How To Sound Smart at Your Holiday PartyS

It's party season. You're probably even attending some kind of shindig tonight. There will be free alcohol and all the mini-sausages you can eat.

At the minimum, you should not make a drunken ass of yourself. Ideally, you actually come across as clever and well-informed. Here are your talking points for the week.

Did you know they sent a spider into space?

Summary: Yeah, her name was Nefertiti. Neffi, to friends. She was a red-backed jumping spider. That's right, was. Because after surviving 100 days on the International Space Station, and returning safely to earth to retire in the National Museum of Natural History, she died this week.
Your opinion: There was no foul play involved. The NMNH says she died of natural causes. Her type of spider normally lasts a year—Neffi made it 10 months—but at least she traveled.
Most surprising fact: There are about 5,000 species of jumping spider. Neffi (RIP) was a Phidippus johnsoni.


Have you heard about this nutjob John McAfee?

Summary: First, he was hiding out, armed to the teeth, in a secret jungle compound. Then, he was on the run, charged with murder. But some reporters tailing him in Guatemala accidentally disclosed his "secret location". Then, he was blogging from jail—until he was taken to a hospital in restraints.
Your opinion: That guy's on bath salts.
Most surprising fact: Remember installing McAfee antivirus software to protect your copy of Windows 95? Yeah. Same guy.


Did you hear the government officially denied that the world's about to end?

Summary: The government has released an official statement: The Mayan calendar is nothing to be afraid of, and there's no way we're all doomed on December 21.
Your opinion: Be scared, man. If the feds have to deny it, it's probably true.
Most surprising fact: If the US government is wrong on this, we have 14 days to live.


Do you know the UN is trying to take over the internet?

Summary: This week, at a conference in Dubai, a UN agency called the International Telecommunications Union is making some new rules for the internet. Some people want to take the web out of American control. Other countries just want to clean out the porn. There are 900 proposals. Passing them requires the consensus of 193 countries.

Your opinion: No one's taking over the internet. Even if the proposals do pass, the ITU has no way to enforce them. Don't expect an international military takeover of Silicon Valley.
Most surprising fact: The ITU was originally established in the 19th century to regulate telegraph lines. That was just about the last time it was relevant.


Did you know Superman came to the Earth through a wormhole?

Summary: Neil Degrasse-Tyson is going to be in an upcoming issue of Superman. But before it drops, he went on NPR to divulge some real science facts about the hero. Turns out Superman is 27. His home star, LHS 2520, is 27 light-years away. And Superman arrived instantly through a wormhole. So he should 27—depending on when his birthday is.
Your opinion: Superman isn't real. But he could be.
Most surprising fact: If every one of Earth's telescopes worked together at the same time, we could actually see the planet Krypton from here. It's true. You point all the telescopes at the same spot. It's called an interferometer.