoid them. Cases have been reported where seemingly “safe” students have been placed on call due to the sudden, unanticipated absences of several peers situated alphabetically ahead of them, or the entire remainder of a large on-call panel. For advice on how to handle an emergency situation of this type, see Chapter Eight, “Threading the Needle: Reconciling ‘Passing’ with Getting a Recommendation,” and Chapter Eleven, “How to Exit a Classroom Silently.”

The Random-Order Professor (Socratus Chaotis): Whereas Socratus Abcdelis and Socratus Panelis tend to seek out and cultivate orderly habitats, Socratus Chaotis thrives on the uncertainty created by a random calling scheme. The unpredictable behavior of this species forces students to choose among three unpalatable options: (1) full preparation for each and every class; (2) skipping all classes until the semester is at an end (a.k.a. “playing dead”); or (3) initiating preemptive contacts with Socratus Chaotis at instances of the student’s choosing, with the hope that the professor will tire of these encounters and move on to other students. Unfortunately, this last strategy fails to recognize that members of Socratus Chaotis often possess poor memories, and have been known to call on the same student at several different junctures across a semester, even as they seem to entirely forget about other students in a class.  This last point also represents this species’ saving grace; it is far more likely that a student will not be called on at all in a class taught by a Socratus Chaotis, than in a class taught by either a Socratus Abcdelis or a Socratus Panelis.

The Occasional-Question Professor (Semisocratus Spontaneosis): This species of professor does not fit neatly into either the Socratus genus discussed above, or the Verbosis genus related below. Members of Semisocratus Spontaneosis gravitate toward pure lecturing (the defining characteristic of Verbosis Oxfordis), but, in rare instances, also initiate contact with students. Typically, this interaction takes the form of spontaneous, open-ended questions that invite the careful evaluation of a complex hypothesis that the specimen has painstakingly laid out over the preceding half-hour. While these questions appear daunting, recently, scientists have developed a number of potential responses capable of application to virtually any such inquiry. Among them, “I agree with what you said earlier,” and “I agree with what you wrote on this topic” show special promise for even the most unprepared student.

The Lecturing Professor (Verbosis Oxfordis): Members of this genus fall outside of the scope of this Guide. For those of you who nevertheless wish to contribute to lectures given by this species of professor, we suggest that you check out our companion volumes, The Law Student’s Guide To Brownnosing and The Law Student’s Guide To Unpopularity.

Next: Excerpts from Chapter Four, “Stalling.”


Recent Unsent E-mails from Antonin Scalia to Richard Posner, as Retrieved from Justice Scalia’s “Deleted E-Mail” Files

To: Richard Posner

From: Antonin Scalia

Date: August 24, 2012

Re: Your Review of Reading Law

Dear Dick:

Thanks for your interesting review of Reading Law in The New Republic. Mr. Garner and I certainly appreciate your thoughts. I, personally, am especially pleased that you found time to mull over our humble text, given your busy schedule of giving NPR interviews criticizing Republicans as “goofy” on the one hand, and constructing baby-trading markets on the other.


Antonin Scalia


To: Richard Posner

From: Antonin Scalia

Date: August 24, 2012

Re: Your Review of Reading Law

Dear Dick:

Came across your review of Reading Law in The New Republic.  I appreciate your comments, and even though you find fault with what we write, as they say, any publicity is good publicity! I would have written sooner, but I was busy re-reading a few of my favorite Court opinions: Black v. United States (2010), Carr v. United States (2010),  Lewis v. City of Chicago (2010), Chambers v. United States (2009), Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. (2008). . . . Mercy.  The list could go on, and on.  So much to read!


Antonin Scalia

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Admittedly Dumb Idea (Number Three): Baby’s First Book of _____ Law

This is the third in a series (prior entries here and here) of admittedly dumb law-related ideas that I’ve had, and don’t quite have the filter to suppress.

A while ago, on my other site, I posted a simple Gashlycrumb Tinies-inspired abecedarian that drew from some notable Torts cases. The text provided as follows:

A is for Adams who a wire imperiled / B is for Byrne crushed flat by a barrel / C is for Carter who slipped on some ice / D is for Dillon who might have died twice / E is for Escola nicked by some pop / F is for Fletcher whose mine needed a mop / G is for Goodman who caught a train the wrong way / H is for Hood who said his saw didn’t say / I is for Intel whose computers were smeared / J is for Johnson whose baby flat disappeared / K is for Katko shot while he stole / L is for Levandoski who fell into a hole / M is for Murphy maimed on “The Flopper” / N is for Negri who slipped as a shopper / O is for O’Brien halting pool sales / P is for Palsgraf squashed by some scales / Q is for Quill who received quite a scare / R is for Rowland owed reasonable care / S is for Summers who can’t ID his shooter / T is for Tedla struck by a commuter / U is for Ultramares from whom a company did steal / V is for Vosburg whose leg didn’t heal / W is for Wagon Mound done in by a spark / X is for the unreasonable man who takes stairs in the dark / Y is for Ybarra who sued the whole set / Z is for Zeran defamed over the Net

Prior to posting the rhyme, I had thought a little bit about trying to find an artist who could prepare illustrations to accompany the text, combining the two, and then marketing the resulting book as something like “Baby’s First Book of Tort Law. ” I dropped this idea when other projects intervened, but still I think that someone could do well with a series of children’s books along similar lines: e.g., “Baby’s First Book of Secured Transactions,” “Baby’s First Book of Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law,” etc.

These books might not all fit within the abecedarian format. The letter X poses a huge problem here, seeing as how Black’s Law Dictionary includes only four words that begin with the letter. But that’s OK. “Baby’s First Book of Securities Regulation Law” could relate the story of a little lemonade stand that grew and grew, such that its founders ultimately had to decide whether to conduct a private stock placement and then an IPO, or alternatively, to seek funding for expansion through the JOBS Act’s crowd-sourcing option. “Baby’s First Book of Federal Jurisdiction” might discuss how, under AEDPA, a series of courts would assess an arguably untimely habeas petition filed by a plush stuffed-animal tiger that’s being detained in a cardboard-box jail in the living room. “Baby’s First Book of Law and Economics” would . . . you get the idea.

Admittedly, I suspect that very few children would purchase these books. At least the focus groups of four-year-olds that I’ve convened seem to suggest as much. But that’s not really the target market.  So if there are any interested illustrators out there, drop me a line.





Curiosity! It Landed!

Congratulations to NASA/JPL/Caltech! The latest rover appears to have landed safely. I love this stuff in general, but I happen to have had a special connection to the rovers. A dear friend has worked on the rovers from when they were just tiny vehicles to the current Mini-sized one. Brett Kennedy, you rock.

I also happen to be re-reading Spin which has some a great Mars storyline. Despite John Carter, think of all the science fiction about Mars. What we find won’t live up to that, but the science and truth may prove more fascinating.


Should be, and now is …

… reaffirmed?

This is pure speculation — the coin of the realm for at least another day — but if you’re at all familiar with major constitutional cases, I imagine that you probably filled in the word “overruled.” And for good reason — as far as I can tell, that’s the only word the Court has ever used to complete the phrase “should be and now is ….” My admittedly brief search has turned up seven examples, including such luminaries as Darby, Lopez, Seminole Tribe, Lawrence, and Citizens United. (A full list of cites is below the jump.)

Given the Court’s apparent proclivity for using the phrase in major, doctrine-altering constitutional decisions, it might well be making an appearance in the next 24 hours. While our collective thumb-twiddling reaches ever-higher rpm in the lead up to the health care decision, does anybody have an explanation for this odd locution? Does it ever pop up in any other context?

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Music of the Spheres

Somewhere the ancients who thought there was a musica universalis or music of the spheres are smiling. Apparently “members of the team that work with the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) have translated gamma-ray measurements into musical notes and have created a ‘song’ from the photons from one of the most energetic of these powerful explosions, GRB 080916C which occurred in September of 2008.” The link explains more but here is the clip. Enjoy.